Wednesday 30 July 2008

Waterstone's Bookshop, Torrington Place WC1

The London University branch of Waterstone's started life as a row of shops built by the Russell estate in 1907. The building was designed by C. Fitzroy Doll, the surveyor of the Russell estate, who also designed the Hotel Russell, the Imperial Hotel (demolished) and, apparently, some of the interiors of the Titanic.
The entrepreneurial bookseller Una Dillon started trading in one of the shops in the 1930s, gradually spilling over into others as operations expanded. Dillons was swallowed up by Waterstones in the 1990s.
The architecture is described in Pevsner as Franco-Flemish Gothic, but it is eminently Victorian - very old fashioned by 1907 when everyone else had gone Edwardian. If the ballroom in the Titanic weighed half as much, no wonder it sank.
Every bay window bears the arms of Fitzroy Doll's employers, a red lion, with their motto running round: Che Sara Sara. I defy you to say it without bursting into song.

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