Marylebone has a wonderfully rich history and, although it’s now one of London’s most desirable areas, over the centuries, it has undergone many changes and several different names.
It started life in surprisingly humble fashion. Some of the earliest records come from the Doomsday book of 1068, which recorded it as a collection of muddy field with less than 50 residents and a value of just 52 shillings. Its name, at the time, was Tyburn or Tybourne, itself a contraction of teo bourne, or boundary stream.
Tyburn found early notoriety as a place of execution. The first recorded one taking place in 1196, when William Fitz Osbert was hung for his part in the Popular Uprising of the Poor. Plenty more followed over the course of the next 650 years, with one of the biggest, the hanging of highwayman Jack Shepherd, attracting a crowd of up to 200,000 people (1724).
It wasn’t until the 1400s, with the building of a church dedicated to Mary, on the banks of the bourne, that the area got a more familiar sounding name - becoming known as St Mary la Bourne. And, when Henry VIII built a hunting lodge in North Tyburn in 1544, Marylebone got its first taste of royalty! Sadly, he didn’t have much time to enjoy hunting in nearby Regent’s Park, because he died just three years later and the estate passed into the hands of Sir William Portman, Lord Chief Justice. Those 110 acres he bought in the West of Tyburn are still known to this day as the Portman Estate.
As the years passed, people contracted the name Mary La Bourne to Marylebone, but the incorporation of the area into urban London only began in earnest in Georgian times. In 1715 local land owners - Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, and Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles commissioned surveyor and builder, John Prince, to draw up plans to redevelop what was still rural land into a sophisticated series of town houses and elegant, treelined streets with Cavendish Square at its heart.
Initial progress slow, as a result of the fallout of the bursting of the South Sea bubble, but by the 1730s, it had become highly fashionable, even more so with the opening of Marylebone’s famous pleasure gardens. Located on the East side of Marylebone High Street, the gardens had been a site of gambling, cock fighting, and prize fights. However, in 1738, it was turned into a venue for concerts and other high-brow entertainments by the then proprietor of the Rose Tavern, Daniel Gough. He introduced a small entry fee, to discourage its previous occupants and, until the area was eventually built over in 1778, many famous people performed there, including the composer, Handel.
The next major stage in Marylebone’s development began in the 1750s. Henry Portman and his son issued a number new leases, including one to a certain William Baker, who built Baker Street. The next few decades then saw the development of Portman, Manchester, Bryanston and Montagu Squares.
To the East of Baker Street, the Portland Estate was busy developing Harley Street, Portland Place, Wigmore and Wimpole Streets - many of their new buildings designed by famous architects, such as the Adam brothers.
At the same time, the Marylebone Road was built, providing direct access to the City.
By 1820, most of the building work was completed, but with the advent of the industrial revolution, there were further changes. London’s population explosion led to a rise in popularity of mansion blocks. Harley Street grew from just a handful of doctors to become London’s premiere medical street and Marylebone became home to the Manchester Square Fire Station, one of London’s first. There were also huge improvements to the transport network throughout the period and, in 1899, Marylebone station was opened to the public. In an era of progress, Marylebone became home to many of the greatest figures, including Gladstone, Dickens and Florence Nightingale.
By 1879, the fifth Duke of Portland had died, leaving no heirs. The estate was then passed to his sister, widow of the 6th Baron Howard de Walden, becoming known as the Howard de Walden Estate.
The advent of the second world war WWII brought wholesale destruction to London and Bryanston Square, Great Cumberland Place and Marylebone Station were all damaged by bombs. But, after an extensive rebuilding programme, the area resumed its place as one of London’s most desirable residencies. By the mid 90s, however, some of the shine had come off the area, with a third of the shops in Marylebone High Street standing empty. The Howard de Walden Estate took action, improving the facilities and encouraging quality retailers to take up the empty shops rather than just chasing money, rejuvenating what is now popularly referred to as Marylebone Village and putting the foundations in for the Marylebone we all know and love today.