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Carnaby Street Shopping Area

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Carnaby Street
© Carnaby

About Carnaby Street:

Carnaby Street was put firmly on the map in the swinging sixties as it was the center of London's mod culture. In the 70s and 80s it was left to rundown but the 90s saw a major regeneration and the area is now one of the hippest places to shop in town. Major fashion retailers now have stores here which has taken away the boutique-feel the area once had but the area has expanded to include the side streets and they still have one-off stores.

Carnaby Street itself is pedestrianized so it has more of a village-feel than the nearby busy Oxford Street. The Carnaby shopping area includes Kingly Street to the east and all the adjoining side streets, and Marshall Street to the west plus all the adjoining side streets. Newburgh Street - known as the Newburgh Quarter - has made a name for itself by having new designer boutiques and concept stores making this cobbled street a hive of creativity. Kingly Court has 3 floors of trendy stores and cafes (including Sutra Kitchen) around a central open-air courtyard but be prepared to squeeze by other shoppers on the narrow walkways. There are over 50 independent restaurants and bars, and Ganton Street is now Carnaby's Food Quarter.

Some people feel the life has been taken out of the area with the influx of so many major chain retailers but don't be put off. The big names have brought much needed business back to a tired part of town and it is definitely livelier here now than it was ten years ago. It also now has a nightlife scene which was non-existent in the early 1990s.

Don't expect to see mods hanging around anymore but the flagship store for Ben Sherman is here along with a Lambretta clothing store, plus the longstanding mod store Sherrys on Ganton Street and Marlborough Court.

On a personal note, I lived on Ganton Street in the early 1990s and area was known as 'West Soho' which had the connotation of being the 'better part' as opposed to the previous 'sleazy' area around Old Compton Street but Carnaby Street has only now reached its full potential and is worth a visit.

History:

The area was still fields in the 16th century and was used for hunting. The huntsmen would call "Soho" which gave the area its name. When the Great Plaque hit in the mid 17th century the area was used as a plague pit to bury the dead. Building increased late in the 17th century and Richard Tyler built a large house in 1683 on the east side of what is now Carnaby Street, and called it Karnaby House, and the street adopted the name. The original houses built in the 17th century were rebuilt in the 1720s and some of these buildings remain at 17 Newburgh Street, 10/12 Ganton Street* and 7/8 Kingly Street.
(*I lived here!)

By the early 19th century creatives and bohemians moved into this well-positioned central London area as it is only walking distance to London's theaters and galleries. And this creativity later grew into the swinging sixties.

Nearest Tube Stations:

  • Oxford Circus
  • Piccadilly Circus

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