London’s ‘Golden Mile’: The Great Houses of the Strand, 1550–1650 by Manolo Guerci - review by Paul Lay

Paul Lay

Palazzos by the Thames

London’s ‘Golden Mile’: The Great Houses of the Strand, 1550–1650


Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art/Yale University Press 336pp £50

Barely a day goes by when I don’t stroll along at least a stretch of the Strand, amid baffled tourists, the hopeless homeless and the Prets, Costas, Greggs and Boots that homogenise all of England. There are islands of distinction: the Baroque churches of St Clement Danes and St Mary le Strand, marooned amid traffic and roadworks, and the mock medievalism of the Law Courts. These last serve as a pastiche of the Strand’s golden past. Once, this was the greatest street in the realm. For over a hundred years, the 1,300-metre road that runs along the north bank of the Thames and links – now somewhat abjectly – the City of London to Westminster hosted a cavalcade of great houses, exercises in ‘architectural conspicuous consumption’.

In this beautifully illustrated, erudite study, Manolo Guerci reconstructs the Strand’s ‘Golden Mile’, tracing the histories of eleven great houses that graced it through a period from the middle of the 16th century to the end of the Civil Wars. Most of these ‘palaces’ began life as bishops’ inns in the 13th century, when the Strand was a village on the shore of the Thames. The main houses, inhabited by

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