The original village of Marylebone – Tyburn – was not along the High Street as it is now, but at the junction of Marylebone Lane and Oxford Street by the bridge over the Tyburn stream. The first parish church, St John’s, was built here but in 1400, largely because of vandalism – clearly not a new problem – it was forced to close and a new one, dedicated to St Mary, was built opposite the manor house near the top of the High Street. A plaque marks the site of the manor house, which is believed to have first been built in around 1250, and also a garden the site of the church. This soon became the new centre of the village and continuing a role it has followed for around 600 years, the High Street is now the heart of today’s Marylebone Village community.
Among the Estate’s archives is a plan of the manor of Marylebone of 1708 which was drawn up for its then owner, John Austin. It shows the village just before the Georgian development began, looking much as it had for centuries. Most of the small number of houses are along the High Street and beyond it are open fields. East of the High Street, where Beaumont Street is today, are two bowling greens. Later in the 18th century they were known as Marylebone Gardens, and a popular pleasure resort. Samuel Pepys had visited them in 1668 – with some young ladies – and by the 1760s Dr Arne and Handel were writing music, mainly songs, to be performed there. The Gardens were also renowned for their spectacular fireworks. They show up very clearly on John Rocque’s map of London of 1746. The entrance was through the Rose Tavern at 35-36 Marylebone High Street, which much later became a music hall – the single decorative lamp standard that remains outside no.35 is a tangible reminder of it. Today this is the home of Radio London.
As the Estate spread north towards Marylebone Road the Gardens were forced to close and in 1791 the manor house, which had been used as a boys’ school since 1703, was also pulled down.
Most of the buildings in the High Street today date from around 1900 when the Estate carried out a great deal of rebuilding, but the winding line of Marylebone Lane which follows the course of the Tyburn stream – even now the ground dips away where it crossed Wigmore Street – is a marked contrast with the grid layout of the Georgian development and a permanent reminder of Marylebone’s distant past.
The heart of Marylebone