Victorian London - Districts - Streets - Oxford Street

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Oxford Street (De Quincey’s stony-hearted step-mother) ought to be, if it is not, the finest as well as the longest and straightest of the main arteries of London. With one end reaching, through its extensions—Holborn, Newgate-street, and Cheapside—to the City -with the other continued by the Bayswater-road by the side of Hyde Park through Notting-hill, and out with scarce a curve to the far west, it ought to be the finest thoroughfare in the world. Although it is, like all the other thoroughfares, improving rapidly, it still contains many houses which even in a third-rate street would be considered mean and unworthy of the place. Rickety, tumble-down, one-storey houses stand next to modern mansions, and in no other street in London is there such incongruity and diversity of architecture and appearance. A considerable portion of the southern side of the west-end of the street is the property of the Duke of Westminster, and, as the leases fall in, the houses in old red brick with stone adornments are taking the place of the wretched shops which are disappearing. At present, however, the improvement only extends a third of the distance between the Marble Arch and the Circus, and the side upon which they stand is still comparatively little frequented by those who go to look at the shops and perhaps to purchase.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Oxford Circus, from
George Birch, The Descriptive Album of London, c.1896

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Oxford Street, looking East

Oxford Street - photograph


A very characteristic part of Oxford Street is depicted above. The large house of which the corner is seen on the left is Messrs. Marshall & Snelgrove's; and in all directions are shops dear to the hearts of town and country ladies. New Bond Street opens on the right, where the flag is waving; and the view extends beyond Oxford Circus. Oxford Street is, as everybody knows, one of the main arteries of the metropolis, through which the traffic flows from east to west, and from west to east, in an unceasing stream and the broadness of the thoroughfare at this spot affords a pleasing contrast to the cramped and inconvenient proportions of the Strand and Fleet Street.

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Regent Circus and Oxford Street, looking East

Regent Circus and Oxford Street, looking East - photograph


Oxford Street, including New Oxford Street, is over a mile and a half long, and, with Holborn, forms the main channel of intercourse between the West End and the City proper between the fashionable residential quarter and the counting-house of London's vast city. The central point of Oxford Street is Regent (or Oxford) Circus - not far from the top of Regent Street where the line of east and west communication crosses one of the lines which connect the north and south. Finally, Oxford Street ends at the Marble Arch, Hyde Park, and continues on by the Bayswater Road into the West Country, this being the old coach route to the district now served from Paddington by the Great Western Railway.