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Juerg's London

Soho Area

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Bourchier StSoho

Soho is the area bounded by Regent St to the west, Oxford St to the north, Charing Cross Rd to the east and Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square to the south. Nowadays days the area is renowned as the heart of Theater land in London, and for fine pubs and food.

In the middle ages the area was known as St. Giles's Field. In 1536 is was as a result of the dissolution of the monasteries, surrendered to Henry VIII . The area was used as hunting grounds for the monarch, the name "Soho" is supposed to derive from the sound of hunting horns. One of the first residents of the are was the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II. The area became a centre for immigrants, initially for French Huguenots, who were followed by Germans, Italians, Swiss and many others. The area attracted more and more people, in 1851 there were 327 inhabitants per acre. In 1854 there was an outbreak of Cholera, which resulted in the better-offs moving away. During the same period 7 new hospitals were founded. This was also the time when Soho established it's reputation as an entertainment area.

Broadwick StGolden Square

To the east of Regent St is Golden Square. The square was build between 1675 and 1700. At 11 there is a covered doorway from the 18 century, the statue in the centre of the square is of George II. At 16 the Swiss painter Angelica Kauffmann lived from 1767 until 1781.

To the north of the square at 41 Beak St Antonio Canaletto, the Venetian painter, live from 1749-51. The shop front at 23 is from the Regency period. To the western end of Beak St is Kingly St, with St Thomas's Church which was built in 1702. There has been a pub at 18 since 1737. Coming of Beak St is Carnaby St. During the 1960's this street became the centre of the fashion universe.

John Snow pumpBerwick Street

Parallel to the north of Beak St is Broadwick St. There is a fine terrace of early 18 century houses running from 48 to 58. At the crossing with Lexington St stands the John Snow pub, it is named after Dr. John Snow who was responsible for the locking up of the nearby well during the cholera epidemic of 1854. At 74 William Blake was born in 1758.

Further along the street is Berwick St. the southern end is the site of a fruit and vegetable market on week days. At the end of Broadwick St is Wardour Street. The street was cut before 1585. Further south are the remains of St Ann's Church, which was bombed in 1941 and not restored. To the north of the church runs Old Compton St., which is the main shopping street in Soho. Richard Wagner lived here in 1839. In 1998 a member of a right wing group placed a bomb in a pub used by the gay community, which killed a number of people.

Soho SquareSoho Square

Running almost north-south is Dean St, here at 28 Karl Marx lived from 1851-6, and started work on "Das Kapital". The building is now a very expensive restaurant. At 28 a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister gave performances.

The next street along is Frith St. The Mozart family lived at 20 in 1764. At 22 John Logie Baird gave the first demonstration of TV in 1926.

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Off Whitcomb StLeicester Square

From the north western end of St. Martin's Places, by the statue of Henry Irving, Irving St. leads to the Square. The square is named after the second Earl of Leicester, who in 1637 built a house nearby. In 1718 the Prince of Wales, later to be George II, moved into the house after having an argument with his father, in 1741 the then Prince of Wales, Frederick, son of George II, moved into the house for a similar reason. The house was demolished in 1790. The square was laid out in about 1665. It became a favourite spot for duels. It was converted into a public park in 1874.

In the centre of the square there is a statue of William Shakespeare, and there are busts of Reynolds, Newton, Hogarth and John Hunter, who all lived in the area, around the edges. To the southeast of the Great Pulteney Stsquare there is a statue of Charlie Chaplin. Next to it is the Half Price Theater Booth. Around the booth there are pavement slabs with hand and foot impressions of various film stars. In the centre of the square, on the pavement there is a monument to the commonwealth, it depicts the direction and distance of the capitol cities from this point.

Around the Square

To the northeast of the square is Leicester Place with the church of Notre Dame De France. The church was bought in 1865 for the French Catholic community. The church was bombed in 1940 and rebuilt in 1955.

The building on the southeast side of the square going onto Irving St. is the former Royal Dental Hospital built in 1858.

On the northwest side at the junction of New Coventry St. and Wardour St. is the Swiss Centre, the building has been the target of several terrorist bomb attacks.

Gerrard StreetChina Town

Running through the area from Piccadilly Circus to Cambridge Circus is Shaftesbury Ave. The avenue was created in 1877, it cut through a slum area of immigrant housing. The street is named after the Earl of Shaftesbury. An older road used to run along here, King Street. It was here , in 1853, that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone, was taken by a young girl who accosted him to Long Acre, and the unsuccessful blackmail attempt was made.

