This covered passage runs through a block of buildings on Strand, giving access to the grander buildings behind.

It passes through the ground floor of Villiers House, an office block constructed in 1957-59 in a modernist style by Trehearne & Norman, Preston & Partners. The modern building replaced a row of smaller shops and houses, and used to have a sloping road running through the middle — which was retained as the pedestrianised Buckingham Arcade.

The old road used to be on a steep slope, but to keep the new passage level, there’s now a set of steps at the southern end that leads back down to the street it replaced.

The name of the building and most of the streets in the area come from George Villiers, The Duke of Buckingham, who bought the land in 1624, was murdered four years later, lost by the family in the English Civil War, bought back afterwards, then lost again to pay off gambling debts.

One of the conditions of the sale, to the property developer with the famous hortatory name of Nicholas (If Christ had not died for thee thou hadst been damned) Barbon, was that each new street had to include the name of the Duke of Buckingham in some form.

Hence, Buckingham Street, which leads to the modern Buckingham Arcade which runs through Villiers House, built on the site in the late 1950s.

The arcade was refurbished in 2015, when a new lighting display was added to the ceiling and new bronze gates were added to close the passageway at night. Something that was removed though was the conventional Westminster Council street sign, with a more corporate name, which tends to make it feel more like a private space than the public highway it actually is.

In fact, the building owners had previously tried to shrink the width of the passageway or close it entirely, and the council kept refusing to let them do so. A concession is that the passageway is closed at night to avoid rough sleeping though.


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  1. Chris Rogers says:

    Re “each new street had to include the name of the Duke of Buckingham in some form”, in fact each new street had to include one of the elements of his name and title; the full list is:

    – George Street (now York Buildings)
    – Villiers Street
    – Duke Street (now John Adam Street)
    – Of Alley (now York Place)
    – Buckingham Street

    It would be interesting to know the legal status of the arcade; over the road, Coutts have reclaimed the shopping arcade under their building, put there in the 70s when the Nash blocks were reconstructed.

  2. Reaper says:

    Coutts probably closed it (without notice) because it was not in line with their belief system.

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