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Cecil Court

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published September 3rd 2011
I've long been fascinated with Cecil Court, an alleyway that runs between St Martin's Lane and Charing Cross Road. The site was originally purchased in 1609, but the first buildings are thought to have been constructed in the 1670s. It was owned by the Cecil family, and was even home to Mozart for a short period of time.

Cecil Court
Looking down Cecil Court from St Martin's Lane to Charing Cross Road


The original Cecil Court was pulled down during the nineteenth century and rebuilt in the 1890s. Its early links were with the film industry: the first tenants included film distributors and suppliers of film equipment leading to the nickname of Flicker Alley. The Court has been used for film locations; Miss Potter, and '84 Charing Cross Road are among the movies filmed there. Noted thespians, such as Ellen Terry and John Gielgud also lived in the flats above the shops.

Cecil Court is now more commonly associated with second hand books. Gilbert and William Foyle opened their first West End bookshop at no 16 in 1904. Business was so successful that they were able to relocate and open the famous Foyle's Bookshop on Charing Cross Road within two years. Their story is related in David Low's autobiography, With All Faults,which includes Graham Greene's introduction: 'thank God! Cecil Court remains Cecil Court.' Greene used to shop for books in the locality.

David Drummond's window
Specialising in the performing arts and children's books


Modern day Cecil Court is now a book lovers' paradise. Of the thirteen businesses presently trading the connection to the book trade remains a powerful one. Browsers and shoppers can now hunt among first editions, antiquarian and second-hand books.

There are a range of topics available from history to the arts and humanities. You can find early printed books, classical texts and translations, atlases and antique maps, and books on motoring and music. You can also find books on Wicca, spirituality, psychology, alternative medicine, mysticism and eastern religions, as well as Italian literature, books and playbills, and children's books from before World War II.

Goldsboro Books (23/25 Cecil Court) hold several events and book signings each year and also throw a 'Crime in the Court' evening, when crime writers and their fans can get together. This year the event took place on 21 June. They will also be hosting History in the Court in conjunction with the Historical Writer's Association. This will be on 29 September when lovers of historical and non-historical fiction will be able to meet their favourite writers.

Go and search out Cecil Court for yourself; you may find you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Cecil Court is in London, WC2 close to Leicester Square tube station.
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Why? It's a fascinating pedestrianised street with a strong sense of history
When: Varies, but usually shops open Monday to Saturday
Where: London, WC2 - close to Leicester Square
Cost: Varies
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