Oxford Street buildings through time – photo essay | Retail business

LOxford Street in Ondon is undergoing a painful reinvention as some of its biggest names close their doors. House of Fraser is slated to leave in January, while Debenhams, Topshop, French Connection and Gap are already closed. While there is no guarantee for the future, there is hope that the national retail mecca has undergone multiple reinventions. Here we walk through the 300-year history of Oxford Street, through the evolution of five key buildings.

150-154: from diorama to sports drama

HMV card
Royal Bazaar, color lithograph, circa 1829.
Sports Direct Oxford Street

Billionaire Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has just donated £ 10million to the creation of a London store designed to shed its tracksuit image and wow crowds when it opens this summer.

His chosen site has been involved in the drama from the start. When the Royal Bazaar opened in 1827, it offered a mix of entertainment and retail with works of art and other goods for sale alongside a diorama, where the public stood on a plat -Rotating shape to see semi-transparent paintings illuminated to give the impression of changing the season. or go from day to night. The diorama caught fire, and by 1840 the Princess Theater had opened in its place, hosting high-class Shakespeare plays and popular melodramas, according to Andrew Saint’s Inquiry into London published for the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, and informs our history of the street.

It wasn’t until 1931 that the new owners established Princess House, a modern building with offices and study rooms and an outlet for newcomers, Woolworths, which occupied the basement and downstairs. pavement with a cafeteria and a lunch bar for 500 people.

Woolworths left in 1977, 32 years before the British company went bankrupt and disappeared from the main streets of Britain, and the site became a shopping center called the Oxford Walk. Then, in 1986, HMV moved in, claiming the 600,000 square foot (55,740 square meters) three-story store was “the largest music store in the world.”

This space became more and more redundant as new technology lowered the demand for vinyl records, then CDs and DVDs and HMVs entered administration in late 2013, giving way to the cut-price fashion chain. Sports Direct to move in.

214 Oxford Street: from bazaar to Ikea

Topshop Card
Ikea will take over the building previously occupied by Topshop at 214 Oxford Street
Crystal Palace Bazaar on Oxford Street
Peter Robinson Department Store, corner of Oxford Street and Great Portland Street, London W1.  c. 1905
  • Left: Crystal Palace Bazaar, circa 1858. Right: Peter Robinson Department Store, corner of Oxford Street and Great Portland Street, circa 1905.

Once a glittering jewel of British fashion, Topshop’s former flagship on Oxford Street is empty. Now redeveloped to lead the Ikea furniture chain’s march to High Street, this northeast corner of Oxford Circus sums up the history and future of British shopping in one place.

In 1858, the place debuted as the Crystal Palace Bazaar, an iron and glass roofed shopping arcade selling toys, jewelry and other goods, in a building designed by architect Owen Jones who had attended the Crystal Palace. The sparkling emporium only had a small entrance on Oxford Street which, at that time, was not a major shopping destination. As trade declined, the building was purchased by Yorkshire draper Peter Robinson in 1876 as part of his clothing business expansion.

In 1912, a building covering the entire block was erected with Peter Robinson occupying the lower floors and a restaurant on the upper floor crowned with domed ceilings adorned with murals, which still stand today. In 1965, the basement of the department store housed Topshop, which took over the building in 1994, housing a hairdressing salon and a nail bar alongside its giant changing rooms. Sports brand Nike took over the first local court in 1999. Topshop finally left Main Street last year after coming under administration and was bought out by online specialist Asos.

252-258 Oxford Street: BHS pigsty and mini golf course

BHS card
The building which was previously BHS on Oxford Street
John Lewis East House decorated in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

The 2016 closure of the Oxford Street BHS and its dozens of other outlets across the country has been at the heart of a retail scandal. The collapse of the ailing department store, just a year after it was sold for £ 1 to a serial bankrupt by retail mogul Sir Philip Green, resulted in thousands of layoffs and a large pension deficit covered only by Green’s family after the public outcry.

