London Gems: Cecil Court

“Thank God!  Cecil Court remains Cecil Court…”
– Graham Greene

Literally just around the corner from the Leicester Square tube station is a short street connecting St. Martin’s Lane and Charing Cross Road that’s devoid of traffic and lined on either side with shops that haven’t had a facelift in over a hundred years.  This is Cecil Court and it’s a print lover’s paradise.

Banknotes, antique books, maps, prints from books and magazines, movie and theatre posters, and even a couple of specialty collectors’ shops for models or antiques.  You can find massive Early Modern folios or tiny penny post stamps and all well priced.

The shops themselves, while mostly Victorian in the front, have been around for several centuries.  One owner talked with us a bit about her space – apparently Mozart lived (and had his hair cut) in it as a boy while lodging with a barber who sold tickets for the young prodigy’s concerts out of his shop.  The Foyles brothers had their first book shop here before moving to their current and most recent location in the early 20th century.  T.S. Elliot lived in a flat above the shops in the Court at one point, and William Hogarth’s mother died in one of them as well.

J. originally caught sight of the Court while wandering around and knew that I’d love it, and so insisted we visit when I was in town.  Naturally enough we went back a couple of times looking for treasure,  especially antique maps because I love them and plan on having a wall in our someday house decorated with one from every place we have lived.  Maybe another one with every place we visit.  We didn’t find any that we loved in our price range, but we did come away with treasure, which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

If you want a small slice of London intelligentsia, unique history, that’s crammed to bursting with interesting things, and a quiet place to rest from the bustle of Leicester Square, stop by Cecil Court.  There are plenty of places to eat around it, it’s incredibly easy to get to, and you may just come away with something priceless.

Cecil Court in a cloud burst. I had a minor heart attack thinking of all those magnificent paper wares in the wet, but clearly the shop keepers are savvy about their work because anything on display outside is wrapped in plastic and perfectly safe. Whew!

* Photo mine.

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