Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
shops. In many cases, the exterior is misleading and merely masks the old building behind.
Two instances might be mentioned here - Dolland and Aitchison in the Strand and one in
Oxford Street I accidentally discovered in novel circumstances. This occurred while I was
at the Slade, and in search of a picture frame; I was recommended to an old Jew who sat
with a few frames on the pavement of Rathbone Place, in front of some bomb-damaged
property. Legend had it that students used to sell him the drawings done as corrections by
Tonks or Schwabe at a shilling each in the pre-war years. However, the old fellow, who
looked like a Rembrandt drawing, asked me to meet him one night about seven. He led the
way across Oxford Street, unlocked the plate glass door of one of the inexpensive dress
shops, full of Palais de Danse-type outfits, and led me downstairs. The room below was
empty, but for the top of a magnificent staircase, elaborately ornamented, which ran into
yet another lower floor. It was one of the finest staircases I have seen in central London,
and dated from the early eighteenth century. The room in which we landed, well below
the pavement level, had a cornice of similar rich quality. Moreover, it was crammed with
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century drawings and watercolours, mostly unframed and col-
lecting dust; there were drawings everywhere in that room of mystery, in great heaps and
piled high on a large central table. I often wonder what became of the drawings, the Jew,
and the balustraded staircase, so richly carved …
The Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street has recently disappeared, and I am glad to place
a bit of it on record in this topic - the two drawings in this chapter being reflections in
one of the rococo mirrors of the drawing-room and one of the wonderful marble wash-
hand basins, complete with brass soap trays, of the Edwardian period. The Cavendish was
the last London hotel to possess the old-fashioned country hotel atmosphere. In fact, the
noise of London failed to penetrate into the mellow recesses of the Cavendish, and even
in the hotel garden, the song of birds - thrushes and blackbirds mainly - was louder than
the sound of the traffic. The private room where Rosa Lewis received special friends re-
mained exactly as she left it, a place of old photographs, paintings, and chintz-covered
chairs. These wonderful chintz settees and chairs were a feature of the Cavendish, and
made it the right place to recover from overmuch tramping of London pavements. Parts of
the Cavendish were quite old, but most of it was early nineteenth century with an Edwardi-
an flavour added. This was seen in the big dining-room, where the chairs were a mixture of
Chippendale style and 'early Heal'; the same atmosphere of solid comfort being found in
the drawing-room, furnished with occasional tables, plenty of the chintz-covered settees,
oriental carpets, and paintings, including a small Sickert of the races at Dieppe.
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