During the Georgian period, shopfronts emerged, and by the mid 1800s, the populace preferred the characteristic bowed fronts. The Rebuilding Act had prescribed “pent house” projections, but the necessity to add drain pipes to the outside of the building changed that format.
Here are the the recommendations for the Rebuilding Act of 1666 after the Great Fire of London:
V. Buildings to be of Brick, &c. ~ Archwork to sustain the Burden of the Fabrick.
And in regard the building with Bricke is not onely more comely and durable but alsoe more safe against furture perills of Fire BE it further enacted and with the Authoritie aforesaid That all the outsides of all Buildings in and about the said City be henceforth made of Bricke or Stone or of Bricke and Stone together except Doore cases and Window Frames the Brest Summers and other parts of the first Story to the Front, betweene the Peeres which are to be left to the discretion of the Builder to use substantiall Oaken Timber instead of Bricke or Stone for conveniency of Shopps, And that the said Doores Brest Summers and Window frames be sufficiently discharged of the burthen of the Fabricke by Archworke of Bricke or Stone either straight or circular.
Prior to the early 1800s, shopping areas were of little note. They were modest in their presentations, but that all changed with Woburn Walk, a pedestrian shopping street built by Thomas Cubbitt on the boundary of the Bedford and Southampton estates, 1822-1825. “From the east side of Woburn Place, Thomas Cubitt erected a little street of shops which turned at right angles northwards to Euston Road, skirting the churchyard of New St. Pancras Church. Both sections of this street were formerly known as Woburn Buildings, but the northern is shown as Duke’s Row on Cary’s Map (1818) and has since been named Duke’s Road. The southern part is now called Woburn Walk. The south side of the latter was numbered 1–8 (going east to west) and on the opposite side began with No. 9 at the Euston Road end, continuing south and west to No. 20. The leases are dated 1822.“The houses were of three storeys with stucco fronts, each being emphasised by recessing the walls where the houses joined. A plain coping over a projecting band was used as the finish to the parapet with scroll cresting at special points, and each of the upper storeys had a single broad window with slightly arched head, within an unmoulded architrave studded with paterae. The original form of the windows seems to have been a broad sash window, three panes wide with a single light on each side. The firstfloor window had an ornamental balcony of cast iron with curved ends.
“The shop fronts were designed with great skill. The window stood in the centre, flanked by doorways, and was the same shape in plan as the balcony over, projecting over the pavement to the level of the sill, beneath which were two shaped brackets. Each window was divided by very delicate glazing bars into twenty-four panes, four panes high, and curved at each side. Over the whole ran an unbroken entablature, which followed the window curves, with twin pilasters between each house. A single-moulded cornice, frieze (functioning as a lettered fascia) and an architrave with continuous anthemion ornament made up this most effective shop design. The doors were of four panels with rectangular fanlight above. The curved sill of each window was enriched with guilloche ornament (Plate 57). Between each pair of doors was a wrought-iron scraper. The rainwater downpipes, with moulded heads, were neatly arranged in alternate recesses between the houses.” (British History Online)
London Unveiled says, “Woburn Walk is an attractive Victorian pedestrian street at the northern end of Bloomsbury, just south of Euston Station. It was designed by architect Thomas Cubitt in 1822 as a pedestrian street – hence the street’s name today ‘Woburn Walk’. As such it was London’s first purpose-built pedestrianized shopping street. Much of the architecture has been preserved, including the Dickensian bow-fronted buildings. Today these buildings house a variety of shops – including bookshops, galleries, restaurants. Despite its proximity to the travel hubs of Euston and Kings Cross, this charming walk is not well known by visitors to London but it is worth a visit.
“Literary Connections: From 1895 to 1919, Irish poet, Nobel Prize winner and dramatist W. B. Yeats lived on Woburn Walk. In the day he lived at 18, Woburn Buildings – today this building is 5, Woburn Walk. Yeats chose this area, which was quite unfashionable at the time, to be closer to ‘the people.’ He held Monday evening social gatherings that were often attended by many members of London’s literary circle. Ezra Pound, an American expatriate, was fascinated with Yeats and made a concerted effort to join his circle. Moving into a flat at nearby 48 Langham Street, it wasn’t long before he was entrenched in this literary circle. Soon he was acting as co-host for many of the events in Yeat’s house and is documented as freely handing out Yeats’ wine and cigarettes. T. S. Eliot was often in attendance too (he lived nearby at 28 Bedford Place). After Yeats moved out, Irish Nationalist Maud Gonne took up residency. She was considered by many the most beautiful Irish woman, and was the love of Yeats life. He considered her to have “the carriage and features of a goddess.'”