Marylebone Lives

Marylebone lives, by Carl UpsallThe extraordinary stories of those who have lived in and around the area certainly brought a lot of people into Marylebone Library recently – a record-breaking number attended the ‘Marylebone Lives ‘ event. Everyone had a great evening hearing from Carl Upsall and Mark Riddaway as they delved into some historical essays on the people, places and events that have helped shape the character of the area.

We learned about, for example:

James Figg
The ‘King of the Marylebone Plains’, who initially made a living fighting for money at local fairs and developed a fearful reputation by defeating all challengers. Under  the patronage of the Earl of Peterborough, Figg was able to open an arena in Marylebone Fields, just north of Oxford Street. The arena was known as Figg’s  amphitheatre and became home to an academy at which Figg taught other young fighters.

Florence Nightingale
Nightingale worked at 90 Harley Street and became known as the ’ lady with the lamp’. She did much to make nursing a respectable profession for women: before her, nurses were lower class women with no specific medical training who followed the army around, fulfilling any functions required of them.

Marylebone lives: rogues, romantics and rebels – character studies of locals since the eighteenth century is a must-read book for anyone interested in the social and local history of the Marylebone area.

Carl Upsall and Mark Riddaway at Marylebone Library April 2016Thanks to Carl and Mark for such an entertaining evening.




2 responses to “Marylebone Lives

  1. Figg and his Amphitheatre appear in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel Rodney Stone (, in Chapter X – The Men of the Ring. This is the specific mention of the amphitheatre:

    “Vell, your ryal ‘ighness, it vas like this. Ven the day came round, all the volk came to Figg’s Amphitheatre, the same that vos in Tottenham Court, an’ Bob Vittaker ‘e vos there, and the Eytalian Gondoleery cove ‘e vas there, and all the purlitest, genteelest crowd that ever vos, twenty thousand of ’em, all sittin’ with threads like purtaties on a barrer, banked right up round the stage, and me there to pick up Bob, d’ye see, and Jack Figg ‘imself just for fair play to do vot was right by the cove from voreign parts. They vas packed all round, the folks was, but down through the middle of ’em was a passage just so as the gentry could come through to their seats, and the stage it vas of wood, as the custom then vas, and a man’s ‘eight above the ‘eads of the people.”


  2. Thanks for organising Barry, everyone really enjoyed the evening and the turn out was fantastic!


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