Fire, Dragons and Gods: Chiltern Street History

It’s home to ‘cult’ restaurant Chiltern Firehouse and super trendy shops and cafés. But remarkably very little is written about the history of Chiltern Street.

Why?

Well, you’ve got to look up to spot it!

Chiltern Street History

Let’s start at the beginning, Chiltern Street was laid out as a service street in the 19th century to complement Baker Street (built by William Baker) which had appeared in the 1700s.

Looking at the Ordnance Survey Map of 1875, you won’t spot Chiltern Street, but you will see an East Street in pretty much the same spot.

The name ‘Chiltern’ is probably from an area of Buckinghamshire that the Portman Estate owns. As well as a further rural estate in Herefordshire, they also own 110 acres of Marylebone.

Chiltern Street History

Chiltern Firehouse

The first concrete bit of history I could unearth was that the Manchester Square Fire Station was built in 1889.

Today it’s the uber-fancy Chiltern Firehouse restaurant and 26-bedroom hotel. It was renovated after the fire station closed in 2005.

Chiltern Street HIstory

Thankfully though, there’s still plenty of lovely original details that you can admire from outside, including the particularly fancy watchtower (pictured above). That was the 19th century way of spotting nearby fires!

There’s the slightly more obvious lettering on the outside (as well as the fire engine-sized doors) and lovely little red lamp.

Other clues include the LCC (London Country Council) and MFB (Metropolitan Fire Board) acronyms.

As well as this hunky fireman face below one of the windows!

Chiltern Street History

Gods of Chiltern Street

Seemingly on a Fire (or at least element) theme. Faces of Neptune, God of water can be seen further along Chiltern Street.

These decorate Wendover Court, 1890-1900 as a philanthropic project to give working classes good homes at cheap rents. They were ‘associated flats’ (ie no ensuite bathroom) but are now pretty swanky private flats with – I assume – ensuite bathrooms!

It Get’s Weirder…

Continue up Chiltern Street towards Marylebone Road and – almost literally – all hell breaks loose.

The Victorian ‘Portman Mansion’ blocks seem lovely enough, all terracotta finish with white detailing.

But then you look up…

Then look a bit closer…

I wish I could tell you the reason behind these strange figures. but so far I’ve been unable to discover even the vaguest hint to their existence.

But for now at least you can have a little look up and ponder.

More London Inspiration

8 Comments

  • Vincent Lugthart

    Reply

    Nice! I used to work nearby and never noticed the roof statues – will definitely take a look next time I’m there.

    Chiltern Street not named after Chiltern Railways though: Marylebone Station was only opened in 1899 as the London end of the Great Central Railway, so most likely later than the name change from East Street. My guess would be that it was named by the Portman Estate (the local land owner) which also owns land in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire.

    March 6, 2019 at 12:36 pm
  • Phil Power

    Reply

    Katie
    Fascinating post!! My first job, on leaving school, in 1968, was in a small printing shop opposite the Fire Station! Happy memories of watching the fireman play volleyball in the yard, to keep fit and while away the waiting hours.
    Next door was the Nicholas Treadwell Art Gallery which displayed some amazing wacky, rude and different artistic works!
    I love London history and I so look forward to reading your email updates

    March 6, 2019 at 8:31 pm
  • Marion Campbell

    Reply

    I certainly do remember Chiltern Street and the Nicholas Treadwell Art Gallery. I purchased a ‘bum’ (not as crude as you may think) vase and a large open mouth ashtray (not of course these days used as such more a piece of artwork. I still have both today some 47 years later and love them to bits. I have been in and around Chiltern Street since I was 18 and although sadly do not live in London anymore love to get you emails just like Phil. Thanks for the mails Marion Campbell.

    March 7, 2019 at 11:54 am
  • Mario Sander

    Reply

    Hi Katie,
    this post is one of your best posts I ever read. If I’m in London, i’m looking for something over my head. Also, your post about the clocks, was very great. I’m from Germany and I hope my next travel to London in September will show me something new. Thanks for look up london. Mario

    March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

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