Friday, 16 January 2015

Cecil Court: The inspiration for Diagon Alley?

Deceptively named, along an unassuming side street, Cecil Court is somewhere you could easily pass without a second glance. It is often used to get from Covent Garden to Charing Cross road, but it deserves much more recognition than just a short cut. Some believe it was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and it is easy to see why. With its store fronts bearing goods from yesteryear, bookshops with tarot card readers and crystals for sale, it is like stepping into another world where witchcraft and wizardry would not seem out of place. 

This street was the first London address of Mozart, arguably the most famous composer that ever lived, and the celebrated poet, T. S. Eliot. If ever there was a place to inspire the artist and writer, Cecil Court is it. You could walk up and down the street browsing in every shop and then gazing at every window display for a whole day and still not see everything for sale. There is an unfathomable amount of carefully collected and curated ephemera, books, prints and collectibles in these shops that will eat away your time but will make you drunk on ideas and imagination.

I could tell you all the things that were on sale when I went, but they may not be there when you go there. For example, a 2012 crop circle calendar was on sale for a bargain £2 – more than likely to have sold by now. The wackiest shop on the street is Watkins, a bookstore established in 1894 selling books on mind, body, spirit and magic and the occult. See if you can find the photo where instead of a window display, there is a tarot card reading going on, in the window, with a thin bit of net curtain covering the customer.

I love a bargain, but most of all I like things that are unique, things that are a bit different and things that have a story. Cecil Court is a community all of its own. Every shop on this eccentric street offers you something a bit off the wall. You can't go there looking for something specific, but you can go to be inspired.

There is a great piece on the Cecil Court website detailing its history.

Here are some of the shops you can find on the street:
The Witch Ball

Mark Sullivan, Antiques and Decoratives

David Drummond, Theatrical Bookseller and Ephemerist

The London Medal Company Ltd

St Martins Models

Watkins Books

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Goldsboro Books (First edition Harry Potter books)


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