Terraced house of c1690, converted to retail use on the ground floor and office use above. Some C18, C19 and C20 alterations. It is the survival of early fabric that warrants the higher grade. To the rear is a C19 outbuilding, originally a workshop, used in the mid-1970s by the then newly-formed Sex Pistols and retaining related graffiti.
Reasons for Designation
No 6 Denmark Street, a terraced house of c1690, with former workshop to the rear, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the building is a rare, well-preserved, example of its type, reflecting the architectural fashions of the late C17, and preceding the patterns of urban terraced housing which followed in subsequent centuries;
* Level of survival: the building retains its historic floor-plan and much of its original exterior and interior character with a hierarchy of original panelling, plasterwork and joinery, as well as later fabric of historic note;
* Historic interest (building type): forming part of an early domestic terrace, with a later workshop to the rear, the building demonstrates evolving patterns of occupation in this central London location;
* Historic interest (music industry): the graffiti of John Lydon in the outbuilding to the rear is a rare example of the cultural phenomenon of Punk Rock, captured in the physical fabric of a building; it is also a wider testament to Denmark Street's C20 history at the heart of British popular music production during one of its most creative and influential periods.
No 6 Denmark Street is one of eight surviving late-C17 terraced houses built as part of the development of Denmark Street between 1686 and 1691.
Situated in the Parish of St Giles, the name of Denmark Street commemorates the marriage in 1683 of Princess, later Queen, Anne, younger daughter of James, Duke of York, to Prince George of Denmark. The street is aligned from east to west from the corner of the churchyard of St Giles-in-the-Fields to Charing Cross Road, and runs across the site of the former St Giles Hospital.
The street was developed by Samuel Fortrey and Jaques Wiseman. In 1686 Fortrey and Wiseman presented a petition to the Westminster Commissioners of Sewers, asking for permission to rebuild the sewer in Hog Lane (the line of the present Charing Cross Road) and lead a sewer from their new houses to it. The petition stated that they were to build about twenty houses in all, indicating the development of the whole street. Fortrey died in 1689, but a further petition to the commissioners by his brother and administrator, William Fortrey, in January 1691 shows that all the houses in Denmark Street were by then completed. Fortrey and Wiseman were not craftsmen themselves, so it is possible the individual freeholds were sold to several different builders who were responsible for the actual construction of the houses.
Built for the middle classes, it is not clear how long the houses maintained this status. The St Giles Rookery - a notorious slum - blighted parts of the parish during the C18 and C19, and certainly by the C19 the houses began to shift towards commercial uses, with metal-working businesses becoming a particular feature of the street in the later part of the century. Ground floors became shops, while upper floors were used as workshops or living accommodation. A number of C19 outbuildings which survive to the rear of the frontage buildings are associated with this changing character.
Commercial uses continued into the C20, but the second half of the century marked a particularly notable chapter in the street's history, becoming the centre of London’s, and by extension, Britain’s, music industry, gaining it the moniker ‘Tin Pan Alley’. Music publishers and sellers of sheet music appeared on the street prior to the Second World War, and it was on Denmark Street that 'Melody Maker', one of the earliest weekly music newspapers, was founded in 1926. But it was during the post-Second World War period that the street had its heyday at the heart of a thriving industry; post-war photographs and films indicate virtually every building and shop in the street had a function connected to music. Denmark Street was known for its recording studios and music shops (the Rolling Stones recorded their first album at Regent Sound Studios at No 4) but perhaps the most significant business was that of music publishing, a field dominated in particular by very successful Jewish entrepreneurs. Numerous music publishing offices acted as the headquarters for aspiring songwriters to publish and place their songs. Among Britain’s now internationally significant writers with a particularly strong connection to Denmark Street are David Bowie, Elton John, Ray Davies, and the Sex Pistols, artists who have all had a considerable influence on the course of Britain’s post-war popular culture as well as its music.
Post Office directories of the 1950s and 1960s show a variety of tenants at No 6. It was the long-term home of "Zeno", a Greek book seller, which occupied the ground-floor shop unit, and other tenants included tailors, neon sign makers, and various music publishers, engravers and composers; at one time the building had six different businesses registered.
OUTBUILDING TO THE REAR OF No. 6
The building to the rear of No 6 is a former workshop, likely built for a silversmith, but it also has a notable historic interest connected with Denmark Street’s position at the centre of the post-war music industry.
When music svengali Malcolm McLaren needed a base from which to develop his new group, the Sex Pistols, he leased, on the suggestion of bass guitarist Glen Matlock, the outbuilding at No 6 for that purpose from amateur musician Bill Collins, a former Beatles roadie and manager of the group Badfinger (and also father of actor and musician Lewis Collins). From c1975 to 1977 the outbuilding doubled up as both a much needed rehearsal studio and living quarters for the Sex Pistols. The downstairs room was used as a studio to record key early Sex Pistols demos, with the mixing desk upstairs on guitarist Steve Jones’ bed (these early recordings are also known as the Dave Goodman demos, and form the basis of the infamous Spunk bootleg record and some of the group’s later legitimate recordings). Initially Steve Jones and Glen Matlock lived in the upstairs room, according to Matlock’s autobiography, the outbuilding… “did give us somewhere to live away from our parents, a first real taste of independence. And it meant we had a regular rehearsal space – which we used nearly every day. Maybe we’d only do half an hour before sloping off but, bit by bit, we were able to put a set together.”
