Oxford Circus, designed by John Nash in 1811.Oxford Circus
Argyll Street was named after John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, owner of the land in the 18th century.
Sixty acres in the parish of St Martin in the Fields were granted in January 1560 by Queen Elizabeth to William Dodington. In 1622, Richard Wilson sold some 35 acres of them to William Maddox, a merchant taylor of London.
Maddox’s estate comprised 11½ acres called Millfield. Millfield, which took its name from Tyburn Mill, was on ’the east side of the highway from Charing Cross’ (i.e. Swallow Street
The western portion of Millfield was bisected by a footpath leading from the north-west corner of the field to the gate on the north side of Six Acre Close. This footpath later became Kingly Street
. Benjamin Maddox’s lease of Millfield to James Kendrick in 1670 marked the beginning of building development. Kendrick sub-let the ground to various tenants who began to build. At the end of the seventeenth century, Abraham Bridle and John James had a sub-lease of land fronting Tyburn Road, where they started building. Bridle gave his name to a passage on the east side of the footpath.
In 1706 John Campbell, second Duke of Argyll, became the inhabitant of a house on the east side of King (Kingly) Street which stood on the site now occupied by the western end of Little Argyll Street. Between 1706 and 1732 the Duke, in stages, acquired all the leasehold in the open land behind his house including two bowling greens. In February 1733 he purchased the freehold from Benjamin Pollen and three years later, he vacated his house. The estate was laid out for building.
A newspaper of 23 September 1736 described the situation: "Two rows of fine houses are building from the end of Great Marlborough-street through the waste ground and his grace the duke of Argyle’s gardens into Oxford-road, from the middle of which new building a fine street
On 6 March 1736 the Duke signed articles of agreement with Thomas Phillips and Roger Morris, whereby the three agreed jointly, "to build on the ground of the said Duke in Saint James Westminster … one New Street of dwelling Houses to be called Argyll Street".
Like Sackville Street
, which was being laid out about this time on the Pulteney estate, the building of the houses seems to have been the work of individual craftsmen.
Two houses were occupied in 1738, about ten in 1739, and there were still two or three empty houses by 1745.
Little Argyll Street was formed in 1739–40, a year or two after Argyll Street
The Argyll estate appears never to have been a fashionable place of residence. The most notable occupants were professionals with soldiers and doctors being prominent in the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries.
The formation of Regent Street
greatly altered the layout of the estate. In 1820, 35 Argyll Street was demolished in order to open a way from Regent Street
into Great Marlborough Street
. This new opening was called Argyll Place. Argyll Place was widened in 1923, and in 1925 the name was abolished when it was designated as part of Great Marlborough Street
The northern part of Kingly Street
was closed and its site is now occupied by Regent Street
and by the buildings on its east side.
The formation of Regent Street
had the effect of separating the more fashionable streets to the west from those of less consequence to the east, and so far as the Argyll estate was concerned probably accelerated the social decline.
, the busy intersection of Oxford Street
and Regent Street
, was constructed in the beginning of the 19th century, and was designed by John Nash. Regent Street
had been commissioned by Prince Regent, who was later to become King George IV, as a grand scheme to connect the Princes home at Carlton House with his newly acquired property at Regents Park
. Nash designed a wide boulevard with a sweeping curve that became a clear dividing line between the less respectable Soho and the fashionable squares and streets of Mayfair. Born from the concept of Nash’s layout of the New Street in 1812, frontage alignments remain, with the rebuilt listed architecture of 1920s buildings.
The surrounding area contains important elements of the Nash heritage. All frontages on the Circus are Grade II Listed. The entire of Regent Street
is also listed and sits within a conservation area.
The circus is served by Oxford Circus
tube station, which is directly beneath the junction itself.
station has entrances on all four corners of the intersection. The station is an interchange between the Central, Victoria and Bakerloo lines. It is the fourth busiest station on the network and the busiest without connection to the National Rail service. It opened on the Central London Railway on 30 July 1900, with the Baker Street
and Waterloo Railway's platforms opening on 10 March 1906. The two companies had separate surface buildings and lift shafts. The station buildings, which remain today as exits from the station, were constructed on very confined plots on either side of Argyll Street on the south side of Oxford Street
, just to the east of the circus itself. The stations were originally built as entirely separate, but connecting passages were swiftly provided at platform level. The surviving Central London Railway building to the east of Argyll Street is the best surviving example of the stations designed by Harry Bell Measures, and the Bakerloo line building to the west is a classic Leslie Green structure. Both station buildings are Grade II listed.
Almost from the outset, overcrowding has been a constant problem at the station and it has seen numerous improvements to its facilities and below-ground arrangements to deal with this difficulty. After much discussion between the then two separate operators, a major reconstruction began in 1912. This saw a new ticket hall, dealing with both lines, built in the basement of the Bakerloo station, the Bakerloo lifts removed, and new deep-level escalators opened down to the Bakerloo line level. Access to the Central line was by way of existing deep-level subways. The new works came into use on 9 May 1914 with the CLR lifts still available for passengers. By 1923 even this rearrangement was unable to cope, so a second rebuilding commenced. This saw a second set of escalators built directly down to the Central line, the CLR station building becoming an exit only. Then, on 2 October 1928, a third escalator leading to the Bakerloo platforms was opened. Unusually, lifts came back into prominence at an Underground station when, in 1942, a set of high-speed lifts came into use, largely used as an exit route from the Central line platforms directly to the Argyll Street exit building.
The Victoria line opened on 7 March 1969. To handle the additional passenger loads, a new ticket hall was constructed directly under the road junction. To excavate the new ticket hall below the roadway, traffic was diverted for five years (August 1963 to Easter 1968) on to a temporary bridge-like structure known as the 'umbrella' covering the Regent Street
intersection. Services tunnels were constructed to carry water mains and telecom cables past the new ticket hall. Construction of the Victoria line station tunnels with their platforms, the new escalator shafts and the linking passages to the Central line platforms was carried out from access shafts sunk from nearby Cavendish Square
, Upper Regent Street
and Argyll Street. To this day, traffic passing through the Oxford Circus
intersection literally travels over the roof of the ticket office.