The Oxford Street beavers

May 6, 2011

High above 105-109 Oxford Street sit a trio of London’s oddest statues.

Three stone rodents.

At first glance, they look a bit like rats, but the wide flat tail sported by the one on the right identifies them as beavers.

The one at the very top also comes with a scroll, bearing the initial ‘H’.

105-109 Oxford Street was formerly the premises of Henry Heath’s Hat Factory, and his name and profession are still spelled out in a brick facade on the back of the old factory, which can be seen from Berwick Street.

According to the firm’s own publicity in 1879, Heath’s hat factory dated back to the reign of George IV (1820-1830) and they guaranteed “1st , Their Quality; 2nd Excellence of Finish; 3rd Style.”

A relief of George can be seen above one of the windows, with the date 1822 most likely referring to the firm’s establishment. Next to it is a young Queen Victoria, 1887 being the date the premises were rebuilt.

Henry Heath’s primary product was top hats, which were made using felted fur from “Beaver Otter, Rabbits, Hares and Musk Rats.”

A Henry Heath flyer from an 1884 exhibition

The firm was still advertising its products in 1931, but while they undoubtedly shut up shop due to the modern decline in hat-wearing, I’ve been unable to find out exactly when. If anyone knows, please drop me a line!

In the meantime, here’s a final shot of the beavers, who’ve been perched on the roof watching London change for the last 124 years.


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