Jane Austen’s London #3 | Soho

To read the original post in this series, click here.

My third Jane Austen walk began on Oxford Street – which, even on a rather dreary Saturday morning, was packed with shoppers. It was popular in Jane Austen’s time, too – but for slightly different reasons. The site of Marks and Spencer, for example, was once a venue for famous balls held by high-class courtesans, along with masquerades and concerts.

A little way south from Oxford Street we came to Golden Square, which was home to Doctor James Stanier Clarke, the Royal Librarian during the Regency period. He seemed to take a liking to Jane Austen’s writing, and offered her the use of his personal library – a scandalous invitation to visit an unmarried man’s home which Jane, of course, declined.

In keeping with the royal theme, there stands a statue of George III in the centre of the square, surrounded by lots of lovely flowers.

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My mum is also a huge Jane Austen fan and was visiting me in London, so she joined my boyfriend and me on this walk 🙂

From Golden Square we passed along Beak Street, stopping a little while at a particular stretch of shopfronts which have all maintained their original early nineteenth century style. I adored this rare chance to see what the shops Jane Austen visited in London would have looked like; for me this really brought Regency London to life.

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I could definitely imagine the well-to-do ladies of Regency London purchasing their perfume here.

Next we reached Gerrard Street, which during the Regency period was full of coffee houses, taverns and lodging-houses for artists and actors. Today it is part of Chinatown – and naturally we couldn’t resist stopping for some Dim Sum whilst there!

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There were several more period shopfronts to be seen as we headed back up through Soho. We continued up towards Tottenham Court Road, then along Bedford Avenue until eventually coming out in Bedford Square.

Now, in all honesty, I could have spent a long time in Bedford Square, because it has retained its period character so well. I genuinely felt as if I had stepped into a period drama (well, except for all the traffic snaking along the adjacent Bloomsbury Street, but it was very easy to imagine that the roar of the engines was in fact the clopping of hooves).

During the Regency period, Number 6 was home to the Lord Chancellor, who was convinced by the Prince Regent to appoint one of his cronies to the Chancery. Working for Prinny couldn’t have been easy – I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall!

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And that concluded my third Jane Austen walk around London. This one really offered a chance to imagine what the everyday lives of Londoners might have looked like during the Regency, which was so much fun.

 

Sources
[1] Allen, Louise – Walking Jane Austen’s London (Shire, 2017)

 

 

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