Address: London W1D

800m from Charing Cross

0m from Piccadilly Circus/Tottenham Court Rd/Oxford Circus

The area of Soho was, in the 16th century, a hunting park of Henry VIII with the name ‘Soho’ deriving from a hunting cry of the time. By the 17th century, London was in need of development to ease housing congestion and the land was sold to the Earls of Leicester and Portland, with Leicester Square today being the site of the Earl of Leicester’s mansion.

The new buildings failed to attract the wealthy and immigrants arrived instead. The main group were the Huguenots that fled France with the area becoming known as the French Quarter. Other nationalities arrived which gave us today’s street names of Greek Street, Denmark Street and Poland Street. Frith Street is named after Richard Frith a main developer from 1677. Artists and writers also helped form the new cosmopolitan area.

To satisfy the needs of the new society a number of pubs, music halls and theatres opened and Soho became the centre of London entertainment, although it was also an area where there was much crime and poverty. Due to its artistic core, the area attracted a number of notable residents which included Constable, Canaletto, Shelley and Liszt.

The 19th century saw a cholera epidemic with a contaminated water pump lying between today’s Broadwick Street and Lexington Street being responsible. The nearby John Snow pub is named after the doctor who solved the problem and there’s a commemorative water pump on display today.

The 20th century saw music thrive with early performances by music greats The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Ronnie Scott’s jazz club gained legendary status also. In the 60’s and 70’s Soho was synonymous with sex shops and prostitution, but is now regarded as a cultural place and a media centre. It has a gay district around Old Compton Street.

The area’s one of the most famous London landmarks with New York having a district with the same name.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.