General Introduction

Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1966.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'General Introduction', Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho, (London, 1966), pp. 1-19. British History Online [accessed 21 June 2024].

. "General Introduction", in Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho, (London, 1966) 1-19. British History Online, accessed June 21, 2024,

. "General Introduction", Survey of London: Volumes 33 and 34, St Anne Soho, (London, 1966). 1-19. British History Online. Web. 21 June 2024,

In this section

General Introduction

In 1641 Anna Clerke, 'a lewd woman', was bound over to keep the peace after 'threteninge to burne the houses at So: ho'. These houses stood on the east side of the modern Wardour Street, to the north of Bourchier Street. The word Soho is an ancient hunting call, and there is evidence that hunting took place over the lands to the west of Wardour Street. With the passage of time what had originally been the name of a group of wayside cottages in the open country was extended to denote the streets and squares of the whole parish of St. Anne, which had been formed out of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields in 1686. As a vague geographical term Soho now also includes the part of the neighbouring parish of St. James between Wardour and Regent Streets, which was described in volumes XXXI and XXXII of the Survey of London. The present volumes describe the fifty-three acres of the parish of St. Anne, together with the ground on the east and south sides of Leicester Square. (fn. 1)

Soho is the most famous of London's cosmopolitan quarters. Its geographical situation on the threshold of the West End makes it much more widely known to visitors, both native and foreign, than Whitechapel or Hampstead or Brixton, and indeed the popularity of its restaurants and food shops almost entitles it to be considered as an integral part of the West End. It is also the oldest of the alien quarters. For nearly three centuries its foreign element has been periodically replenished by new immigrants, whose presence, if only as workers (for many of them now live elsewhere), still gives the street life of the locality its peculiar timbre.

Soho has always been foreign since its original development in the latter part of the seventeenth century, but this is not and never was apparent in the outward aspect of its buildings. The existence of an alien community has hardly affected the topographical and architectural development of the area, which has followed the usual confused and tortuous path, similar in essence to that of any other contemporary London suburb.

As elsewhere, the pattern of the street layout in Soho was, and still is, greatly influenced by the course of the highways and of the field or estate boundaries which existed before large-scale building began. Almost all of the future parish of St. Anne was bounded by ancient highways, the only exception being at the south-east corner. These highways are now known as Oxford Street on the north, Charing Cross Road (northward of Cambridge Circus) and West Street on the east, and Wardour and Whitcomb Streets on the west; another highway, now part of Shaftesbury Avenue, extended east to west across the centre of the area. They are shown on the plan of 1585 reproduced on Plate 1a. Some of the ground fronting these highways had already been covered with irregularly grouped, poor-quality houses before development of the land behind began in the 1670's—in modern terms, extensive ribbon development had taken place. When building on the back land began, it was evidently sometimes difficult to obtain access. Even at the present day access to the area north of Old Compton Street from both the west and east sides is very constricted; on the west side, it is true, the layout was also influenced by the long narrow shape of the Pulteney estate there (see below), but on the east side, where there was no such difficulty, the paucity of communication from Charing Cross Road is still very apparent. Until the formation of New Coventry Street and the widening and extension of Cranbourn Street in 1843–6, Leicester Square, too, possessed a considerable degree of privacy, and the effect of the street pattern has in general been to make Soho inward-looking and detached from the surrounding areas.

Even such major operations as the formation of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road in the 1880's mutilated the old street pattern of Soho less than did the formation of Regent Street that of St. James's. This was because wherever possible the Metropolitan Board of Works, in its passion for economy, formed long stretches of these streets by widening existing streets, and bought the ground on one side only, whereas the New Street Commissioners, when forming Regent Street, had bought ground on both sides (where it was not already owned by the Crown). So Shaftesbury Avenue, which outwardly proclaims its Victorian municipal origins, follows the course of an ancient highway for almost the whole of its extent eastward of Wardour Street, as does Charing Cross Road to the north of Cambridge Circus. To the south of Cambridge Circus the nucleus of povertystricken streets around Newport Market was indeed entirely swept away to form a more direct route to Charing Cross, while West Street, the ancient highway for traffic between St. Giles's and Charing Cross, has lapsed into obscurity. The very magnitude of the changes caused in this corner of Soho by the formation of the short stretch of Charing Cross Road between Cambridge Circus and Great Newport Street merely emphasizes how little change was occasioned elsewhere.

The field and estate boundaries have also influenced the street layout of Soho. The plan of 1585 reproduced on Plate 1a marks all the ground to the north of what is now Shaftesbury Avenue as St. Giles's Field, and that to the south as St. Martin's Field. The greater part (or possibly all) of both these fields had come into the possession of Henry VIII between 1536 and 1547, but in the southern part of the area division of ownership began a few years later. Four estates were formed here, and when substantial building development took place in the 1670's and 1680's they were laid out as independent units with the usual lack of regard for each other. When Leicester Square was built in the 1670's Leicester House and its large garden prevented any northward connexion between the square and the Military Ground. Even the demolition of Leicester House in the 1790's produced only minor improvement—so rigid is the urban pattern once it has been established. One straight wide street—Gerrard Street—was laid out by Dr. Nicholas Barbon along the length of the rectangular Military Ground, with short streets leading northward into the ancient highway then called King Street (now Shaftesbury Avenue), but on the Newport estate, where Barbon contrived to establish a market, and on the ground belonging to the Earls of Salisbury the streets were crammed as closely as in the City of London itself.

In the northern part of Soho the Crown retained the freehold interest acquired by Henry VIII until after building development had been completed. The plan of 1585 shows a long thin strip of land on the east side of Colman Hedge Lane (now Wardour Street) which was later leased by the Crown to the Pulteney family. Its eastern boundary, dating back to medieval times, is still clearly apparent on the modern Ordnance Survey map (Plate 7), and the development of this ground independently of that to the east has contributed to the insulation of a large part of Soho from the west.

The rest of the northern area of Soho consisted of twenty-two acres of ground, nineteen of which were laid out together. Seventeenth-century building development was usually on a much smaller scale than this, and the orderly sequence of long straight north to south streets provided by Dean, Frith and Greek Streets, the last two leading into the large place now known as Soho Square, is in striking contrast with the confused jumble of streets in the south-east part of Soho and in the area immediately west of Wardour Street in the neighbouring parish of St. James.

In the eighteenth century this orderliness became a commonplace on the West End estates of landed families like the Grosvenors or the Portmans. To find it in seventeenthcentury Soho, uncontrolled by either the Crown or by great landlords like the Russells in contemporary Bloomsbury, and executed in circumstances of much confusion by a group of building tradesmen and financial entrepreneurs, makes it doubly remarkable. Moreover the site, although spacious, was not wholly virgin ground. Ribbon development had taken place along part of the edges, and the interests of several sub-tenants had to be purchased in face of the active opposition of the formidable Dr. Barbon.

