The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Tite Street by Devon Cox - review by Peyton Skipwith

Peyton Skipwith

Dirt & Glory

The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Tite Street


Frances Lincoln 287pp £25

Which is the street that merits the accolade ‘The Street of Wonderful Possibilities’? Wall Street? Bond Street? Regent Street? Queer Street? Actually it has characteristics of all of these. Tite Street in Chelsea was created in the early 1870s out of the muddy thoroughfare connecting the new Chelsea Embankment to Royal Hospital Road. A decade earlier, the Metropolitan Board of Works had compulsorily purchased a substantial tract of land on the north bank of the Thames from Lord Cadogan in order to create both the Embankment and a healthy sewage system for London. Once the work had been completed, the Board of Works gradually began to let or sell plots of land for building, in the process creating a new street named after Sir William Tite, architect of the Royal Exchange and a former MP.

Initially the land was cheap, despite its proximity to Westminster and Kensington, and attracted the attention of several aspiring artists and architects, with the result that during the ensuing years Tite Street developed into an artists’ colony, where the raffish world of bohemia mingled freely and on equal terms with royalty and aristocracy. Inspired by the example of Edward Godwin, who designed some of the most distinctive buildings there, it also became one of London’s most interesting streets architecturally, with an emphasis on purpose-built studio houses. The 1870s was an exciting decade, with the Queen Anne revival pioneered by Norman Shaw and the blossoming of the Aesthetic Movement, of which

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