History of Fitzrovia

History of Fitzrovia

Fitzrovia is an area of central London, near London’s West End. It is a formally designated area lying partly in the London Borough of Camden (in the east) and partly in the City of Westminster (in the west). It is bounded to the north by Euston Road, to the east by Gower Street, to the south by Oxford Street and to the west by Great Portland Street. 

The name Fitzrovia is said to have been invented by Tom Driberg, an MP and journalist, who used to drink at the Fitzroy Tavern on the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street.  During the 1930s-40s, this pub was very popular with writers, artists and bohemians in general.  The name was a joke, because in those days the area was far from posh: it was crammed with dilapidated buildings and substandard housing.  Pockets of this housing still exist today.  In the 1970s, the name was revived by the community activists who set up the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre.  The Fitzrovia Trust itself arose out of this activism.

The Fitzroy Tavern was named after Charles Fitzroy (later Baron Southampton), who first developed the northern part of the area in the 1790s.

Fitzroy was the younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Grafton, Prime Minister from 1768 to 1770, and he had inherited the Manor of Tottenhall.  He was married to Anne Warren.

Charles built Fitzroy Square, whose eastern and southern sides were designed by Robert Adam, and gave his name to nearby Fitzroy Street, and that of his wife to Warren Street.

The area immediately surrounding Fitzroy Square included streets of lesser size and quality, such as Warren Street, which were sub-divided and multi-occupied from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.

That part of Fitzrovia to the west of Cleveland Street in the City of Westminster was developed originally by the Cavendish Harley estate in the eighteenth century and since then it has been developed for both residential and business uses.

In the 19th century, Fitzrovia was largely occupied by small businesses and local industries with the owners living above the shop.  Many of these were service industries linked to the large department stores in Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.  Trades such as clothing, tailoring and furniture making were typical of the area.

The redevelopment of particular buildings over the past two centuries has led to the wide variety of architectural styles and diversity of residential and business uses which contribute to its unique character.

Today, local businesses are mainly involved in design, architecture, the media, IT, catering and related services.