The plan of 1585 shows that there were then hardly any buildings in the area covered by these volumes. Five years earlier the Queen had issued a proclamation forbidding any new building within three miles of the gates of the City of London (fn. 4) —the first of a long series of proclamations by which, for nearly a century, she and her successors sought to limit the growth of the capital. One of the causes of the ultimate failure of this attempt was that the government, particularly in the impecunious days of James I, repeatedly undermined its own authority by allowing building within the prohibited area. Influential courtiers were well placed to obtain such valuable concessions, and it is perhaps significant that the first building of any consequence in the neighbourhood began on land which had been acquired by Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury and Lord High Treasurer. In 1610 he agreed to lease a long strip of ground fronting St. Martin's Lane to a carpenter, and shortly after his death in 1612 his son, the second Earl, leased an acre and a quarter of ground on the west side of Upper St. Martin's Lane to one of his servants, John Waller. The 'severall substantiall and well built dwelling houses' which Waller covenanted to erect included a range fronting south to what is now Great Newport Street. This embryo street was perhaps part of the way later referred to as the Military Street; it provided access to the exercise ground (on the site of Gerrard Street) which the Military Company enclosed with a nine-foot wall in 1616. Some eleven years later the second Earl of Salisbury leased part of his ground to the north of the Military Street between the exercise yard and Waller's houses to his brother-in-law, Sir William Howard, who built 'a fayre dwelling House' (later Newport House) there. In 1631–5 Robert Sidney, second Earl of Leicester, built a large mansion nearby, on land which he had bought from Hugh Audeley, a wealthy financier and Registrar of the Court of Wards and Liveries.

All these developments took place within the area where new building was prohibited by the royal proclamations. Except in Lord Leicester's case, no record of a royal licence to build has been found for these developments, but no doubt their courtly, aristocratic auspices often made such a formality unnecessary. After their completion no more building of substance took place until after the Restoration, except in Great Newport Street where Waller's houses were rebuilt by Richard Ryder the elder between 1656 and 1660, and were at once inhabited by people of fashion and noble birth.

In 1661 Charles II issued a proclamation which recited that the building orders of Elizabeth, James I and Charles I had not been obeyed, and forbade all building within two miles of the gates of London or Westminster except on old foundations. (fn. 5) This did not prevent Lord Leicester from granting a building lease in 1664 of ground in the south-west corner of Leicester Field to Anthony Ellis, mason, who built a range of houses there. Elsewhere in the area of Soho the effect of the proclamation during the 1660's seems to have been to prevent any expensive building works but to have had no effect on the surreptitious erection of 'Cottages, Cutts, Shedds or meane habitacons'—evidently the seventeenth-century equivalent of what is now sometimes termed 'creeping subtopia'.

In February 1670/1 Lord Leicester was granted by letters patent licence to build in Leicester Field and Swan Close, the dimensions and disposition of the ranges or 'piles' of houses to be erected being precisely specified. The licence also included a pardon for unauthorized buildings already begun. At about the same time Wren, as Surveyor General of Works, petitioned the King for a fresh proclamation to control clandestine building. His petition recited that 'there are divers buildings of late erected and many foundations laid, and more contrived in Dog Fields, Windmill Fields, and the Fields adjoyning to So Hoe, and severall other places without the Suburbs of London and Westminster, the builders whereof have no grant or allowance from Yr. Majesty and have therefore been prohibited, and hindered by yr. Petitioner as much as in him lieth, yet notwithstanding they proceed to erect small and meane habitations, wch. will prove only receptacles for the poorer Sort, and the Offensive trades, to the annoyance of the better Inhabitants, the Dammage of the Parishes already too much burthened with poor, The rendring the Government of those parts more unmanageable, The great hindrance of perfecting the City buildings, and others allowed by yr. Majesty's broad Seale, the Choaking up the Aire of Yr. Majesty's Pallace and Parke, and the houses of the Nobility, The infecting or total Losse of the waters, which by many expencefull Drains and Conduits have formerly derived from these fields to yr. Majesty's Pallace of Whitehall, and to the Mewes.' (fn. 6)

On 7 April 1671 a proclamation forbade building in 'Wind-Mill Fields, Dog-Fields, and the Fields adjoyning to So-hoe' and elsewhere, except by royal licence under the Great Seal. (fn. 7) This was the last of the royal proclamations against building in the suburbs. In Soho its general effect seems to have been to replace higgledy-piggledy clandestine building by open development of whole estates, each with its own (often disorderly) network of new streets. By the end of the seventeenth century virtually the whole of Soho had been built over, its streets being laid out on the pattern which to a great extent still exists.

In preparing the terms of the licences to build which were to be granted under the Great Seal Wren at first insisted that the layout of an estate should conform to a plan attached to the licence—the development of Gelding Close (now the site of Golden Square in the parish of St. James) by a licence issued in 1673 was controlled in this way. (fn. 8) But three years later this policy had evidently been abandoned, for the licences which were granted in 1676 to Charles, Baron Gerard of Brandon, for building in the Military Ground and to Joseph Girle, brewer, for building in Soho Fields contained no precise stipulations about the layout, and merely authorized the recipient (in the words of the latter's licence) to build 'such and soe many' houses as he should 'from time to time thinke fitt'. Soon afterwards the Government seems to have realized that the exercise of any control over the growth of London had become impossible, and in the late 1670's and 1680's three estates (Pulteney, Newport and Salisbury) were being rapidly developed without, so far as is known, any licence from the Crown.

During the 1670's and 1680's building proceeded in almost every part of Soho. In 1670 ten builders and speculators contracted with Lord Leicester for the erection of the houses in Leicester Field and Swan Close which were authorized by the royal licence of February 1670/1. They agreed to 'build in such manner and forme and with such proportions and scantlings as those houses are built in the Pal Mal in St. James's feild fronting to the South', and shops were prohibited without the Earl's consent. To the north-east of Leicester Square control of building on the Salisbury estate in the 1670's in the vicinity of Bear Street, Castle Street and Cranbourn Street seems to have been left to the Ryder family, who had been connected as builders with the Cecils since at least 1647, and to whom the Earls of Salisbury leased ground in this area.

To the north of these two estates lay two others, both of which were developed by Dr. Nicholas Barbon. In 1677 Lord Gerard leased the Military Ground and a small piece of waste land to the east of it to Barbon and John Rowley for sixty-one years. The building of Gerrard Street was substantially complete by 1685, by which time Barbon had bought the adjacent Newport House and garden from the descendant of Lord Newport, borrowed large sums of money on the security of the property, demolished the house and was busily granting building leases. In 1686 his trustee obtained a Crown grant to hold a market— always a profitable undertaking—but by 1690 his financial manipulations had involved him in several lawsuits and he was compelled to sell the estate. The income from the ground rents was estimated at one thousand pounds per annum.

In the northern part of the parish, where the Crown still owned the freehold of virtually all the ground, building on the long strip of ground leased to the Pulteney family on the east side of Wardour Street was haphazard, and in 1694, when most of the estate had been developed, it was valued at only £128 12s. per annum. Building on the much larger area to the east had to wait until the expiry in 1677 of leases granted by James I and Charles I, but by that time Joseph Girle of St. Marylebone, brewer, had obtained a fiftythree-year leasehold interest and a licence to build over the greater part of the ground, and sold 'the benefit and advantage' of both lease and licence to Richard Frith, citizen and bricklayer. Two small plots were reserved and became the sites of St. Anne's Church and of the Greek Church and St. Martin's almshouses.

