Soho Square

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View of Soho Square in 1992

Soho Square is a square in Soho, London, with a park and garden area at its centre that dates back to 1681. It was originally called King Square after Charles II, whose statue stands in the square. At the centre of the garden, there is a distinctive half-timbered gardener's hut. During the summer, Soho Square hosts open-air free concerts.

History[edit]

Monmouth House in Soho Square was built for the Duke of Monmouth. It was later the French ambassador's residence, but it was demolished in 1773.
Soho Square in 1816. At that time farm animals were often driven into London.
The statue of Charles II by Caius Gabriel Cibber stands at the centre of Soho Square

Built in the late 1670s, Soho Square was in its early years one of the most fashionable places to live in London. It was originally called King's Square, for King Charles II. A statue of Charles II was carved by Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1681 and placed at the centre of the Square. By the early 19th century, the statue was described as being 'in a most wretched mutilated state; and the inscriptions on the base of the pedestal quite illegible'.[1] In 1875, it was removed during alterations in the square by T. Blackwell, of Crosse & Blackwell, the condiment firm, who gave it for safekeeping to his friend, artist Frederick Goodall, with the intention that it might be restored.[1] Goodall placed the statue on an island in his lake at Grim's Dyke, where it remained when dramatist W. S. Gilbert purchased the property in 1890, and there it stayed after Gilbert's death in 1911. In her will, Lady Gilbert directed that the statue be returned, and it was restored to Soho Square in 1938.[2]

William Thomas Beckford was born on 29 September 1760 in his family's London home at 22 Soho Square.

In the 1770s, the naturalist Joseph Banks who had circumvented the globe with James Cook, moved into 32 Soho Square in the south-west corner of the square. In 1778, Banks was elected president of the Royal Society and his home became a kind of scientific salon hosting scientists visiting from around the world. His library and herbarium containing many plants gathered during his travels were open to the general public.

Between 1778 and 1801 the Square was home to the infamous White House brothel at the Manor House, 21 Soho Square.[3]

In 1862 the charity House of St Barnabas moved around the corner from Rose Street to 1 Greek Street where it still resides today.[4]

Wilfrid Voynich had his antiquarian bookshop at no. 1 Soho Square from 1902. The publisher Rupert Hart-Davis was at no. 36 from about 1947.

Fauconberg House was on the north side of the square until its demolition in 1924.[5]

Two of the original houses, nos. 10 and 15, still stand. At nos. 8 and 9 is the French Protestant Church of London, built in 1891–3.

Number 22 was home to British Movietone[6] and Kay (West End) Film Laboratories,[7] having been re-built to its current form between 1913 and 1914.[8]

For almost forty years, beginning in 1955, Soho Square housed the official headquarters of animator Richard Williams.

Present day[edit]

Soho Square is home to several media organisations, including the British Board of Film Classification, 20th Century Fox, Bare Escentuals, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Dolby Europe Ltd, Fin London, Paul McCartney's MPL Communications, Tiger Aspect Productions, Wasserman Media Group and See Tickets. In the 1990s Sony Music had an office here. Their record label Sony Soho Square has since been renamed S2 Records.

The Football Association was headquartered at No 25 from October 2000 until 2009.

The square is home to St Patrick's Church, a large Roman Catholic parish church partially located on the site of Carlisle House that features extensive catacombs that spread deep under the Square and further afield.

Streets running off the square, counted clockwise from the north, are Soho Street, Sutton Row, Greek Street, Batemans Buildings, Frith Street and Carlisle Street.

Cultural references[edit]

Plaque on the Kirsty MacColl memorial bench in Soho Square

In the book A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Soho Square is where Lucie and her father, Doctor Manette, reside. It is believed that their house is modelled on the House of St Barnabas which Dickens used to visit, and it is for this reason that the street running behind the House from Greek Street is called Manette Street (it was formerly Rose Street).

In the song "Why Can't The English?" from the musical My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins laments, "Hear them down in Soho Square/Dropping H's everywhere."

In the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, the eponymous Jonathan Strange and his wife Arabella maintain a home in Soho Square as their residence in London.[9]

The Soho Square garden contains a bench that commemorates the singer Kirsty MacColl, who wrote the song "Soho Square" for her album Titanic Days. After her death in 2000, fans bought a memorial bench in her honour, inscribing the lyrics: "One day I'll be waiting there / No empty bench in Soho Square".[10]

The Lindisfarne album Elvis Lives On the Moon also includes a song named "Soho Square".[11]

Nearby places[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Soho Square Area: Portland Estate: Soho Square Garden" in Survey of London volumes 33 and 34 (1966) St Anne Soho, pp. 51–53. Date accessed: 12 January 2008.
  2. ^ Photo of the statue Archived 30 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ During, Simon (2004). Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic. Harvard University Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-0-674-01371-1. ... the famous magic brothel, the White House at Soho Square, in which commercial sex was enhanced by dark, baroque special-effects and natural magic devices 
  4. ^ Sheppard, F. H. W (1966). Survey of London XXXIII Parish of St Anne Soho. 2 Gower Street, London: The Athlone Press University of London. p. 89. 
  5. ^ Christopher Hibbert Ben Weinreb; John & Julia Keay (9 May 2011). The London Encyclopaedia (3rd Edition). Pan Macmillan. pp. 287–. ISBN 978-0-230-73878-2. 
  6. ^ Terry Gallacher. "Movietone News, the first days". Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Terry Gallacher. "British Movietonews – the process from idea to screen". Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  8. ^ "British History Online: No. 22 Soho Square". University of London & History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  9. ^ http://hurtfew.wikispaces.com/Jonathan+Strange
  10. ^ "Bench in Soho Square". Kirsty MacColl. 2001-08-12. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  11. ^ http://www.lindisfarne.co.uk/discography/elvis-lives-on-the-moon.htm

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′55″N 0°7′56″W / 51.51528°N 0.13222°W / 51.51528; -0.13222