The dirty end of the department store came after an even dirtier start, with part of the site on the Cavendish-Harley estate that once housed Nibbs’s Pound for Lost Hogs, according to Saint. There was also a stable yard nearby, next to the Phoenix pub.

The redevelopment began during the reign of George I and by the 1780s there was a range of stores including a saddler and a print merchant. The occupants were eventually bought out by Spedan Lewis, the leader of John Lewis, in 1928.

After John Lewis came the rapidly expanding BHS, which opened its flagship there in 1961.

The site has now been divided into a range of uses, including the Polish fashion chain Reserved !, the Swingers mini-golf course, and a tourist souvenir and candy shop. One name, however, has remained a constant over the past 300 years: the block still houses a pub called the Phoenix.

456-464 Oxford Street: from shoemakers to controversy

Marks & Spencer Card
Marks and Spencer, Oxford Street, December 8, 1964
Artist print on the new Marks and Spencer store in Marble Arch

Marks & Spencer’s flagship store, Marble Arch, sits at the forefront of the reinvention of Oxford Street.

The retailer wants to raze its current land, which includes Orchard House, completed in 1930, to make way for a building that will halve its sales area, from five stories to just two and a half, topped by several floors of office space. . The development will include a shopping arcade, a small park and potentially recreational facilities, such as a gym.

As Westminster Council gave its approval to the plan, pending the green light from the Mayor of London, campaigners urged to rethink the project, criticizing the project for its potential carbon footprint and the destruction of a building historical.

However, the loss of retail space dates back to the 19th century for Oxford Street.

Like most of the street, this stretch started out as terraced houses. By the 1830s, all had shops on the ground floor, with houses or small workshops for businesses, such as milliners or seamstresses, above.

Orchard House was commissioned by teahouse operator Lyons & Co who used the upper floors as training rooms until the late 1960s. M&S, which opened its first store in London in 1899 after s’ to be developed from a penny bazaar in Leeds, initially occupied the ground floor and basement of the new building.

Marks & Spencer gradually expanded to take up more of the building, before the boom in online shopping made such a redundant area.

Marks and Spencer store showing coronation decorations on Oxford Street, London, May 21, 1953.
The workshop of Marks &;  Spencer's branch in Oxford Street, September 10, 1955
  • Left: Marks & Spencer store showing coronation decorations on Oxford Street, London, 21 May 1953. Right: Workshop at Marks & Spencer branch in Oxford Street, September 1955.

499 Oxford Street: from Edward Lutyens to Primark

Primark Card
Shoppers crowd the entrance to the C&A clothing store in Marble Arch at the start of the January 1956 sale
Primark, near Marble Arch Oxford Street, London
Allders Department Store, Oxford Street, London

Primark’s 100,000-square-foot store near Marble Arch caused chaos when it opened in 2007, with shoppers lining up on the streets for two hours and struggling to buy knock-down clothes in the first chain outlet in central London. Primark went through a tough few years during the pandemic when it was forced to shut down for months with no online sales to fall back on. But that is nothing compared to the grim fortunes of previous retailers in this place.

Once the site of several large houses on the Hereford Gardens of the Grosvenor Estate, it was taken over by the Gamages department store group in 1928 who wanted to expand from their Holborn base to a new store with apartments above. The building cost over £ 1million, with construction overseen by star architect of the arts and crafts era, Sir Edward Lutyens. While luxury apartments were a success, the store, which opened in 1930 at the height of the Great Depression, closed after just eight months.

In 1938 it was bought out, becoming the UK headquarters of C&A, which used the upper floors as offices. The Dutch fashion chain had opened its first outlet in the UK eight years earlier, further along Oxford Street, and continued to trade until 2001, when its rainbow logo and its cheap clothes have fallen out of favor. The site was later taken over by the Allders department store, but in 2005 that group collapsed into administration with heavy debts, paving the way for Primark’s grand entrance.

Jack C. Nugent