Gerrard and Lisle Streets which lie between Shaftesbury Ave. and Leicester Square have now become the centre of the Chinese community in London. John Dryden lived at 43 Gerrard St from 1686 until his death in 1700. In the Turks Head pub, which no longer exists, Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds founded the "Literary Club". Mr. Jagger, from Dickens Great Expectations, is also supposed to have lived here.

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Regent StPiccadilly Circus

The name Piccadilly came from a house that used to stand on what is now Great Windmill St. The builder was a tailor and made piccadils, which were high collars or ruffs with laced or perforated edges.

Regent St - by night with Christmas lightsThe square was formed in 1819, when Regent St was constructed, by John Nash. The main feature in the square is the Shaftesbury Memorial, with the winged, arrow less archer, who is meant to be the angel of Christian charity, but is more commonly referred to as Eros the Greek god of love. The status was build in 1893, and paid for by the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. To the south of the square is the Criterion Theater which was built in 1874. As part of the refurbishment of the square, it was planned that the theater would have to be demolished, but this caused such an outcry that the theater was saved. The most famous thing about the circus are the adverts. By day they are not much, but a night it is quite a show. The first illuminated signs began to appear in 1910.


Running south is Haymarket which leads to Pall Mall. This used to be the site of a market that supplied the Royal Mews, when they were still in what is now Trafalgar Square. The market was originally in Mayfair until it was forced to move because of the filth left from the livestock sold. There was some kind of market here until 1830.

At the southern end on the west side is Her Majesty's Theater. The current building stems from 1897, but there has been a theater on this site since 1705. In it's early years (1711-1734) Handel's operas where performed. The building burned down in 1791, and was rebuilt as an Opera House, Haydn conducted in 1795, including the first performances of his last 3 symphonies. The theater was reconstructed in 1818. The Royal Opera Arcade, which run parallel to Haymarket behind the theater from Pall Mall to Charles II street, is all that remains of this building.

On the other side of the street is the Haymarket Theater, the current building dates from 1820. The first theater was built on this site in 1720. In 1735 Henry Fielding became manager.

Just off Haymarket on Panton St. is the Comedy Theater. Its was here that both the "Rocky Horror Show" and "Little Shop of Horrors" became famous.

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Trafalgar SquareTrafalgar Square

The square was built between 1829 and 1841. The site was originally part of the royal Mews. It is of course named in commemoration of Nelson's naval victory in 1805.

At the corners of the square there are 4 plinths, but only on 3 of them is there a statue, the empty one is reserved for Britain's next navel hero. The 3 statues are of admirals Beatty, Jellicoe and Cunningham. On the north side of the square are the Imperial standards for length, 1 inch, 1 foot, 2 feet, 1 yard, 1 chain, and 100 feet. The fountains were built in 1948, the original purpose was not decorative but as a means of breaking up unruly crowds

Nelsons ColumnNelsons Column.

The column was built in 1843. The fluted column is 167 feet 6.5 inches high, the statue is 17 feet 4.5 inches high. On the pedestal at the base there are 4 bronze reliefs, that show scenes from the battle of the Nile and St. Vincent. The bronze itself comes from captured French cannons.

Around the column there are 4 bronze lions, the bronze comes from cannons recovered from the Royal George which sank in 1782 with the loss of 800 men

Every year since the ending of the 2 world war, a giant Christmas Tree has been erected in the square. It is a gift from the people of Norway as a thank you for the hospitality their Royal Family received from Britain during the war.

At New Year the square is the traditional place for Londoners to celebrate and listen to the chimes of Big Ben.

Lexington WStAround the Square

To the west is the former Union Club built in 1824-7, which was reconstructed in 1925 as Canada House. The building next to it is from 1827 and formerly housed the Royal College of Physicians. On the east side is South Africa House built in 1931-3.

The National Gallery

The gallery was built in 1838, but the columns come from the demolished Carlton House.

The collection of pictures was started in 1824 when George 4 talked the government of the day into buying 38 paintings from a Russian emigre. Over time both the building and the collection have grown. In 1870 the dome was added, followed by the central staircase. In 1991 the controversial Sainsbury Wing was open, this was referred to by Prince Charles as a carbuncle.

In 1897 with the founding of the Tate Gallery the collection was split into 2. The modern art and most of the British painting going to the Tate. What remains at the National is one of the finest collection of classic paintings to be found anywhere.

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Copyright 1998 - 2012 Juerg Mueller. Date last modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2007 01:24:04 CEST