Charing Cross

“The old throughfare from Charing Cross to Westminster was in parts very narrow. At its northern end it was not much more than 30 feet across, but it widened out considerably opposite the site of the Banqueting House, where it surrounded an open grass space on which stood a Cross (the White Cross). From this point it probably narrowed gradually to the northern end of King Street, but on the building of Whitehall Palace a great portion of it was taken by Henry VIII, and the road was reduced to a width of 40 feet between the two gates erected by that monarch” (Survey of London)

The tapering and widening of this intersection shows the influence modernity had on the layout of the city. Narrower streets, such as the 30-foot one mentioned here, would be wide enough for solely foot traffic and horses, but they wouldn’t be able to handle larger method of travel like coaches, and later buses. Expanding the width of the streets would allow for faster traveling by stage coach, similar to the streetcar occurrence in Mrs. Dalloway, and forty feet would probably be just wide enough for two coaches to pass side by side. The width shows how heavily travelled a location was, so the streets partially determined which areas received attention from the public. Hence, expansion! This attention would matter for stores or bars or any other business establishments because if there was enough activity in that location, city officials might notice and expand the space. In a way, the amount people interact within a space determines the size, growth or reduction of that space. It’s interesting to think that the more space people take up, the more likely more space will be made to offer more space for more people. It seems like a progression of growth that parallels the progression of modernization.


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