Selfridges and the Oxford Street Hill

Selfridges store was built in what was the unfashionable end of Oxford Street. Despite being surrounded by exquisite properties in Marylebone and Mayfair, this part of Oxford Street was the home of the poor and even though the street gained a prominence for shopping, the better stores stayed to the east of Bond Street. Clearly the dip marking the former Tyburn river delineated a divide between the two different sections of Oxford Street.

The building of Selfridges must have been a major challenge compared to the other large Oxford Street stores due to the land. When it opened in 1909, just the eastern part of the store, on slightly less uneven ground, had been finished.

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The eighteen or so main windows along Oxford Street give a clue to the nature of the land. At the Marble Arch end these are singular height windows, whilst those on the end with Duke Street have more than double the height. The pictures above show this difference (1st – Marble Arch end, 2nd – next to main entrance, 3rd – by Duke Street.) The pavement outside the store clearly drops in height from left to right in each view.

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The TV series’ Selfridges

The TV series, Mr Selfridge (2012) broadcast on ITV in the first quarter of 2013, gave viewers a quite faithful representation of the store as first built. It was accurate down to the detail of the brass plaques and classical elevations, including columns and decorative artwork. The one glaring difference however was the windows (indeed the whole store itself) in the TV version is absolutely on a level, with all framing exactly the same height.

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The climb up to Marble Arch is obvious here!

Its a sort of illusion that the TV designers have pandered to. To most people Selfridges appears to be built on the level but it certainly is not and perhaps somewhat it may have been that the set designers would have hoped that artistic license would have sufficed and no-one would question the design used in the TV series!

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Near Bond Street tube showing Oxford Street’s dip.

Oxford Street itself is practically on not one continuous single level. The entire road meets at a summit which is approximately that of Oxford Circus itself. The many buildings and their various heights, plus all the street furniture ensure its somewhat difficult to discern the differing levels passed through.

This feature was written because this feature of Oxford Street/Selfridges has never been discussed in general media.

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