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Strands

Balloon on the Strand

A balloon

The history of crazes is an enormously rich subject. We seem to be in the middle of a craze for fidget spinners, of which all sorts of varieties are on sale in the Strand. In 1784, the Strand was a key location for what became, for two or three years, a mad craze for balloons…

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Souvenirs on the Strand

A Strand shop window

A recent walk along the Strand in search of fidget spinners led me to start thinking about souvenirs. Sadly the Strand doesn’t feature in London-themed merchandise – it’s not as cool as the other big streets. A couple of years ago I asked a souvenir seller why he didn’t have items with the Strand? He…

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Mrs Holt’s Italian Warehouse

In the 1720s, Mrs Holt’s Italian Warehouse (a warehouse was a sort of 18th-century department store) in the Strand opposite Exeter Change. According to the trade card that William Hogarth engraved for her, she stocked ‘all sort of Italian silks as Lustrings, Sattins, Padesois, Velvets, Damasks, &c, Fans, Leghorne Hats, Flowers, Lute and Violin Strings,…

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St Mary Le Strand

In 1147 the site was occupied by the church of The Nativity Of Our Lady and the Innocents. This was demolished in 1549 to make way for Somerset House, Protector Somerset promised to rebuild it but never did so and for nearly 200 years the parishioners had used the Savoy Chapel. A maypole used to…

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Metropole Hotel Invoice

Metropole Hotel Invoice

This is an invoice regarding the Metropole (or Metripole as gt Grandpa spelt it). J Garrod was Joseph Garrod, my great grandfather. The business was carried on by Edward, my grandfather and James & William my father and his brother. It is still going, trading as Garrod Brothers in North London. The owners are still family,…

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Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt and the National Theatre

In Matthew Arnold’s essay on ‘The French Theatre’ (1879) he urges on the movement to found a national theatre and fancifully imagines French comediens departing for London and passing ‘along the Strand… I see a fugitive vision of delicate features under a shower of hair and a cloud of lace, and hear the voice of…

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Panoramas, Dress Circles and Tubes

In 1787 Robert Barker put a patent on a way of seeing: ‘panorama’. It is said that he came upon the term when surveying the city of Edinburgh from the top of Calton Hill. Moving to London, Barker reconstructed 360 degree views in a Leicester Square art gallery; an initiative mimicked by his son on…

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Ford Madox Ford on the Strand in the nineteenth century

The Strand figures twice in Ford Madox Ford’s reminiscences about his pre-Raphaelite relations, Ancient Lights (London: Chapman and Hall, 1911). First in this passage which is revealing about the different experiences of place in different generations: I was talking the other day to a woman of position when she told me that her daughters were…

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