The band left their mark on the outbuilding; the upstairs room contains drawings and graffiti made directly on the walls by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten). The building was subsequently used as a rehearsal space for The Rich Kids (Matlock’s post-Pistols band), possibly the post-punk band 4” Be 2” (formed by John Lydon’s brother Jimmy), and in 1980-81 it was the home of Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin of Bananarama. Later layers of graffiti were added to Lydon’s work by these occupants; all of it discussed in greater detail by Paul Graves-Brown and John Schofield in their article for Antiquity magazine (see Sources below).
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AND DENMARK STREET
David Bowie: a well-documented frequent visitor to Denmark Street in the early part of his career, to an extent where he is rumoured to have sometimes camped in a second hand ambulance van in the street. The van belonged to a band called The Lower Third with whom Bowie (then under his real name David Jones) joined forces with in 1965. Within weeks of this meeting David Jones had changed his name to David Bowie.
Elton John: worked at a music publishers at No 20. He wrote “Your Song” his first hit single, in Denmark Street itself.
The Kinks: were signed to a Denmark Street music publisher known as Eddie Kassner, with whom Ray Davies spectacularly fell out over the matter of royalties. This story is partly documented in the classic Kinks song “Denmark Street” from their album about the British music industry “Lola vs Powerman and The Moneygoround Part One”. The song “Denmark Street” forms part of the current West End hit musical “Sunny Afternoon”. The Kinks articulate and genre-defining hit singles hugely influenced Britpop and sold in very large quantities.
The Sex Pistols: the group both lived in and rehearsed to the rear of No 6 during their early, formative, years when they single-handedly defined what became known as Punk Rock, a movement that caught the nation’s undivided attention, and was to prove highly influential from 1976 onwards.
MATERIALS: No 6 is of red brick construction with stucco to the ground floor. Windows and doors are timber.
PLAN: it is a three-bay, three-storey terraced house with attic and basement. The pitched roofs, with a dormer window to the front, are masked by a later brick parapet. The original late-C17 floor plan survives almost fully intact. This comprises a front and back room on each floor, heated by side-wall stacks (the fireplaces in the back rooms being set across the back corner). Towards the rear of the building a dog-leg stair is set against the opposing side wall. A closet wing to the rear of the building is a C20 rebuilding.
EXTERIOR: the upper two storeys have ranges of three two-over-two pane sash windows with exposed sash boxes. The windows have splayed flat brick arches with painted central keystones and those on the first-floor have been extended downwards. There are string courses above ground- and first-floor windows. Unlike elsewhere on the street where the ground floor arrangement of a door and two windows has been replaced with a shopfront, at No 6, and its neighbour, No 7, the original arrangement survives, albeit with the brickwork rendered and the window openings extended downward. The windows of No 6 are glazed in sheet glass. The doorcase is of early-C19 date with pilasters supporting a projecting cornice, and above the fielded six-panel door is a radial fanlight.
INTERIOR: throughout the building there is a good survival of original, C18, and C19, joinery and plasterwork. Box cornices survive widely and wall panelling is reflective of the house's relative hierarchy; from bolection moulded panelling in the hall and on the first floor, to simple timber boarding in the basement and attic. The lower part of the stair has column and vase balusters with a cut string and decorative console-like brackets beneath the treads, a likely C18 insertion. From the half landing between first and second floors upwards the stair has its original moulded closed string with barley twist balusters. The basement stair has heavy turned balusters, seemingly of early date, but perhaps repurposed given their location. The fully-panelled ground floor front room has an anthemion frieze and alcoves to either side of the fireplace with moulded arches resting on carved console brackets (one bracket is missing to the right). Principal rooms have panelled window-shutters, and fireplaces of various date survive on all three floors.
OUTBUILDING: the outbuilding to the rear of No 6 faces onto the small courtyard between the two. The outbuilding is of brick construction (now painted), two storeys high, with a flat roof. At ground floor there is a door to one side and a pair of large segmental-headed windows with multi-paned, horizontally-sliding Yorkshire sashes. At first floor is a single wide window, formed of what would have been three pairs of timber casements, separated by timber mullions, however one of the three pairs has been replaced by a single sheet of glass.
The interior of the building is simple and modernised, without features associated with its use as a workshop. It comprises a single room on the ground and first floors, linked by a modern open-tread stair. On the first floor three of the four walls are covered in an unplastered, unpainted board material. Applied directly onto the surface with marker pen are a number of drawings and a quantity of written graffiti by John Lydon, including unflattering caricatures of members of the band and their circle. Caricatures include the band’s manager Malcolm McLaren, who is depicted grasping a handful of bank notes with the name ‘Muggerage’ [a reference to Malcolm Muggeridge, contemporary broadcaster and born-again Christian]. Also on the wall is Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of John Ritchie (Sid Vicious). She is depicted in the nude with a cigarette in her mouth and a stubbled chin; her eyes are characteristically lined heavily with khol. She is re-christened as ‘Nanny Spunger’. Sid Vicious appears as a wild-haired, buck-toothed stick man named 'Ego Sloshos', and Steve Jones is named as ‘Fatty Jones’. There are eight cartoons by Lydon in total, including a self portrait. Subsequent drawings and graffiti have been added to the Lydon work; in all it spans probably a short period from 1977 to the early 1980s.