The Charlotte Street Conservation Area is a densely populated and bustling area, home to many residents and independent traders. It grew up as a well to-do residential area, similar to Bloomsbury to the east, but it declined throughout the Victorian Era, when ground floors were converted into shops and it became popular with craftsmen and artists looking for cheap rents. Part of Fitzrovia, it has a distinctive ‘Bohemian’ feel which forms an essential part of its special character. Its architecture is essentially exclusively Georgian terraces, with ground floor shops, which gives the area a strong and distinctive special character.
Threat Level: Moderate
The area is under moderate threat. Being historically a fairly run-down area, plenty of the urban fabric is in slow decay without any real plan to make widespread repairs, with no action from Camden to intervene or to encourage maintenance. Shops change hands frequently, and are altered unsympathetically and without authorisation, with no interest from Camden to remedy the situation. The street environment – surfacing, furniture, etc – are all highly unsatisfactory, damaged, and vandalised, with no intention from Camden to remedy the situation.
History of Designation
The main bulk of the Conservation Area was designated in 1973, encompassing all of Charlotte Street and roads on its western and eastern sides. Over the next few decades many smaller additions were made, with the last addition coming in 1999.
The initial development of the area formed part of London’s northwards expansion during the Georgian Era. Previously open fields, landowners in the common fashion leased plots to builders, who built townhouses for the gentry. In contrast to the formally planned layout of neighbouring Bloomsbury, the area was built in a more piecemeal fashion, with no open squares or spaces. The development of the area began c. 1750 and was largely complete by 1770, and the Georgian architecture of terraced townhouses remains to this day. The area was initially home to London’s middle classes, a family to each house, similar to the outer reaches of Bloomsbury.
With the coming of the Victorian Era, and the influx of poverty and pollution into Central London, the middle classes of London moved outwards – to places like Marylebone, or Hampstead. Fitzrovia was no exception to the rule, and in the wake of this exodus, individual houses were subdivided into flats, and the density of population increased. As was common, ground floors were converted into shops. This Victorian social character of townhouses divided into flats, with shops operating on the ground floor has continued to the modern day. The cheap rents of the time attracted artists and craftsmen, and it is understood that the term ‘Fitzrovia’ arose from the meetings of these artists at the Fitzroy Tavern during the early twentieth century.