HISTORY

Elms Lesters Painting Rooms is located in the ancient parish of St. Giles which is tucked in between Soho, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury in Central London.

This bustling area is steeped in history; in the middle ages the city gallows had been sited in St. Giles Circus where Centre Point now stands, and The Great Plague infamously began here in 1665. William Hogarth spent time studying the environs of our neighbour St. Giles’ Church, the steeple of which can be seen in many of his prints depicting the debauchery of 18th century London.

In 1904 Mr. Elms Lesters built the, then, state of the art scenic painting studios in Flitcroft Street, supplying all the West End theatres with their theatrical backdrops.

The early eighties found the building in a state of dereliction, and major renovations saw the four electrically operated paint frames working again and the scenic painting business was resurrected running alongside the Art Gallery.

As the use of painted backdrops declined, so the Gallery at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms rose to prominence and the painting studios were more often than not being used by our own artists, often producing site specific works for their upcoming shows.

A survivor of second World War bombings, which decimated a row of houses adjacent to the building (now the site of the tranquil oasis The Phoenix Gardens), on 7th October 1992 Elms Lesters Painting Rooms again escaped serious damage when an IRA device exploded behind a BT junction box, just feet away from the front of the building. Fortunately no one in the building was injured, and fortuitously, just moments before the explosion, the team of scenic artists who were working on Ken Russell’s notorious and highly controversial ENO production of Princess Ida for The Coliseum at the time, had left the building to go to the Angel pub around the corner.

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Elms Lesters has played host to visitors as diverse as Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy in the first half of the 20th century to Blur, Kylie Minogue, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams and N*E*R*D and Kings of Leon more recently…

KINGS OF LEON at Elms Lesters ©DEAN CHALKLEY

HELEN MCRORY featured in BLAG magazine’s 21st. Birthday edition, shot at Elms Lesters posing by the iconic bench signed by myriad graffiti artists…