This rather lovely sign in St Christopher's Place, off Oxford Street, marks the entrance to Sarsden Buildings. These are homes built by Victorian philanthropist Octavia Hill, and still managed by Octavia Housing.
Hill began her work in Marylebone, although she extended it over much of London: I have previously discussed her work in relation to White Cross Cottages in Southwark. While she began her housing work in 1864 by renovating properties, she moved on to build new housing as well. Sarsden Buildings was among the renovation projects: some of the houses had been condemned by the Medical Officer of Health before she took them over.
It is hard to believe today, standing a few steps from Selfridge's and with the fashionable shops and restaurants of St Christopher's Place all around, that these buildings were considered among the worst when Hill took them on. Then known as Barrett's Court, its tenants were described by her as 'almost the poorest class of those amongst our population who have any settled home.' That must have made her success all the sweeter. Among her first projects, Sarsden Buildings is the oldest which continues to provide social housing today.