In the 1670's and 1680's Frith was engaged in building in the western suburbs on a very large scale. He set to work in Soho Fields in the summer of 1677, and in the garden of Leicester House in 1682. In Soho Fields his principal associates were Cadogan Thomas, a timber merchant, Benjamin Hinton, a goldsmith, and William Pym, a wary man of affairs who described himself as 'gentleman'. Soon Frith was in pecuniary difficulty, and in 1683, when building was in full swing throughout the greater part of the estate, the rickety financial foundations of the whole project collapsed after Hinton's bankruptcy. In 1684 Frith and Thomas assigned all their rights in Soho Fields to Hinton's trustees, to whom they owed £60,000 and of the four main entrepreneurs only Pym survived unscathed.

After this disaster some at least of the building work on the half-completed estate ceased, and a number of houses were later completed by new tradesmen working for new employers. Nevertheless by about 1691, after only fourteen years, building had been substantially completed, and with the consecration of St. Anne's Church on 21 March 1685/6 Soho had become a separate parish with its own vestry.

It was during the hectic years of widespread building development in Soho that foreign immigrants, almost all of them French, began to settle there. In 1661 Louis XIV had begun to discriminate actively against the Huguenots and a series of decrees gradually circumscribed their religious, civil and economic liberties. Early in 1681 the practice of forcibly quartering royal dragoons in Huguenot homes ushered in the persecution known as the dragonnade. (fn. 9) Later in the same year Charles II, in an Order in Council of 28 July, stated that he held 'himselfe obliged in honour and Conscience to comfort and support all such afflicted Protestants who by reason of ye rigours and severitys, which are usd towards them upon ye account of their Religion shall be forced to quitt their Native Country, and shall desire to shelter themselves under his Matys Royall Protection for ye preservacon and free exercise of their Religion'. He offered the Huguenots free letters of denization, a promise of such 'priviledges and immunitys, as are consistent with the Laws [of England], for the liberty and free exercise of their trades and handicrafts' there and ordered a collection to be made throughout the country for the relief of the refugees. (fn. 10) The great migration had begun.

In 1685 Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, under which Henri IV had in 1597 guaranteed the religious and civil rights of the Huguenots. The revocation marked the culmination of the persecution which had already been proceeding for nearly twenty-five years, and was to continue, with varying degrees of severity, throughout the rest of Louis' reign. It has been estimated that in the early 1680's there were one and a half to two million French Huguenots, or roughly ten per cent of the population of the country, and that between 1681 and 1720 approximately 200,000 of them emigrated. Some 40,000 to 50,000 of the emigrants are thought to have come to England, and of these, perhaps onethird settled in London. (fn. 11)

Foreign Protestant refugees had had a chapel in Threadneedle Street in the City of London since 1550, and by the middle of the seventeenth century Spitalfields, to the east of the City, was already a stronghold of nonconformity (fn. 12) to which many Huguenots, particularly of the artisan class, naturally resorted in the 1680's. To the west of the City a French congregation had existed in Westminster, apparently since the 1640's, and in 1661 was licensed to meet in the Liberty of the Savoy. (fn. 13) By 1682 this congregation was evidently sufficiently numerous to require a second chapel. In that year the vestry of St. Martin in the Fields leased them the chapel in Hog Lane which had recently been vacated (after a comparatively short tenure) by another community of aliens.

This chapel had been built between 1677 and 1680 under the auspices of Joseph Georgirenes, Archbishop of Samos, as a place of worship for the Greek refugees from the Ottoman Turks. With the help of Henry Compton, Bishop of London, Georgirenes had obtained a site in Hog Lane and collected enough money to start building. But legal, financial and personal difficulties had ensued and soon after its completion Georgirenes had relinquished it in an unhappy atmosphere of suspicion and misunderstanding. This tragi-comic episode is important for the history of Soho, for the Greeks were the first foreign colony to build a place of worship there, and their departure provided the French Protestants with the opportunity to establish their first congregation in Soho.

In 1682 large-scale migration from France had only recently begun, and the existence of this chapel in Soho probably attracted many refugees to this quarter of London. Here, as in Spitalfields, they could practise their trades unhindered by the regulations of the City Companies, and once the nucleus of a foreign colony had been established, it in its turn attracted new arrivals from France. Many of the Huguenots who settled to the west of the City were gold or silversmiths, jewellers, engravers, clock and watchmakers, or tapestry weavers—tradesmen who naturally gravitated to the fashionable residential quarter of London adjacent to the Court, rather than to the more industrial and maritime districts to the east of the City. By 1692 the Huguenots were sufficiently numerous to support at least ten places of worship in the western suburbs of London alone; (fn. 2) most of these congregations adopted the Anglican form of service, while those in Spitalfields and the eastern suburbs retained the practice of the French Reformed Church. (fn. 14)

In 1711 the Commissioners for Building Fifty New Churches asked the vestry of St. Anne for information about the population of the parish. The answer (fn. 15) given by the vestry provides the only source for the size of the original French colony in Soho:

English inhabitants 2,142
English children under ten years of age 556
English servants 1,155
French inhabitants 612
French children under ten years of age 192
French servants 158
'Lodgers who are chiefly French, their Children and Servants' 3,318
Total 8,133

Assuming that three-quarters of the last class were French, this gives a total French population in the parish of 3,450—at first sight an unexpectedly small number, but perhaps more intelligibly viewed as two-fifths of the total population of 8,133. The large number of lodgers indicates that only a small proportion of the immigrants had bought houses of their own. The ratebooks are not therefore of great value as guides to the whereabouts of the earliest French settlements in Soho, but such evidence as they and other sources do provide suggests that the first concentrations were mostly in the south-eastern parts of the parish, in Newport Court, Great and Little Newport Streets, Hog Lane, Moor Street, Romilly Street and Old Compton Street. Within these streets the houses occupied by the immigrants were often adjacent to each other. An account written by 'a German Gentleman' in 1725 of a visit to the house of a shopkeeper in Soho presents a valuable picture of the social milieu of the area, although it is not clear whether his hosts were native English or of foreign descent. 'Once, on a Sabbath Day, I was requested to dine with a Shopkeeper in this Parish; the Man's Income, I believe, might amount to about seventy Pounds per Annum, and his Family consisted of one Wife and a Daughter of about eighteen; they were extraordinary Oeconomists, brew'd their own Beer, wash'd at home, made a Joint hold out two Days, and a Shift three; let three Parts of their House ready furnish'd, and kept paying one Quarter's Rent under another. In such like Circumstances had they gone on for some Years, and the worst the World could say of them was, That they liv'd above what they had, that their Daughter was as proud a Slut as ever clapt Clog on Shoe Leather, and that they entertained Lodgers as were no better than they should be'. (fn. 16) It was in thrifty threadbare French households, no doubt very similar to this one, that ox-tail soup was first introduced into England, for prior to the arrival of the French refugees the London butchers had sold the hides of slaughtered beasts to the tanners with the supposedly inedible tails still attached. (fn. 17)

