Esoteric London

No. 144: Carnaby Street, W1

Posted in Literary London, Public Art, Pubs, Wartime London by esotericlondon on September 16, 2010

Shakespeare’s Head, Carnaby Street, London, W1. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

From a plaque on the wall of the pub:

The Shakespeare’s Head which was built in 1735, was originally owned by Thomas and John Shakespeare, who were distant relatives of the poet.

In its early days, the tavern stood on the boundary line that divided the lands of the Mercers Company from those of the Abbot of Abingdon, and nearby was a small estate known as Six Acre Fields. During the Victorian period , the field was a site of the riding school, belonging to Major Henry Foubert, whose name is commemorated by the neighbouring Fouberts Place.

The present day Shakespeare’s Head overlooks Carnaby Street, which was once the site of an 18th Century street market and is now one of the world’s most famous shopping precincts. Dominating its northern end is the pub’s inn sign, which is a reproduction of Martin Droeshout’s portrait of Shakespeare when he was at the pinnacle of his genius. On another part of the building is Shakespeare’s life size bust, which appears to be gazing down at the busy street below. A close examination of the bust will show one of the poet’s hands is missing: this occurred during World War II when a bomb dropped nearby.

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