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Cavendish Square

Cavendish Square is a public garden square in Marylebone in the West End of London. It has a double-helix underground commercial car park. Its northern road forms ends of four streets: of Wigmore Street that runs to Portman Square in the much larger Portman Estate to the west; of Harley Street which runs an alike distance; of Chandos Street which runs for one block and; of Cavendish Place which runs the same. The south side itself is modern: the rear façade and accesses to a flagship department store and office block. On the ground floors facing are Comptoir Libanais, Royal Bank of Scotland and Pret a Manger premises.

Oxford Circus 150m south-east is where two main shopping streets meet. Only the south is broken by a full-width street, Holles Street. which also runs one block only; the north is broken by Dean's Mews in which Nos. 11–13 exist, the office conversion of a nunnery, retaining a chapel in its rear.

Planning permission was granted in April 2020 for a subterranean health and wellbeing development of 280,000 square feet across four storeys below ground level.


St Marylebone Met. B Ward Map 1916
A map showing the Cavendish ward of St Marylebone Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

It was first laid out for the 2nd Earl of Oxford by architect John Prince, beginning in 1717 as the first development on the Earl's London estate. It was named after the Earl's wife Henrietta Cavendish-Holles, but the bursting of the South Sea Bubble delayed further work. It included various nobles' London residences, including the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Chandos (though his house on the square was never completed), Princess Amelia (in which house she died), and the Lane Baronets.

A blue plaque unveiled in 1951 commemorates H.H. Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, having owned and lived at 20 Cavendish Square. Another of the buildings on the square carries a blue plaque indicating that it was once the residence of Quintin Hogg, the founder of what is now the University of Westminster; the flagship building of the university backs on to Hogg's house. The Royal College of Nursing has its headquarters in Cavendish Square, and the West London Synagogue is also sited there. Near to Harley Street, the square is also noted as a site for medical practices such as those of James Paget. The artist Robert William Sievier lived on the square, and David Williams, founder of the Royal Literary Fund, ran a chapel there. Frances Fanshawe, wife of Rev. Dr. Abraham Blackborne, grandson of Richard Levett, Lord Mayor of London, died at her home on Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, in 1795 and was buried at Kew.

Cavendish Square features in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as the home of Dr Lanyon, Jekyll's former best friend.

The bronze statue on the south side of the square (facing John Lewis) is of William George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck (1802–1848). Known simply as Lord George Bentinck, he was MP for King's Lynn, Norfolk. The statue is by Thomas Campbell and was erected in 1848.

Underground at Cavendish Square, there is a car park with spaces for 521 cars and 83 motorcycles. Operated by Q-Park, it is designated their car park for Oxford Street. The car park is unusual as it has the form of a double helix (a twin-start screw). Cars are parked on either side of a continuously descending right-hand helix with one-way traffic. At the bottom, cars are directed diametrically across the car-park, to find a left-hand ascending helix, also one-way with parking on either side, sandwiched between the turns of the descending helix. Since there is no pedestrian lift (as of 2013), parking near the beginning of the descending helix, or near the end of the ascending one, is preferred. But since it is impossible to see in advance whether there are any spaces remaining in the top coils of the ascending helix, the decision of how far to proceed is usually sub-optimal.

Epstein statue

In the 19th century, numbers 11, 12 and 13 had become a convent with a tunnel underneath the road. Following bomb damage in the Second World War the sisters commissioned the architect Louis Osman to restore the houses and create a bridge between the two. He approached Jacob Epstein for a Virgin and Child that would 'levitate' above the arch and specified that it should be cast in lead which was plentiful from the bombed roofs. However, Osman had failed to inform the mother superior that the sculptor was Jewish. However, the Arts Council congratulated her on her "innovative choice of artist". Epstein's work was unveiled in 1953.

Notable occupants

  • No. 1a (Flanders House) – the Representative Office of Flanders and Visit Flanders office
  • No. 4 – the Embassy of East Timor
  • No. 5 – As of 27 February 2017 hosts a headquarters of Lifescience Dynamics Ltd
  • Nos. 11–13 – Heythrop College, University of London, followed by the King's Fund think tank and award giver.
  • No. 20 – the Royal College of Nursing and its library and heritage centre
  • No. 37 – the highest number having an oblique view of the square, The Phoenix public house.

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