Can lampposts be fashionable? The myth of the Coco Chanel street lights

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

A tribute to a loving merger of aristocracy and high fashion? The ‘Coco Chanel lampposts’ in Westminster

Anyone observant who has walked around the City of Westminster may have noticed the gold CC initials embossed on some of the lampposts. With the two Cs back-to-back, the first association that would spring to mind would be Coco Chanel’s iconic logo. Decades after the French designer was the talk of the town, her brand is still a big name internationally, synonymous with classic style and quality.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Coco Chanel… or just City Council?

For years, there has been a myth that the initials actually are in homage to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel as a declaration of affection from her lover, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor. The pair were said to have met at a party in Monaco sometime between 1923 and 1925 and embarked on a love affair until the early ’30s. Although French and known for her long association with Paris, Gabrielle spent a lot of time in London during the ’20s and opened her Mayfair boutique in 1927. To prove his love for her, the myth claims the Duke had her CC initials embossed in gold on black lampposts alongside his own ornate W crest (for Westminster). Decades after their romance, Coco herself denied reports she had refused the Duke’s proposal with the reply: ‘There have been many Duchesses of Westminster, but only one Coco Chanel.’ She said such a response would have been ‘vulgar’, adding: ‘He would have laughed in my face.’ However, he did buy her some land at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, where she built her villa La Pausa.

While the lampposts appearing to combine French fashion and traditional British design remain on many Westminster streets, it appears the CCs may not have such a romantic origin after all. Westminster Council told the Telegraph two years ago that the CC stands for something far less glamorous. Martin Low, City Commissioner of Transportation for Westminster City Council, told the paper: ‘Periodically, we get calls from the fashion press asking if the double Cs on our lampposts stand for Coco Chanel. It’s a nice idea, but no. The fancy W stands for Westminster and the two Cs stand for City Council. The lampposts didn’t actually get installed until the 1950s.’

N.B. The lampposts in the 1st and 2nd photos is located on Temple Place, WC2R, just behind Temple tube station, while the final lamppost is on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Sadly the CC stands for City Council and the W is for Westminster


For more Metro Girl blog posts on London’s ‘Dolphin’ lamps by the Thames click here or for the last gas sewer lamp in London, click here.

To read about more of London’s street furniture, such as the now-restored Georgian water pump on Cornhill click here or the old police telephone posts click here.

If you’re a fan of the 1920s, check out Metro Girl’s guide to prohibition-themed bars and parties here.

If you like London history, check out Metro Girl’s contents page for all our history posts.

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About LondonMetroGirl

Media professional who was born, brought up and now works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, restaurant reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 21 February 2013, in History, London and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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