In a description of St. Anne's parish written in 1720 John Strype notes that 'Abundance of French People, many whereof are voluntary Exiles for their Religion, live in these Streets and Lanes, following honest Trades; and some Gentry of the same Nation'. (fn. 18) The trade card which William Hogarth designed a few years later for Ellis Gamble, goldsmith, of Cranbourn Street was inscribed in both French and English—an indication of the prevalence of French-speaking inhabitants in the locality—and in 1739 William Maitland wrote that 'Many Parts of this Parish so greatly abound with French, that it is an easy Matter for a Stranger to imagine himself in France.' (fn. 19) This was evidently no exaggeration, for in 1748 a young English diplomat about to go abroad was described by a friend as 'so busy learning French that there is no getting a sight of him. He spends his whole time in the neighbourhood of Soho amongst the French refugees.' (fn. 20)

But the figures supplied by the vestry of St. Anne in 1711 suggest that more than half of the inhabitants of the parish were English, and like all the other western suburbs of London, parts of Soho were for a while fashionable. In the early 1690's there were between sixty and eighty titled residents, the majority of whom lived in the northern part of the parish, principally in Soho Square, and in Dean, Greek and Frith Streets; while in the southern part Gerrard Street was 'the best inhabited', followed by Leicester Square and Leicester and Litchfield Streets. (fn. 21)

Soho's claim to fashion was comparatively short-lived. In Leicester Square George, Prince of Wales (later George II), and his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, lived at Leicester House from 1718 to 1727 and from 1742 to 1751 respectively, but by 1741 the number of titled ratepayers in the whole parish had declined to about twenty. (fn. 22) By this time the building leases granted in the 1670's and 1680's, most of which had been for terms of between forty and sixty-one years, had expired, and the gradual diversification of both the fabric and the social character of the area, which was to continue with increasing rapidity for over a century, had begun. The dispersal of estates began in 1722 when the freehold of part of the Crown land on the east side of Wardour Street was sold to the Pulteney family, and was continued in 1735–8 with the piecemeal sale of the Military Ground, substantial rebuilding taking place on both estates. In Soho Fields, where most of the freehold had been granted by the Crown to the Duke of Portland in 1698, there was extensive rebuilding (often without the encouragement of a building lease from the ground landlord) between c. 1723 and c. 1740, and the houses on the leasehold Pitt estate in Dean Street (comprising most of the rest of Soho Fields) were almost all rebuilt in c. 1732–4. The leases granted by the Pitt family were predominantly for the unusually long term of about 102 years, and a few of the fine houses built under these leases still survive.

By 1791 the number of titled ratepayers in the parish had been reduced to seven, (fn. 22) and the number of Members of Parliament with addresses here had declined from twenty-seven in 1733 (fn. 23) to twelve in 1762 (fn. 24) and to four in 1793. (fn. 25) None of the great houses in the parish was still in private occupation after 1784, and the different uses to which they were put illustrate the increasingly variegated social pattern of Soho. The house in the Military Ground originally occupied by the Earl of Devonshire and later by the Earls of Scarbrough was demolished in 1732, and its site developed as Whetten's Buildings and Nassau Street. Carlisle House and Monmouth House, both in Soho Square, ceased to be privately occupied in 1753 and 1763 respectively, and both were occupied for a while by foreign diplomatic envoys, several others of whom lived in Soho at about this time. In 1760 Carlisle House (the stables of which were now a tapestry and upholstery workshop) was taken by Mrs. Cornelys for her (at first) fashionable entertainments, and Monmouth House was used in 1771–2 as a school. Both houses had been demolished by the end of the eighteenth century, unlike Gerard House in Gerrard Street, which, after sub-division in the 1760's, survived, latterly in commercial use, until its destruction by fire in 1887. After Baron Grant's departure Fauconberg House in Soho Square stood empty for ten years before being converted in 1784 to an hotel and coffee house, and later to the bottling and export labelling premises of Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell. Leicester House was used by Sir Ashton Lever as a museum from 1774 to 1788 before being demolished about three years later, while its next-door neighbour, Savile House, became a carpet warehouse after the death of Sir George Savile in 1784. Many houses were occupied by specialist craftsmen, notably gold and silversmiths, jewellers, engravers, musical-instrument makers, tapestry weavers and bonnet makers.

One other element in the changing social scene requires notice—the establishment, mainly in the second half of the eighteenth century, of a substantial colony of artists in Soho. J. T. Smith says that 'St. Martin's Lane, Greek Street and all this neighbourhood, were long the very head-quarters of the artists'. (fn. 26) Until about 1760, when the series of exhibition catalogues of the Society of Artists of Great Britain and of the Free Society of Artists commence, evidence for the presence of artists in Soho depends largely upon their being recognizable among the ratepayers, and many of those who were lodgers or not eminent enough to be included in the Dictionary of National Biography have probably escaped notice in the present volumes. After 1760, and particularly after the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768, the exhibition catalogues contain the names of so many hundreds of artists with Soho addresses that some of the more obscure exhibitors have had to be excluded from the Survey. (fn. 3) It should therefore be noted that before 1760 there were probably many more artists in Soho than are recorded in the present volumes, and that the impression of a sudden replacement in the 1760's of persons of title by painters, sculptors and engravers exaggerates a much more gradual process. What is certain is that throughout the greater part of the eighteenth century very many artists frequented Soho, and that some of them, such as Hogarth, Reynolds and Lawrence, lived there. But towards the end of the century St. Marylebone was beginning to replace Soho as the artists' quarter, and in 1846 J. T. Smith recorded that while Newman Street (in St. Marylebone) was 'full of them', only 'a sprinkling of them may be still met about Soho Square now'. (fn. 26)

In 1788 the Leicester estate in and around Leicester Square was divided into two parts, and in the following year one half of it was sold off in separate lots. During the next sixty years most of the remaining estates in Soho were also dispersed. The Duke of Portland began to sell his property in the 1790's, and half of the Newport Ground estate was sold a few years later. In 1830 the Crown disposed of a small piece of land in Wardour and Little Chapel (now Sheraton) Streets, and in the course of the next three years sold or exchanged all of what had formerly been the leasehold estate of the Pitt family in the vicinity of Dean Street. By 1849 the portion of the former Leicester estate which had been awarded to the Tulk family in 1788 had also been subdivided. The only remaining estates of any size were those of the Crown (on the east side of Wardour Street) and of the Salisburys; part of the latter estate had been purchased in the 1840's for the widening and extension of Cranbourn Street and the widening of Upper St. Martin's Lane. Both these estates still survive, although that of the Salisburys (now the Salisbury Settled Estates) was further reduced in the 1880's by the formation of Charing Cross Road.

The dispersal of estates coincided with, and was perhaps partly the cause of, a considerable increase in the population of the parish. While the number of inhabited houses remained fairly constant at about 1,300 to 1,400 during the years 1801 to 1851, the number of inhabitants increased from 11,637 to 17,335. (fn. 27) Relatively little rebuilding took place, many of the ageing houses were converted into tenements (fn. 28) and in 1851 there were 327 inhabitants per acre—one of the highest figures in the whole of London. Forty-seven per cent of the houses had only cesspool drainage, often of the most primitive kind, (fn. 29) and after an outbreak of cholera in the summer of 1854 many of the remaining well-to-do inhabitants removed elsewhere. (fn. 30)

After 1851 the total population of the parish remained virtually stationary for some twenty years. The condition in which many of the inhabitants lived is perhaps reflected by the establishment of six hospitals within the area covered by these volumes between 1851 and 1874; four of them still exist here. There were also the Westminster General Dispensary, which was in Gerrard Street from 1774 to 1961, and the Royal Ear Hospital, in Dean and Frith Streets from 1816 to 1927. Medical lectures had been given at No. 14 Greek Street in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and John Hunter had lectured and formed his great collection of physiological specimens at his house in Leicester Square. This medical activity in Soho had been continued by (Sir) Charles Bell at No. 10–11 Leicester Street.

