Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Tivoli - shops, smoking saloons, the Lowther Arcade, and Romano's. Earlier still, in the
mid-nineteenth century, the Strand still contained much old property, and was considered
raffish and rather doubtful. Today it is one of the dullest of the famous streets. Even so
there are discoveries to be made. For example, there are a surprising number of ancient
houses still left in the Strand. Many of them have been re-fronted, and it is necessary to
see them from the alleyways at the back. Four houses in the Strand retain their ancient
fronts and from them it is possible to reconstruct in the imagination a picture of how most
of Fleet Street and the Strand looked, as far as domestic houses were concerned, about the
time of the Great Fire. Westwards from Temple Bar, there are two forming the Wig and
Pen Club, and farther along and opposite Australia House is a pair of charming old houses
with overhanging windows surviving from the seventeenth century - Engerts, the photo-
graphic dealers, and the premises occupied by the Equity Permanent Building Society. It
is not impossible that all these houses date from before the Fire. Near these is the entry
that leads to the Roman Bath in Strand Lane, and if you look back in the direction of the
Strand, you will see a delightful Regency balcony to a house of the early eighteenth cen-
tury. This sort of thing goes on all along the Strand. There is the well-proportioned upper
part of Thresher and Glenny's, the outfitters, and lower down, on the opposite side above
Boots, a bit of 1860-ish Gothic, somewhat in the style of the first Gaiety Theatre which
was not far away.
Now I am about to introduce a favourite of mine - though I often tremble for its future
- the gas lamp in Carting Lane, by the side of the Savoy. It is almost unique, as only two
of these lamps survive in London. This one has been here for about eighty years, and, as
can be seen from the illustration, is a superb specimen, richly topped with ornament. It is
known as the Patent Sewer Ventilating Lamp; its iron column is hollow to allow, as the
name implies, for the passage of sewer vapours. What is more, these gases can be seen
in certain lights and smelt too, but not of anything more noxious than cabbage water and
the odour of London dinners. It is one of the remaining iron lilies of the Strand. One of
the more depressing aspects of old London photographs is to see the abundance of rich
gas lamps on the pavements, the crossings, and by steps and pubs, for they are now dis-
appearing. On occasions, a rescue operation, as in Trafalgar Square, has been carried out,
but then the colour of the gaslight is missing, together with the cosiness of the flame:
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