Treasure hunt: literary Fitzrovia
Time Out traces the footsteps of boozy authors, artistic hoaxers and an all-dancing George Bernard Shaw. Photography Scott Wishart. Illustration Nick White
French’s Theatre BookshopLeave Warren Street tube station and take an immediate right down its namesake street. At the first junction you’ll find French’s Theatre Bookshop, a London institution that stocks copies of pretty much any play you’d care to ask for. It wasn’t always a bookshop – it was once home to a Matthew Flinderson. What was his occupation?
Fitzroy SquareTurn south into the gorgeous Fitzroy Square. This was the home of Henry Perowne in Ian McEwan’s Booker Prize-winning ‘Saturday’. Brain surgeon Henry was fond of gazing out of his window at the square, and he may well have been able to see an odd stone shape within the private garden in the centre. Who was responsible for it?
Indian YMCATake a brief moment to ponder a bizarre incident involving George Bernard Shaw, who lived in the square. One night he was returning from a dance performance by Vittorio de Vincenti and decided to try pirouetting around the private garden. Eventually he was approached by a bemused policeman, who asked Shaw to hold his helmet (steady) so that he could have a go. They were then joined by a postman and a milkman – and so enthusiastic were their attempts that the policeman suffered a bloodied nose and the milkman broke his leg. True story. A witness to the event, perched opposite the Indian YMCA (at the time of writing, he’s loitering behind a Portaloo), was a brave Venezuelan. What is this gentleman’s name?
Langham StreetLeave Fitzroy Square by the south-west corner, on to Conway Street, take a right and then a left on to Cleveland Street, and walk down (past the base of the BT Tower) until you can turn right on to Foley Street. Wander past the Crown & Sceptre pub and the green, closed-up public toilet outside, and across on to Langham Street. On your right is a building covered in black-and-white tiles. It’s now Langham Court Hotel, but it used to have another purpose and a specific name attached to it. What was it?
Art attackDouble back, turn right and head directly south down Great Portland Street. The Mash bar has now closed (it’s identifiable by the bubble motif in the windows), and there’s scaffolding covering the front of the building. This was where, in 1998, William Boyd threw a party for the London launch of his biography of artist Nat Tate. The artist never existed – the hoax was concocted with David Bowie and Norman Mailer, among others, but proved so effective that swathes of the New York art world claimed to be admirers of Mr Tate’s work, setting themselves up for utter humiliation when the truth came out. Directly across the road is a bland office door at number 20. Which business occupies the rear of the second floor?
Light of my lifeHead back north, turn right on to Eastcastle Street, walk to the end, then left on to Newman Street. You’re looking for the cobbled Newman Passage on your right. You’ll emerge next to the Newman Arms. This traditional boozer was the model for the ‘prole pub’ in George Orwell’s ‘1984’ – ironic, given the crowds of local advertising execs who now pile in here for the tasty pies upstairs. Look directly back along Percy Passage. It boasts several old-fashioned street lamps – but how many?
Fitzroy TavernDuck through Percy Passage. Across the road you’ll find the Fitzroy Tavern. This distinctive Victorian drinking den (now owned by Samuel Smith) was a second home for a plethora of literary and artistic greats: Dylan Thomas, Augustus John, Nina Hamnett, Aleister Crowley and – an artist of a different sort – hangman Albert Pierrepoint. On the pub’s frontage you’ll find a Latin motto. What’s its last word?
L’EtoileHead north, and on your right you’ll see L’Etoile – the favourite restaurant of TS Eliot. To the right of the restaurant front you’ll see a discreet button. If you’re tired by now, it’s probably appropriate. What is it?
While you’re there
Marquess of GranbyDylan Thomas used to come to this corner boozer to meet guardsmen who were cruising for gay partners – then start fights with them. Marquess of Granby, 8 Rathbone St, W1 (020 7307 9951)EAT
OozeA simple restaurant devoted to risotto – with a dozen different varieties, plus the specials board. Tasty and good value. Ooze, 62 Goodge St, W1 (020 7436 9444)How to play | Clue Exchange | Extra clues | Get the answers
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Dylan Thomas used to come to this corner boozer to meet guardsmen who were cruising for gay partners – then start fights with them. A simple restaurant devoted to risotto – with a dozen different varieties, plus the specials board. Tasty and good value. How to play | Clue Exchange | Extra clues | Get the answers