No matter your reason for taking a trip to London, whether you’re here on business, pleasure, or even undergoing our Laser Eye Surgery treatment, understanding London’s rich history and knowing where to go to best soak up the city’s rich history is a must.
Noticeable by the striking architecture and charming square garden, Marylebone is a magnificent pocket of Central London with a history that’s ample with Royal connections.
Many of the street names originate from their noble patronage and it only takes a stroll through this elegant neighbourhood to see the variety of eras that have passed through the locale.
Marylebone can trace its origins as far back as 1066AD, with historians believing that it consisted of two manors, Tyburn to the east and Lilestone to the west.
Here is a brief timeline detailing some of the most iconic moments in Marylebone’s history.
GRUESOME MEDIEVAL BEGINNINGS
In 1086, the manor of Tyburn is owned by Robert De Vere under the convent of Barking. Tyburn has a value of 52 shillings and a population of no more than 50 people.
According to records, In 1196, Tyburn became the main place for the public execution of London criminals. However, it’s believed that Tyburn was used as an execution site for executions since 1108.
In 1400, a church was built in Tyburn on the bank of a small stream. The church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, therefore the area that the church stands on became St Mary-la-bourne which translates as St Mary by-the-stream. Over the centuries, the title was shortened to its present form, Marylebone.
In 1554, Henry VIII purchased the northern half of Tyburn Estate and seized Tyburn’s manor house as his hunting lodge and created a deer park nearby. The woods where he hunted are now known as Regent’s Park.
After his death in 1547, Henry VIII’s heirs leased Tyburn manor to a succession of royal acquaintances over the following years.
After becoming Lord Chief Justice of England in 1555, Sir William Portman purchased the freehold of the leased land which is now known in Marylebone as the Portman Estate.
In 1611, after many years of leasing the manor, King James sold the Tyburn Estate for £830 to Edward Forest who was one of the persecutors of Guy Fawkes.
In 1708, the Tyburn estate was sold for £17,500 to the Duke of Newcastle, John Holles. Later, Holles passed the estate on to his daughter Henrietta Cavendish Holles. In 1713 Henrietta married the 2nd Earl of Oxford, Edward Harley and the Tyburn Estate became known as the Harley-Cavendish Estate.
Lady Henrietta and her husband recognised a need for housing north of Oxford Street. They commissioned John Prince in 1715 to convert Marylebone’s rural estate into a grid of chic tree-lined streets including Harley Street with Cavendish Square as the centre-of-attention.
By 1738, Marylebone was a popular place for the aristocracy to visit. The Rose of Normandy pub landlord set up a ‘pleasure gardens’ to the east of the high street. He charged admission for visitors to enjoy the music and listen to commissioned music.
After marrying William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland in 1734, Margaret’s only daughter Henrietta, inherited the Harley-Cavendish Estate and it became known as the Portland Estate in 1741.
In 1756, Marylebone Road was laid as ‘New Road’ and provided a direct route to the City, bypassing Oxford Street. Previously developed as a cattle route, the new road became momentous in the urbanisation of Marylebone as the land was attractive for developments.
The Cleveland Street Workhouse opened in 1775 on an old burial site which was donated by the Portland Estate. Under the Old Poor Law, the building was commissioned for the care of the sick and the poor.
By 1820, the development of the Portman Estate was largely complete.
Doctors began setting up practices on Harley Street, growing from 20 consulting rooms in 1860 to 80 in 1890.
In 1870, The West London Synagogue, designed by Davis and Emanuel in a Byzantine/Romanesque style, opened on upper Berkley Street. The Synagogue features a pedimented arched entrance in Portland stone.
Richard Wallace remodelled Manchester Square in 1872, later renaming it Hertford House. Here, he exhibited the Wallace Collection which contained artistic works by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Rubens and Delacroix.
