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Warren Street tube station, London
Guided by Jane
Short version. The West End's untamed quarter.
Long version. Bodes well that Fitzrovia takes its name from the illegitimate son of a king who was known as the Merry Monarch for to this day Fitzrovia has lost none of its raffish, irreverent air. Of the four quarters that make up London’s West End (Mayfair, Marylebone, Soho and Fitzrovia) Fitzrovia features least on the usual tourist trail. This has distinct advantages. Fitzrovia fizzes with surprises: from Banksy’s iconic stencil-style guerrilla art to a wondrously quirky church that, astonishingly, is taller than Westminster Abbey.
Charles Dickens, who lived for a while in Fitzrovia, once described London as ‘streaky bacon’ with the lewd and bawdy sandwiched between elegant grandeur. Nowhere is this truer than in Fitzrovia. Relatively unscathed by 1940s bombs or 1960s town planners, Fitzrovia boasts an opulent square yet still oozes the bohemian charm that grew out of its having been, over many years, the beloved home of artists, such as James McNeill Whistler, Walter Sickert and Grayson Perry. And, oh my, the tales, the goings on. By way of example, it was here in Fitzrovia, whilst lodging with Ford Madox Brown, poor Dante Gabriel Rosetti once fell through the floor into the pit below – the cesspit below.
The same free-wheeling spirit that captivated artists also attracted radicals, revolutionaries, writers and philosophers, and in hedonistic Fitzrovia even the formerly repressed middle-class intelligentsia seem to have discovered sex. An informal group of bon viveurs and thinkers called the Bloomsbury Group, famed for living in squares and loving in triangles, also colonised Fitzrovia and we spill the beans on how their lifestyle further spiced up Fitzrovia’s rollicking, frolicking reputation.
Nowadays much of our titillation comes to us over the airwaves, so it is wholly appropriate that our walk ends near an institution which keeps up Fitzrovia’s tradition of delighting our imaginations: the BBC. The BBC’s Broadcasting House is an exciting blend of old and new which eases us gently back into the twenty-first century world of consumerism and Oxford Street where our walk draws to a close at Oxford Circus Tube.