Artist's Model Of A Doomed West End Bookshop

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 9 months ago
Artist's Model Of A Doomed West End Bookshop

While the address 113-119 Charing Cross Road might not mean much to you, the bookshop that lived there from 1929 until 2014, may well do.

Foyles lives on as a business a few doors down, yet the building that was its flagship for over 80 years is fated to fall at the feet of developers.

"Soho is currently being erased!" says artist Sebastian Harding. He make paper models of 'unremarkable' buildings, in order to underline their historical and architectural significance.

The material, in this case, is particularly poignant — representing, if you like, both the ephemeral nature of the Charing Cross building, and the fragile state that print finds itself in.

Even from the photos, you can see Harding's work doing its job; able to float over the former Foyles emporium, you can pick out its individual flourishes: the dainty framing of the windows; a cluster of rusty coloured chimney pots.

By no stretch the most striking, elegant or important building in the area, it exudes a simple charm that the Ilona House development will struggle to follow.

The paper model is one part of the project; Harding has released a kind of online shrine to 113-119 Charing Cross Road — which features memories from former employees, including Steve Lake, who recalls one particular 'eccentric' customer:

There was one elderly guy who used to come in with a walking stick, with a dentist's mirror on the end of the stick. He'd use it to look up all the skirts of women. He had to be chucked out a few times.

Steve Lake outside the 'receiving' bay of the old Foyles store.

Steve goes on:

This may be apocryphal but there was a story passed down of a customer who used to sow cress into the carpets. There were certainly areas so quiet, like the Philosophy department where you could definitely have got away with that!

5,000 signature may not have been enough to save 113-119 Charing Cross Road, but in his own way, Harding has preserved it for the generations to come, who'll discover it on their phones and tablets.

Read more chronicles of Charing Cross Road here.

Last Updated 27 June 2017


I remember going to Foyles at least one a month when I worked in London back in the 60's and 70's. I would always make a b-line to the second hand section where I probably got my first whiff of that magical smell of 'old books'.
I have seen my birth city change rapidly over the last 40 years and am saddened to hear that yet another building will be biting the dust soon.
Change is, it is said, inevitable and having a physical book to hold and read has perhaps become less inviting since half the population of London seem to have mobile phones stuck with super glue to the palms of their hands!
My mobile, by the way, isn't connected to the Internet and is only used to phone and be phoned and it's general found in the bottom of whatever bag I happen to be using at the time - that's assuming I haven't left it in my bedroom or on my desk!!

I remember reading some years ago that the second-hand selection at Foyles had been stopped - yet another shame.
These little gems of shops have probably been, in some part, taken over by the Charity Shops who thankfully recycle many books. But where have all the 'old' books gone to?

There is a summer market in The Hague, close to the Princenhof, but it's a bit of a chore trying to find the English written books.
Which reminds me - there is an annual Amnesty International book fair coming up soon not so far away from where I live which is always worth a visit.

I blame Foyles absolutely for my book bug - can't thank them enough (*_*)