Fellow travel blogger Andrew Petcher of Have Bag Will Travel recently posted a countdown of the favourite Squares and Piazas that he has visited in his travels. That and the present good weather put me in mind of London’s Soho Square in the West End. I used to work close to Soho Square and it was a little oasis of peace, where I could enjoy my sandwiches on a sunny day. It’s also a great place to spot the odd celeb visiting their agent or taking a breather from nearby Theatreland
The bloke in the middle of the photo is Charles II. He was originally put there in 1681, as part of a water feature, when the square was named King’s Square after him. Since then he’s been in the wars a bit. In 1875 he was removed from the square when it was renovated by Branston Pickle magnate Thomas Blackwell (of Crosse and Blackwell fame). He gave the statue to his mate Frederick Goodall, who fancied having Charley on an island in the lake in his garden. Which is where he stayed until 1938 when he was returned to the square as one of the conditions in the will of WS Gilbert’s widow, Gilbert (the lyricist to composer Sir Arthur Sullivan) having bought Goodall’s estate in 1890.
The Square is home to lots of media companies as well as to two rather nice churches. This is the French Huguenot Church.
Originally founded for the French Protestant refugees in 1550 this splendid building was built between 1891-3 and is the only remaining Huguenot church out of 23 that were recorded in London in 1700 after the Huguenots were thrown out of France in 1685.
Above the door is this rather nice frieze showing the story of how the Huguenots sought refuge from persecution.
On another side of the square paradoxically is the rather fine St Patrick’s Catholic Church. Consecrated in 1792 it was one of the first new Catholic churches to be built after the passing of the Second Catholic Relief Act in 1791 (excuse the pictures it’s hard to photograph anything in the square at present because of building works for the Crossrail project)
Now in just next to St Patrick’s there, is the Manor House. the present facade dates from 1838 when Edmund Crosse and his mate Thomas Blackwell made the Manor House the centre of their pickle empire, since then it has been the HQ for the Post Office Film Unit and is now an office building, but its past is far more fruity.
The original Manor House dates back to 1678 and was for a time the home of aristocrats before being bought by one Thomas Hopper in 1776. Hopper turned it into what has been described as a ‘high-class magical brothel’ complete with a Gold Room, Coal Hole and the infamous Skeleton Room where punters would have the frighteners put on them by a skeleton on wires…………….. er nice.