The southern part of Tottenham Court Road is again undergoing large scale change with redevelopment of the Central Cross building on the west side and on the east side the former Time Out building has now been completely demolished. Another chapter in the story of the road that originally led to Tottenhall Manor House.
This was what part of the western side of Tottenham Court Road looked like in the early 1970s before the buildings were demolished to make way for what was then known as the EMI building and what is today called Central Cross.
In this series of photographs taken by persons unknown a row of former buildings in streets between Hanway Street and Percy Street can be seen.
The row of buildings from number 17 Tottenham Court Road opposite the junction with Bedford Avenue heading north nearly as far as the junction with Percy Street were demolished in the mid-1970s to make way for what was known as the EMI building.
The tattier single-storey “shack” buildings were demolished 20 years later in the mid-1990s and were replaced by the four-storey building housing Sainbury’s and Barclays Bank.
The buildings were part of what was called The Gort Estate and the photographs are from the Fitzrovia Archive at the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and Fitzrovia News offices. My previous article on The Gort Estate described the now demolished Tudor Place which stood behind this row of buildings and south of the junction with Stephen Street.
These photographs were taken between 1972 and 1974 by persons unknown but probably active in campaigning to preserve housing and buildings. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, they largely failed on this occasion.
Tottenham Court Road was built upon in a relatively haphazard way from the early 18 century.
The progress of building along Tottenham Court Road is indicated by the petition to the Commissioners of Sewers from John Hassell and others in 1720, that the common sewer being choked by mud and filth, might be cleared. In 1722 he applied for leave to enlarge the sewer on the west side of Tottenham Court Road before several houses belonging to him, the sewer being too small. The surveyor reported that the frontage was 410 feet, upon which there were then erected or intended to be erected 15 houses next the road, with a stable yard backwards (Black Horse Yard, alias Tudor Place). The frontage of 410 feet extended from the Black Horse to the corner of Percy Street. — Survey of London.
Number 24 Tottenham Court Road was a members only cinema.
In 1969, it was purchased by the Cinecenta group and refurbished into a luxury ‘members only’ cinema, playing uncensored Continental sex films. It re-opened on 11 September 1968, as Cineclub 24, with the Swedish sex film “As the Naked Wind From the Sea” starring Hans Gustafsson. The ‘24’ in the name derives from its street address on Tottenham Court Road. With a reduced seating capacity of 250, it had luxury armchair style seats, and it was a very popular cinema, due to its central location and its ambience. It was allowed to screen uncensored films, due to its policy of membership only, and being located within the boundry of Labour controlled Camden Council, rather than the more prudish (Conservative run) Westminster City Council, which covers most of the West End of London.
The Cineclub 24 was closed on 24th December 1976, due to planned redevelopment of that section of Tottenham Court Road, and a parade of shops with offices above, was built, currently the Sony Centre Galleria is at this exact address. — from Cinema Treasures.
This stretch of Tottenham Court Road captured in this series of photographs illustrates the wide variety of styles of architecture from Geogian, through Victorian, Edwardian, art deco; as well as a hotch-potch of post-WW2 and 1960s refurbishments at ground floor level.
In the next series of photographs I’ll look at the buildings behind Tottenham Court Road to the west in Gresse Street and Stephen Street.
These photographs were part of an exhibition Lost Fitzrovia: The Gort Estate and Tottenham Court Road, held at the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association as part of the Fitzrovia Festival 2013.