Situated in the Marylebone District, Baker Street is in the City of Westminster, London. In 1755 Henry William Berkeley Portman began developing the London Portman Estates. He began to issue the first building leases, one of which was granted to William Baker.
William Baker of Audrey was an architect, surveyor and builder who worked in Shropshire and the adjacent counties in the mid 18th century. William Baker laid out what became known as Baker Street on the leased land in 1794.
Lying in the postcode of the areas NW1/W1 and forming part of the A41 there, Baker Street is a busy thoroughfare. The Portman Estate dates back to the sixteenth century. Sir William Portman, who served as Lord Justice to King Henry VIII, leased 270 acres of the Manor of Lileston (Lisson). He acquired the freehold in 1554 however most of the land remained as farmland until the building boom, following the Seven Year War involving the Great Powers of Europe at the time in 1763.
Madame Tussaud opened her first wax work museum in 1835, a permanent exhibition on the upper story of the Baker Street Bazaar in 1835. Prior to this Madame Tussaud had toured Great Britain with her works for thirty three years.
The Baker Street Bazaar exhibited a huge range of items for sale, including such goods as horses, carriages, stoves, furnishing and ironmongery. The Bazaar was opened by Samuel Godley, who had fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Though Bazaars were common, the Baker Street Bazaar had some unique elements. Firstly it had Madame Tussaud’s waxworks including her popular Chamber of Horrors. The Baker Street Bazaar was also the home of London’s first artificial ice rink, the Glaciarium. The artificial rink was built in 1844 and the ice was made up of churned hogs lard, sulphurs and sulphate of copper. The Glaciarium was 3000ft wide. Later the same year that it was built, due to the terrible smell it was emitting, it was closed down.
In 1940 the Baker Street Bazaar, by then known as Druce’s, named after Thomas Charles Druce, burnt down. The co-owner of an upholstery business Thomas Charles Druce had been embroiled in a legal case that ran from 1897 - 1908. An allegation was made by a widow named Anna Maria Druce, that her father-in- law, who had died, was living a double life and was infact the 5th Duke of Portland. The widow went onto claim that the Duke had faked the death of his alter ego in 1864 to return to just living his aristocratic life. Anna Maria Druce petitioned to get Thomas Charles Druce’s grave in Highgate Cemetery opened, claiming it was full of cement blocks. During the court case, Anna Maria was put in an asylum and the case was taken over by George Hollamby Druce. Eventually it was agreed that the grave should be opened. Druce’s body was indeed in the coffin.
In 1835 James Fillan, a Scottish sculptor, artist and poet came to live on Baker Street. Formally trained in Paris, Fillan had a short but influential career and finally settled in London at 82 Baker Street. At the Regent Street end of Baker Street stands an illustrious mansion block known as Chiltern Court which was home to famed novelists Arnold Bennett and H.G Wells.
221B Baker Street is the London address for the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Originally a physician, Doyle published the first of the Sherlock Holmes and Watson detective novels in 1887. At the time that the books were published Baker Street didn’t go as high as 221. When street numbers were reallocated in the 1930s, the block of odd numbers from 215 - 229 were assigned to an art decor building known as Abbey House. The building was constructed for the Abbey Road Building Society in 1932 and they occupied the building until 2002. As soon as the building was opened they began to receive correspondence from Sherlock Holmes fans from all over the world. The company was forced to hire a full-time secretary to deal with the huge volume of mail. In 1990 a blue plaque was erected at the Sherlock Holmes Museum which was located between 237 and 241 Baker Street. In 1999 Abbey National sponsored the creation of a bronze station of Sherlock Holmes that stands at the entrance to Baker Street Tube Station. A fifteen year dispute then ensued between the Abbey National and the Holmes Museum for the right to receive mail addressed to 221B Baker Street. Following the closure of Abbey House in 2005 the dispute over ownership was dropped.
In 1940 the headquarters of the Special Operations Executive moved to offices at 64 Baker Street and they were colloquially known as the Baker Street Irregulars after Sherlock Holme’s gang of street urchins. In 1941 two unexploded missiles were removed from the burnt wreckage of Druce’s. by 1957 the site was redeveloped as Michael House, the UK headquarters of Marks and Spencers. It was at this location until 2005. The site now serves as part of the 55 Baker Street office complex.
From 1967 - 68 the Beatles Apple Boutique was situated at 94 Baker Street. In 1971 a significant bank robbery occurred at a branch of LLoyd’s Bank on Baker Street. A plaque was placed at 120 Baker Street to mark the place that Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger lived from 1803-4. Welsh born, eighteenth century English actress Sarah Siddons lived on Baker Street In the 1960’s entertainer Dusty Springfield lived on Baker Street. Singer Gerry Rafferty wrote a song titled Baker Street in 1978 and Jethro Tull wrote the song Baker Street Muse.
With such a long and interesting history it is not in the least surprising that there have been allegations of paranormal phenomena in various places along famous Baker Street. The ghost of the actress Sarah Siddons has apparently been seen passing through the walls on the first floor of an electrical sub-station that stands where her former home once was. Also along Baker Street is the old Kenwood House Hotel that allegedly has several ghosts. A piece of furniture in the pub is said to have drawers that open and shut by themselves and a mirror researchers believe houses a poltergeist. The hotel is also said to have a ghost that is a former cavalier and appears from time to time. The Volunteer Pub on Baker Street is said to be haunted by a ghostly figure that lurks in the dark corners of the establishment. The ghost is said to be that of Rupert Neville. The pub was built where the Neville Mansion once stood. The mansion burnt to the ground in 1654 but the original cellars remain under the pub.
I would recommend a walk along Baker Street and a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s a fascinating street with an amazing and interesting history.