It was also in the mid nineteenth century that Soho, and particularly the area round Leicester Square, became important as a place of entertainment. There was a long tradition of public diversion here, beginning with a dancing school in Frith Street in the 1690's, and continuing with concerts at No. 9 Gerrard Street in 1710 and at No. 21 Dean Street in the 1750's. Mrs. Cornelys's rooms in Soho Square and Sir Ashton Lever's museum in Leicester House have already been mentioned. Barker's (later Burford's) Panorama was established to the north of Leicester Square in 1793, Charles Dibdin started his recitals at his short-lived theatre in Leicester Place in 1796, and Fanny Kelly opened her theatre in Dean Street (later the Royalty Theatre) in 1837. It was, however, the opening of Leicester Square to through traffic in 1843–6 (by the formation of New Coventry Street and the enlargement of Cranbourn Street) that soon transformed the square into one of the principal centres of entertainment in London. The staid, respectable Linwood Gallery in Savile House was converted into a theatre or music hall, in the centre of the square in 1851 arose Wyld's Great Globe, and soon afterwards the high-minded Royal Panopticon of Science and Art was converted to more popular use as the Alhambra. The Empire Theatre, on the site of Savile House, was opened in 1884, and Daly's, a few yards eastward in Cranbourn Street, in 1893. Leicester Square had become 'the very centre of night-life and the pleasure ground of London', (fn. 31) a place where no lady could walk unescorted without being accosted, and the first resort of all visitors in search of the light frothy theatrical entertainment of the late Victorian and Edwardian years. Indeed its character had become so different from that of the rest of the parish that it is hardly thought of as part of Soho at all.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the foreign element in the population of Soho ceased to be primarily French and became cosmopolitan. The original Huguenot immigrants and their descendants had gradually become to a large extent anglicized, and by 1800 only two of their chapels survived in the area. After 1789 more refugees from the various political commotions which have characterized subsequent French history probably settled in Soho. In the 1860's, when Cardinal Wiseman wished to establish a church for French Roman Catholics in London, Soho was still evidently thought to be the centre of the French colony, but had long ceased to be distinctively Huguenot. Shortly after the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune of 1870–1 Soho was said to have 'now a greater French population than it has had for years', and the Marseillaise was the most financially rewarding tune for the organ-grinders of the locality. (fn. 32)

In the 1860's and 1870's there was a considerable influx of Germans and Italians. Many of the latter were cooks and waiters, who by 1886 were sufficiently numerous to form their own trade association and, ten years later, sufficiently prosperous to buy the lease of a house in Soho Square. (fn. 33) There were small colonies of practically every European nationality, the expansion of the Swiss population, probably in the neighbourhood of what is now Cambridge Circus where there was a Swiss chapel (in the parish of St. Giles) and a public house originally called the Thirteen Cantons, being particularly noticeable. But the principal immigration to Soho took place in the 1890's, when large numbers of Polish and Russian Jews arrived, many of them tailors by trade who after a strike in 1891 had removed from their principal colony in Whitechapel. (fn. 34) In 1903 sixty per cent of the population of the parish of St. Anne and of the adjoining district of St. James's were of foreign extraction, and two-thirds of this foreign element were Polish Jews. (fn. 35) Eight years later a quarter of the pupils at St. Anne's School in Dean Street were Jewish, and a rabbi gave regular religious instruction there 'at the same time that the Christian children receive theirs'. (fn. 36)

This considerable immigration of foreigners to Soho was accompanied by a large exodus of the British population. (fn. 35) The total population (both indigenous and foreign) of the parish of St. Anne had begun to decline slightly in the 1870's, but between 1881 and 1891 the decline became much sharper, from 16,608 to 12,317. (fn. 37) These figures are in part a reflection of the demolition of large numbers of old houses, particularly in the squalid poverty-stricken area of Newport Market, for the formation of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road in 1883–7, when many of the dislodged inhabitants were compelled to remove elsewhere. But there were other causes as well, for Soho was ceasing to be primarily residential, and was becoming an area to which people came to work in shops, eating-houses, warehouses and small factories, or to seek entertainment. As the decline continued the more prosperous Jewish immigrants began to move out to Kilburn and Bayswater, (fn. 35) and in 1913 St. Mary's School in Charing Cross Road, which had been built in 1873 with accommodation for six hundred children, was closed, only forty pupils being on the roll. The resident population has continued to decline without intermission; in 1951 the figure stood at 2,777, less than a quarter of what it was in 1801, and less than onesixth of what it was in 1871. (fn. 38)

Since the latter part of the nineteenth century proximity to the West End has had an important effect on Soho. The Jewish tailors were probably attracted to the district by its nearness to the fashionable shops which provided the outlet for their goods. Moreover, the formation of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue—the latter cutting across the centre of the parish—provided greatly improved access. The slums of Newport Market were destroyed, and the way was paved for the expansion of the West End along the new boulevards of Soho where theatres, which had recently possessed themselves of Leicester Square, began to appear. The Shaftesbury was opened in 1888, the Palace in 1891, and the London Hippodrome in 1900. Cinemas followed—the Cambridge Circus Cinematograph Theatre (now the Jacey Cinema) in 1911 and the Astoria in 1927, both in Charing Cross Road, while the film companies established themselves in Wardour Street. Soho had been bisected and outflanked.

The ensuing penetration of Soho by the West End was largely occasioned by gastronomic considerations. French eating-houses, catering specifically for the local French residents, must have existed in the area ever since the arrival of the first refugees in the 1680's but the first known reference to Soho as a resort of English gourmets does not occur until 1816, when the Sablonière Hôtel on the east side of Leicester Square was commended as a French house where 'a table d'hôte affords the lovers of French cookery and French conversation, an opportunity for gratification at a comparatively moderate charge'. The Sablonière had been established in a house on the east side of Leicester Square in 1788, and was the first of a group of foreign hotels and restaurants, mostly French, which existed there for very many years. In the mid nineteenth century the clientèle of these establishments was predominantly foreign, (fn. 39) and their respectability had become questionable in English eyes, for the author of a guidebook to London published in 1869 advised his readers, in choosing a hotel or dining-room, to 'avoid Leicester-square'. (fn. 40)

But Soho's later fame for food was not to be primarily associated with the square, which became a centre of theatrical diversion, but rather with the streets further north. The slow discovery by Englishmen that good cheap meals could be obtained here seems to have begun around 1870. In 1869 a reader of The Times, 'being in search of a good dinner', was so surprised at his success in this area that he 'wrote a very appreciative account of a dinner, which, he said, was better than he could have obtained at a West-end club, and which cost him a considerably less amount than he would have paid at his club'. This meal took place at Kettner's, which had been established in Church (now Romilly) Street in the previous year. The proprietor was said to have been so delighted with his English patron's unsolicited testimonial that he 'had the letter reprinted in large letters, and has placed two copies of it in his window'. (fn. 41) Two years later Kettner's was the only restaurant in Soho to be mentioned in a guidebook for American visitors to London, (fn. 42) but even at Kettner's it was 'doubtful whether the concomitants of smoke and noise would be agreeable to many Englishmen', and in other restaurants in the area 'an Englishman who entered would be looked upon with surprise'. (fn. 41)

