9 Secrets Of Carnaby

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 15 months ago
9 Secrets Of Carnaby
If only it was this deserted every day. Photo: DncnH

1. There used to be a windmill

We're going back to the 16th century, but a windmill used to stand on the land where Carnaby Street is. Charles II granted a lease to landowner Thomas Poulteney in 1682, who took over two fields which became known as Six Acre Close. Land records from the time show a well and a windmill on the site.

2. Where does the name come from?

The world-renowned street was named after Karnaby House, built on the east side of the street. It's not known where the house got its name.

Kingly Street was originally named King Street.

Foubert's Place is named after Major Henry Foubert, who ran a riding school and school of arms in the largely rural area in the 18th century.

If you thought that Lowndes Court is a corruption of London Court, think again. Lowndes Court, one of the short roads running perpendicular to Carnaby Street, was named after William Lowndes, who bought part of Six Acre Close in 1692, and established Lowndes Market in 1720, selling meat, fish and vegetables.

3. London's first female butchers?

Over time, Lowndes Market was renamed as Carnaby Market, and a nearby abattoir became known for its female butchers. In his book, Blake, Peter Ackroyd suggests that this may be where William Blake (a local — see below) got his inspiration for one of his images of three women disemboweling a fallen man.

4. The pub owned by Shakespeare's relatives

Photo: fotofrysk

The Shakespeare's Head is a pub on the corner of Carnaby Street, Foubert's Place and Great Marlborough Street. Built in 1735, it was originally owned by Thomas and John Shakespeare, who were distant relatives of the Bard himself.

The bust of Shakespeare which seems to peer out from the corner of the building is missing a hand — this is a war wound as a result of bombs being dropped nearby. Get a closer look at that missing hand.

5. Listed buildings

Several buildings on Carnaby Street itself are listed, as are the bollards at the end of the street. Next time, you're out shopping, take a minute to admire numbers 21-29 and 40 Carnaby Street.

6. William Blake

Poet and artist William Blake was born in 1757 in a since-demolished house at 28 Broad Street — now Broadwick Street. He lived at both 27 and 28 Broad Street in his lifetime.

Looking down on Carnaby Street from the rooftops. Photo: Matt Brown

7. It had one of the UK's first veggie restaurants

Cranks, a wholefood vegetarian restaurant, opened on Carnaby Street in 1961, one of very few vegetarian restaurants in the country at the time. It moved to Marshall Street within a few years, and several other branches were opened, including in Heals on Tottenham Court Road. Today, the only surviving branch is in Totnes, Devon.

8. Plague pits

The area around Carnaby Street was home a pesthouse. It cared for victims of the Great Plague in the 1660s — although the pesthouse had been open since 1593, dealing with smaller disease outbreaks.

The isolation hospital was situated somewhere close to what is now Marshall Street. A burial ground was created between Poland Street and Marshall Street. The field that was on the site of what is now Golden Square was also used as a burial pit. Something to ponder next time you're tucking into your lunch in the square.

9. John Snow

Photo: Odddutch

The John Snow pub on Broadwick Street commemorates epidemiologist John Snow (nothing to do with Game of Thrones, sorry), who was responsible for stopping an outbreak of cholera in 1854 by identifying a contaminated water pump. The pub sits on the site of that pump.

Last Updated 12 August 2016