The Manchester Square Fire Station opened on Chiltern Street in 1889, becoming one of London’s first fire stations. Previously, Chiltern was designed as a service street between Baker Street and Manchester Street. The new fire station brought a whole new purpose to Chiltern Street.
1890 saw Mansion Blocks increase in popularity as a result of the population boom during the Industrial Revolution. In 1899, Marylebone station opened and became the Central London terminus for Chilterns Railway.
EARLY 20TH CENTURY DEPRESSION
Originally named Bechstein Hall, Wigmore Hall was launched on the 31st May 1901. The launch included a gala concert starring famous Italian, Belgian and Ukranian musicians. The Hall was built by British architects Thomas Colcutt in Renaissance style to look grandly impressive yet appear intimate enough for recitals.
In 1912, The Royal of Society and Medicine moved to Wimpole Street. However, the glory was shortlived.
From 1914-1945, the devastating consequences and aftermath of WW1 and WW2 slowed development in London and Marylebone for 30 years.
The outbreak of war in August 1914 was followed by a rush of enthusiasm as men signed up for what they believed would be a short conflict, with rallies held around the country as recruitment drives.
As the war dragged on, tenants were forced to report loss of income and beg for rent reductions. When conscription was introduced, many shops and businesses struggled to remain operative.
After the war, the effect of losing so many young men teamed with a downturn in the retail economy was crushing for the people of Marylebone.
During the early part of the 20th Century, German governesses were a popular addition to upper-class households in Marylebone. The outbreak of World War One effectively ended their role.
In 1914, The Association of German Governesses in England was based in Marylebone. They were popular because German governesses had been employed by the Royal Family.
When the war broke out, most of the governesses were dismissed with the majority being allowed to return to Germany. The war killed the profession in England
On Valentines Day 1933 after he had just been made Chancellor of Germany, Madame Tussaud’s proudly advertised their latest wax effigy of ‘Herr Adolf Hitler’ giving a Nazi salute.
In the following May, three men sneaked in over a rope and poured red paint over the Nazi leader. They then placed a placard around his neck reading, ‘HITLER THE MASS MURDERER’.
Soon, the vandals gave themselves up and appeared at Marylebone Police Court. When the magistrate asked them if they had anything to say, they yelled:
“Down with Hitler! Down with Fascism!”
Their chants were joined by supporters in the gallery. After a struggle, everyone was removed from the court. Hitler’s wax model was replaced three years later and permanently removed in 2016.
The devastation caused to London by the blitz in World War 2 from air raids and v-bombs can still be seen today. After extensive bomb damage during the Second World War, the 1946 Abercombie Plan for the Rebuilding of London was created. Marylebone was particularly damaged and during the 1950s, experienced significant renovations to its road and shops.
In 1948, the National Health Service was established and around 1,500 doctors existed on Harley Street.
Marylebone joined with Westminster and Paddington in 1965 to create the City of Westminister. In 1968, the first heart transplant was carried out at the National Heart Hospital, Marylebone.
In 1969, Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman at Marylebone registry office.
LATE 20TH CENTURY REJUVENATION
The Wallace Collection opened to the public as a museum on the 22nd June 1990. In 1992, the Polytechnic of Central London was granted University status and became the University of Westminster.
In 1995, Howard de Walden implemented a strategy to rejuvenate Marylebone. Lease agreements were renegotiated and properties were refurbished. Upmarket businesses and retailers moved into the area. Walden named the new area ‘Marylebone Village’ as part of the marketing strategy.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the Wallenberg Statue commemorating Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish saviour of thousands of Jewish people from Nazi death camps. This was the first time the queen had entered a Synagogue.
MARYLEBONE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Affluent and eclectic, Marylebone is a micro-community of independent shops, charming delicatessens and fine restaurants. Plus, it’s retained more historical charm than similar areas like Knightsbridge.
This is mostly because Marylebone is still owned by aristocratic estates which provides a unique position that protects the area from change, allowing it to maintain it’s an authentically quaint atmosphere.