The latter part of the nineteenth century was the heyday for the way of life of wealthy families such as those described by John Galsworthy in The Forsyte Saga. 'Of all quarters in the queer adventurous amalgam called London,' wrote Galsworthy, 'Soho is perhaps least suited to the Forsyte spirit. . . . Untidy, full of Greeks, Ishmaelites, cats, Italians, tomatoes, restaurants, organs, coloured stuffs, queer names, people looking out of upper windows, it dwells remote from the British Body Politic'. (fn. 43) It is therefore not surprising that the guidebooks of this period which contained lists of recommended hotels, restaurants, dining-rooms and cafés, or chapters on 'Where to Dine', barely mention any such places in Soho outside Leicester Square, where the old-established foreign hotels began to enjoy the patronage of theatre-goers. The dining-tables of Soho were nevertheless frequented by writers and journalists, and in 1900 the first meeting between G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc took place at a French restaurant in Gerrard Street.

At about the turn of the century there was 'a remarkable change in the habits of London society', and public restaurants were for the first time used 'for many luncheon, dinner and supper parties that would formerly have been given at home'. This change in social habits, and the building of new theatres in Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, greatly enlarged the clientèle of the hitherto dingy and often second-rate eating-houses of Soho, and a guidebook published in 1909 stated that 'The luncheons (1s. 6d.) and dinners (2s. 6d.) served at some of the foreign restaurants in the neighbourhood of Soho are astonishingly cheap'. (fn. 44)

In the restless, epicurean years after the First World War, when the decline in the numbers of domestic servants increased the habit of 'eating out', Soho's gastronomic reputation was finally established. A guidebook published in 1924 listed twenty-four restaurants there, excluding those in Leicester Square, and stated that 'Of late years the inexpensive restaurants of Soho have enjoyed an extraordinary vogue, and this fact seems to have somewhat modified the previously exclusive foreign air of the district'. (fn. 45) Soho had almost become a part of the West End.

By this time the French restaurateurs no longer enjoyed a virtual monopoly. The arrival of the first Italians, long ago, has already been mentioned, and they were followed by cooks from every European country with any pretension to a distinctive cuisine. Shops for the sale of foreign delicatessen also proliferated, and in more recent years the range of choice has been extended by the establishment of Indian and Chinese restaurants. The area associated with foreign foods has now extended far beyond the bounds of the old parish of St. Anne, particularly westward towards Regent Street and northward into St. Marylebone.

In recent years, and particularly since the end of the war of 1939–45, Soho has acquired a more sombre reputation for lust, lasciviousness and crime. The wheel of change has turned full circle since Anna Clerke, 'a lewd woman', was bound over to keep the peace in 1641.

The Fabric

In the 1670's, when the formation of the new parish was contemplated, there were few buildings of importance in the area other than the two great houses, Newport and Leicester, of which the former was to vanish during the first wave of building. The only regular street development was in the south-east, near St. Martin's Lane, where the building of houses in (Great) Newport Street began in 1612–13. In the late 1650's the north row was rebuilt by Richard Ryder the elder with houses of sufficient size and importance to be recorded pictorially on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1681–2 (Plate 2). No. 5, refronted with a face of black tiles and much altered inside, is the only survivor of this group (Plate 58a).

The most important building of late seventeenth-century date in the parish was St. Anne's Church (Plates 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, figs. 69–70), first designed about 1676–7 by Wren's office as an aisled basilica having a column-screened sanctuary of rectangular plan, but completed in 1686 with galleries above the aisles and an apsidal chancel. In its later stages, if not earlier, the executive architect was evidently William Talman, whose sole known parish church this is. Externally rather plain, but with a handsome interior, the character of the building was changed by partial rebuilding in the nineteenth century. After severe war damage in 1940, the surviving walls of the church were demolished in 1953, and only S. P. Cockerell's extraordinary neo-Classical steeple of 1801–3 survives for incorporation in a proposed new church building of modern design. The Greek Church in Crown Street, also built in the 1670's, was a very plain brick meeting-house of little architectural interest (Plate 16).

The focal centre of Frith's development in Soho Fields from 1677 onwards was Soho or King's Square, planned on similar lines to the much larger St. James's Square of 1665, having one street entering centrally on the north, east and west sides, whereas there were two streets flanking the middle range of the south side. The engraved view by Sutton Nicholls (Plate 68a) shows the considerable uniformity of the three-storeyed houses, large and small, first built in the square. Of these original houses only Nos. 10 and 15, both on the north side and in an altered state, survive, the best preserved being No. 15 with a simply designed brick front, and a good staircase and some bolection-moulded panelling within (Plates 71a, 126a). Monmouth House, recessed centrally in the south side within a screened forecourt, was intended to be the dominant feature of the square. The unfinished carcase of the original house of 1681–3 was remodelled in 1718–19, presumably by Thomas Archer, and demolished in 1773 to make way for Bateman's Buildings (Plates 72, 73, 74, 75, 76). The central ornament of the square, C. G. Cibber's fountain of the river gods surmounted by the statue of Charles II, was removed in 1875–6, the statue alone being returned in 1938 to a different site in the garden (Plate 71d).

By contrast with the Soho Fields layout, Nicholas Barbon's contemporaneous development of the Newport estate was cramped and irregular, but he helped to create a fine and spacious street on the Military Ground, where Gerrard Street was built in the late 1670's, with its best houses on the south side backing on to the garden of Leicester House. Surviving examples of Barbon's better houses are to be found in Nos. 25 and 26 Litchfield Street (Plate 58b), both refronted but containing good staircases and some panelling of late seventeenth-century character. A typical Barbon exterior survives in Nos. 21–24A Newport Court, a uniformly fronted group of small houses (fig. 85). Several houses in Gerrard Street have carcases of c. 1680, and until its remodelling in 1965, No. 41 retained the fine staircase and panelling that probably formed the standard finish for many of the original single-fronted houses (Plate 126b, fig. 92). Some late seventeenth-century balustrading re-used for the basement stair at No. 36 gives some idea of the high quality of finish in the larger houses, while J. Crowther's watercolour of 1884 (Plate 61a) records the richly carved oak staircase in Gerard House, destroyed by fire in 1887.

Leicester Square, excepting the forecourt frontage of Leicester House on the north side, was built up shortly after 1670, with houses of differing widths but fairly uniform appearance, as can be seen in Sutton Nicholls's view of c. 1727 (Plate 46a). No original building survives, and the only one to be recorded in photographs was No. 47, on the west side, built about 1673 and demolished in 1937 (Plate 50b). Photographs of the wide hall, fully panelled and finished with Corinthian pilasters, and of an upper flight of the staircase, suggest a partial remodelling of the interior in the early eighteenth century (Plate 126c, 126d). Leicester House itself (Plates 47, 48, 49) was built in 1631–5 and had a very simple brick exterior, although some Palladian embellishments were added in 1742–3 when the house was refurbished for Frederick, Prince of Wales.

