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September 11, 2020
Though hundreds of our loyal clients remember our first frenetic weeks nearly 32 years ago, many of our team, clients, and even my children have asked - ‘What was it like in the olden days?’
This blog covers some of the history of Beaumont Street up to our salon opening. The next chapter will cover our early years.
1737 - 1778: The site now occupied by Beaumont Street, Devonshire Street and Devonshire Place was formerly a place of amusement known as “Mary-Le-Bone Gardens”. They were open by Daniel Gough, landlord of The Rose Tavern which was situated in what is now Marylebone High Street. They were also known as the “French Gardens” because of a small French chapel erected there. The amusements consisted of concerts, balls, firework displays and professional singers.
Use of the gardens was free before entertainments were introduced and then an entrance fee of 1 shilling was charged. As the population of Mary-Le-Bone increased many local residents were worried about their safety due to the firework displays and after numerous complaints to the magistrate the gardens were closed in 1778.
The gardens were sold to builders in 1778 that developed the area into the streets now known as Devonshire Street, Devonshire Place and Beaumont Street which was built in 1781. The street was heavily bombed in World War 2, so many of the other buildings are now post war designs. 1782-1783: William Clarke was the first recorded resident of Beaumont Street and paid £20.00 per year rent; by 1840 George Field was paying £60.00 per year 1784-1890: Various recorded tenants 1890: No 1a owned by Jeffrey Williams who ran it as a private hotel 1891: No 1 owned by builder Pope William Henry who adapted the shop front around 1895. 1903-1918: John Borgars - Builder & Decorator – ratable value £118.00 per year 1915-1918: Samuel Freedman – Tailor/Arthur Nelson - Bootmaker 1921-1987: Frank A Rogers - Chemist 1988: Michael Van Clarke - Hair Salon
Last days as a chemist..…It was the summer of 1988 and Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev still ruled the world, city traders were making fortunes and a property bubble was soon to pop. I came across this empty building whilst out driving one night; noticing the ‘All Enquiries’ sign outside. When I first entered the building with the agent, I was really taken by the space. It had a good vibe even though it looked pretty awful inside. Before I got to see the interior, they had auctioned off all the fixtures and fittings including original wood panelling and pharmacists paraphernalia, leaving a shell strewn with rubbish and evidence of some earlier fires.
Locals told me stories of a chemist business that once served Royalty and celebrities, falling into disrepute and becoming a magnet for drug addicts and prostitutes coming to get their fixes under the counter in exchange for services. Certainly the place was well alarmed and the windows barred but that hadn’t stopped desperate people trying to get through one back door with an axe and another by setting fire to it.
1988 - My first glimpse of reception from the front door
I had to decide quickly. Being on the corner it had windows on three sides and a skylight in the studio which gave great daylight. It was double fronted so had lateral space and was in a quiet street with parking in a central but underrated area. It also had my name on it, being on the corner of Clarke’s Mews. Everything inside could be changed so I went ahead and bought it.
1988 - Our Beautiful Colour Studio to be
Apparently the police had the place staked out for a while and were pleased when it finally closed down. We found hypodermics littering the drains and the mews area. Even a year later an unfortunate addict came into the busy salon not realising the chemist had gone and everything had changed. Clearly disappointed and confused, all he kept repeating was ‘Oh my God, Oh my God……..’ finally he staggered dazed outside and laid down in the street repeating his mantra to the sky above.
1988 - We had the rubbish cleared from the site first. It took 26 skips.
The cloud of smoke is caused by a bottle of very strong acid that the builders smashed which ate straight through the floor and dripped into the basement.
Our initial salon refit was carried out by theatre set builders. We could only afford to fit out one third of the space as there were only 3 of us when we opened. The refit had to be completed in 5 weeks as we were paying interest on a huge mortgage (at 12% going up to 18.5% at its worst) and had to start trading before the money ran out. This meant no serious wet trades and instead, an inner shell of drywalls, floors and ceilings were constructed which served us well for 4 years.
1988 Main salon
The English drawing room feel with natural materials and a fireplace was miles away from the steel chrome and black that seemed de rigueur in salons at the time. It proved popular, as all the big deluxe salons that opened in the next 10 years had a fire place and a homely design.
Part 2 to follow.
Michael Van Clarke
September 17, 2021
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