King's College London
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Stories of Strand-Aldwych

George Scharf, The Strand from the corner of Villiers Street

`The Strand from the corner of Villiers Street` [1]`The Strand from the corner of Villiers Street` [1]

Today’s Strand is notably lacking in one particular type of building, residential housing. This has not always been the case and prior to the construction of the large and imposing office buildings like Bush House, Australia house and, of course, King’s College London, the street was home to many full-time residents.

This image of the Strand titled ‘The Strand from the Corner of Villiers Street’ was painted by George Scharf in 1824 and now resides in the British Museum. The modern Villers street remains a hub of restaurants, pubs and bars and the adjacent section of the Strand also still functions as a shopping centre, albeit interspersed with various large theatres. The most obvious change between our Strand that observed by Scharf is that people call it home. The hustle and bustle of people shopping, meeting and conducting business is still a familiar site, however anybody who has visited the modern Strand late at night knows that it has a slight clinical feel as it is entirely populated by those passing through en route to their beds or reasons to not be in them. Scharf’s vision is far more akin to a town high street than something we would recognise as central London. This makes the conviviality of the image feel slightly alien to us in comparison to the Strand’s current state.

It is unlikely that pedestrianisation of the eastern end of the Strand will bring about any meaningful shift in the levels of residential housing there, the entire character of central London has shifted as the city has expanded. This coupled with the prohibitive rental costs mean actually living on the Strand seems a relic of the past. Scharf’s image then represents not only a chapter of the Strand’s life which is past but also one which has been irrevocably lost. The only potential caveat to this being the uptick in working from home potentially impacting the need for office space, leading to a repurposing of these spaces. This only serves to make Scharf’s image more interesting as a window into the past.

Written by Theo Williams



[1] The British Museum Images, [Accessed August 2022].

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