While late seventeenth-century survivals are rare in Soho, there is a substantial legacy of early to mid eighteenth-century buildings, although this has been greatly diminished over the past fifty years. For instance, only one reasonably intact house survives of the very important group of four (Nos. 74–77) built on the west side of Dean Street, when virtually all the Pitt estate was redeveloped between 1731 and 1735. No. 76 (Plates 102, 108, 109, 10, figs. 57–9) still has its handsome front, and a fine wooden staircase rising within a compartment painted with trompe l'æil architecture and sea-scapes, while the altered rooms have very good panelling and Palladian chimneypieces of marble or carved wood. No. 75 (Plates 104, 105, 106, 107, figs. 54–6), a larger and even more impressive house, with a remarkable painted stair compartment, was demolished in 1923 after a Building Preservation Order had been allowed to lapse, and its fine interior woodwork was exported to America. Nos. 78 and 79 Dean Street are more orthodox houses in the same row (Plate 112c), at the south end of which is Meard Street (Plate 116, figs. 60–6), the east part of it built by John Meard in 1732 to open up the former cul-de-sac of smaller houses erected by him ten years earlier on the Pulteney estate. Including the fine contemporaneous pair Nos. 67 and 68 Dean Street (Plate 112a), the almost complete and little altered south side of Meard Street is the best group of early Georgian houses surviving in the parish.

The most important house of the period is, of course, No. I Greek Street, the carcase of which was built in c. 1746. Here a reticent and rather commonplace exterior clothes an interior of exceptional interest, with a splendid staircase and a series of rooms richly decorated in the late Palladian style, with finely carved woodwork and elaborately modelled Rococo plasterwork (Plates 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, figs. 16–26). Neither architect nor craftsmen can be named for this house, although Sir Robert Taylor is suggested now, as Flitcroft and Isaac Ware have been in the past. There are, in fact, very few eminent names in architecture attaching to Soho's eighteenth-century buildings. Thomas Archer has already been mentioned as the most likely author of the extravagant Baroque façade, crowned with a giant broken pediment, that was grafted on to Monmouth House in 1718–19. The Adams were certainly employed in 1771–2 to recast the front and partly remodel the interior of the late seventeenth-century Fauconberg House, Soho Square, demolished in 1924 (Plates 88, 89, 90, 91). Sir Robert Taylor's influence, if not his hand, could be seen in the design of two remarkable houses formerly standing in the north-west and south-west angles of the square. No. 7 (Plate 94a), built about 1745, and No. 32 (Plates 95, 97, 129a, 129b, 131c), about 1775, were large houses with fine interiors and narrow fronts, made impressive by the use of Venetian and other three-light windows framed in large-scaled brick arches. A Venetian window still dominates the front of No. 26 Soho Square, built about 1758 along with its demolished counterpart No. 25 (Plate 94b). Some fine interior features remain in No. 26, notably the wrought-iron balustraded staircase, the mahogany doors framed in richly carved doorcases, and the Chippendale Gothic library fittings (Plate 127c, figs. 14–15). Other houses in the square having good interior features of the same period are Nos. 2, 12, 13 and 37.

Later rebuildings conforming with the domestic character and architectural scale of the square were Nos. 28 and 29, erected in 1775 along with Bateman's Buildings on the site of Monmouth House (Plate 77). Both houses have been demolished, but one of the pair of austerely simple houses, built in 1791–3 on the site of Carlisle House in Soho Square, survives as St. Patrick's Presbytery. It is worth noting that the first commercial building in the square, Trotter's Bazaar (Plate 135a), built in 1801–4 on the site of Nos. 4, 5 and 6, did not look out of place among the neighbouring houses.

There are a few noteworthy mid to late eighteenth-century buildings in other parts of the parish. Nos. 48 and 50 Greek Street (Plates 123, 124) have good staircases of wood and well-panelled rooms, those at No. 48 being finished with Baroque plaster ceilings. No. 9 Gerrard Street, built in 1758–9 and altered externally, is a large house with a spacious and well-panelled interior noteworthy for having been the meeting-place of Dr. Johnson and his fellow members of The Club (Plates 64, 65).

The 1792–5 redevelopment of the Leicester House site produced in the eastward extension of Lisle Street one of the most attractive and uniform streets in the parish, with a pedimented house centred on Leicester Place, and a well-designed shop front to almost every house (Plates 53, 134a, 134c). Unfortunately, only a few shop fronts, generally mutilated, survive in this much altered and half rebuilt street. Shop fronts in a wide variety of plans appear on the elaborate survey, made in 1792–3, of the Portland estate, particularly in the region of Old Compton Street, but very few of these charming and ephemeral features have survived. Perhaps the finest are at No. 15 Frith Street, an elaborate Gothick example (Plate 132d, fig. 36), at No. 88 Dean Street, Adamesque with Rococo features (Plate 132a, 132b, fig. 32), and No. 37 Soho Square, with a Greek Doric order (Plate 93c, fig. 30).

Soho's development as an entertainments centre has been outlined above. Here it may be remarked that the addition in 1761 of Mrs. Cornelys's assembly room to Carlisle House left Soho Square outwardly unchanged. Leicester Square, however, was radically altered when Wyld's Great Globe was built over the garden ground in 1851 (Plates 42b, 43), to be followed by the exotic and minaret-flanked Panopticon, built on the east side in 1854 (Plate 34). A change in character had been foreshadowed in 1790, when it was proposed to build a magnificent opera house to Soane's designs on the sites of Leicester House and Savile House (Plates 28, 29). The Panopticon became the Alhambra music hall in 1858, with a success that probably inspired the building in the 1880's of the Empire Theatre (Plate 36), using the shell of an abandoned panorama building on the site of Savile House. Both theatres have been replaced by cinemas, the Empire by its namesake in 1928, and the Alhambra by the Odeon in 1936. The generally tasteless and drab architecture of Shaftesbury Avenue, completed in 1886, was partly redeemed by the building of two new theatres, the Shaftesbury (1888) designed by C. J. Phipps but no longer existing (figs. 76–7), and the Palace (1891) with a charmingly detailed Early Renaissance exterior by T. E. Collcutt (Plates 37, 38). Another architecturally distinguished theatre was Daly's, built in 1891–3 on a site in Cranbourn Street now occupied by the Warner Theatre (Plate 40). The London Hippodrome, built in 1899–1900 and also in Cranbourn Street, was more remarkable for its original plan of circus-cum-theatre, than for the rather florid architecture of its extensive elevations (Plate 39). A striking contrast is offered by the sober dark red brick and cream cement of the Italianate 'Cinerama' in Old Compton Street, built in 1930 as the Prince Edward Theatre.

