Alhambra House

With its constant traffic jam, when travelling north along Charing Cross Road you have plenty of time to look at the landscape.

One has always puzzled me, for this uninspired building [left] has a very exotic name Alhambra House.

Near to Capital Radio, itself no tour de force of architecture, stands this building with its bank of four Barclay’s ATMs.

[S]urely Barclay House; Acme Apartments; or Prosaic Point would have been a better choice of name? But with a little digging the building’s curious name appears very appropriate.

The Alhambra was a Moorish style theatre boasting two minarets, a huge hall, hydraulic lift and a 97ft high fountain.


Opening in 1854 as the Royal Panopticon of Arts and Sciences it displayed the scientific wonders of the day. Predictably two years later it closed and was sold for £8,000 just 10 per cent of its original cost.

Its fame derives from its re-invention as a circus and later a music hall. Charles Blondin who had recently tightrope walked across Niagara Falls performed there, as did the man who inspired the song ’The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze’ and who would give his name to the Victorian version if the onesie – Jules Léotard [below].


However the Alhambra lost its licence in 1870. London’s first hosting of the Can-Can was staged during which: ’Wiry Sal lifted her foot higher than her head several times towards the audience and had much been applauded’.

Demolished in1936 this dreary office block marks the spot of entertainment staged within a Middle Eastern building named after a Royal Palace.

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