As well as theatres, the late nineteenth century brought several new churches to Soho. First came the chapel in Manette Street (Plate 20), built in 1862–4 to serve the House of St. Barnabas, No. 1 Greek Street. A small but striking building of polychromatic stonework, this chapel was designed by Joseph Clarke in the vigorous early French Gothic style favoured by William Burges, who is represented in the parish by a rather grim-looking block of artisans' dwellings in St. Anne's Court (Plate 117d). In 1872 a chancel was added to the former Greek Church of 1677, which had been acquired in 1849 as a chapel of ease to St. Anne's, and, after some remodelling, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. The new chancel, fronting to Charing Cross Road, was the first instalment of an intended new church of noble proportions, built in red brick and designed in an austere early Gothic style by R. H. Carpenter and W. Slater (Plate 19). Although the nave was rebuilt in 1900 to a less ambitious design by A. R. G. Fenning, the church had only a short life and was demolished in 1934, together with its clergy house and schools. Also in Charing Cross Road, just south of Cambridge Circus, is the Welsh Chapel of 1887, a fine centrally planned building crowned by a large octagonal lantern with a pyramidal roof, designed in the transitional Norman-Gothic style by James Cubitt (Plate 25b).

Two of the new churches were built in Soho Square, both being first used for worship in 1893. St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, on the east side, is a handsome Italian Renaissance basilica, designed by John Kelly and built of plain and moulded red brick (Plate 24). The tall campanile fills the narrow frontage to the square, and the body of the church occupies the site of Mrs. Cornelys's assembly room, which had served as St. Patrick's Chapel since 1792. On the north side of the square, replacing Nos. 8 and 9, is the French Protestant Church, designed by (Sir) Aston Webb with a brick and terra-cotta front in his early Franco-Flemish vein, and an interior showing Romanesque influence (Plate 21). Another French church, the Roman Catholic Église de Notre Dame de France, was built inside the circular shell of Burford's Panorama in Leicester Place, and was first used in 1868. This most interesting church, designed by a French architect, L.-A. Boileau, was planned as an equal-armed cross having side galleries, the principal and secondary arcades and the vaulting-ribs being of cast iron (Plate 22a). Damaged during the war of 1939–45, the church was largely rebuilt by H. O. Corfiato, Thomson and Partners, who reverted to the original circular form of the building and adopted a restrained neoClassical modernism for the auditorium-like interior (Plates 22b, 23).

Apart from the churches and theatres, the late nineteenth century contributed little of architectural worth to the Soho scene. Reference has already been made to the tawdry taste exhibited in many of the new buildings lining Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, where the nadir was reached with Sandringham Buildings, designed by the appropriately named George Borer (Plate 138c). Of greater interest were the various buildings designed by Roumieu and Aitchison for Crosse and Blackwell, in Charing Cross Road, but these have been either demolished or drastically remodelled, with the exception of Nos. 114–116, a simple Gothic office range, and the extinguisher-roofed tourelle that has escaped the general transformation of Nos. 151–155. Just south of the last is (Sir) Banister Fletcher's building of 1897 for Goslett's, its attractive front showing the influence of Norman Shaw's 'Queen Anne' style (Plate 136b). The later Baroque mannerisms of Shaw appear in a wildly exaggerated form in the white-and-green striped exterior of No. 99A Charing Cross Road, by C. H. Worley, who was also responsible for the Art Nouveau front of No. 3 Soho Square, built in 1903.

The most handsome commercial building in the parish was erected in 1906 for Novello and Company, in Wardour Street (Plate 137). Designed by F. L. Pearson, it has an imposing exterior of fine red brick and stone, strikingly reminiscent in style and composition of the Rathaus at Bremen, whereas the staircase, inspired by that at Ashburnham House, and the library-like sales hall are in the Caroline Renaissance manner. Nothing approaching this quality can be found in the early twentieth-century buildings of Soho Square, which have heightened and broken the skyline so that St. Patrick's campanile has lost its former dominance (figs. 3–6). These buildings range in style from the pompous neoClassical of Crosse and Blackwell's offices, built in 1924–6 on the east side, and the more reticent neo-Georgian sequence of 1936–56 in the south-west angle, to the merely utilitarian Nascreno House of 1937–8 on the south side.

More recently, a large part of the east side of Dean Street has been rebuilt with office premises in a modern manner, all rather undistinguished except perhaps the new synagogue at No. 21. Greater sensibility has been displayed in Royalty House, on the west side, with its simple and well-designed brick front of Georgian derivation, maintaining the scale and proportions of the three houses it has replaced.

The present buildings in Leicester Square (Plate 52) are generally lacking in distinction, which is as well since many of them merely serve to carry a mass of electric signs. The late nineteenth-century blocks flanking Leicester Place have a florid Renaissance brashness, and the black granite-faced Odeon of 1937 is at least expressive of its purpose. While it was a commendable idea to rebuild the entire west side as a uniform range, the resultant building of Fanum House, 1923–59, merely serves to demonstrate the folly of attempting to apply the Palladian ordonnance to a standardized office block. The largest and the most successful buildings in the modern style are Wingate House in Shaftesbury Avenue, built in 1958 to designs by Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners (Plate 139c), and the more spectacular Swiss Centre of 1963–5, by D. du R. Aberdeen and Partners. This last building, which dominates the north-west angle of Leicester Square, is the first tower-block to appear in the parish, but more will undoubtedly follow.


  • 1. In this General Introduction sources are not given for statements authenticated in the following chapters.
  • 2. The Savoy; Hog Lane; Glasshouse Street; Hungerford Market; York Street; Le Quarré, Soho Square; La Patente, Berwick Street; Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace; Weld House, St. Giles's; and Le Tabernacle, Milk Alley (now Bourchier Street).
  • 3. Many of these artists were not ratepayers. It is not known whether the addresses given in the catalogues indicate habitations, studios, or merely places where their works could be viewed by prospective purchasers.
  • 4. Robert Steele, Tudor and Stuart Proclamations, 1485–1714, 1910, vol. I, no. 749.
  • 5. Ibid., vol. I, no. 3321.
  • 6. Wren Society, vol. XVIII, 1941, pp. 18–19.
  • 7. Copy in Guildhall Library, Small collections, 1671 (summarized in Steele, op. cit., vol. I, no. 3549).
  • 8. Survey of London, vol. XXXI, 1963, p. 139.
  • 9. Warren C. Scoville, The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development 1680–1720, 1960, pp. 28–9, 35, 61–2.
  • 10. P.R.O., PC2/69, p. 338.
  • 11. Scoville, op. cit., pp. 7, 120–3n.
  • 12. Survey of London, vol. XXVII, 1957, p. 3.
  • 13. P.R.O., SP29/16, p. 191; SP29/32, pp. 59–61.
  • 14. Procs. Hug. Soc., vol. VIII, 1905–8, p. 17; Survey of London, vol. XXVII, 1957, p. 4n.
  • 15. W.P.L., A.2202a, 2 Nov. 1711.
  • 16. A View of London and Westminster: Or, The Town Spy . . . The Second Edition. By a German Gentleman, 1725 (copy in B.M., pressmark 1080 i 4(1)).
  • 17. J. S. Burn, The History of the French, Walloon, Dutch and other Foreign Protestant Refugees settled in England, 1846, p. 258.
  • 18. John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720, vol. II, bk. VI, p. 85.
  • 19. William Maitland, The History of London, 1739, vol. II, bk. VII, p. 716.
  • 20. H.M.C., Hastings MSS., vol. III, 1934, p. 65.
  • 21. R.B.; Corporation of London Record Office, assessments box 83.2.
  • 22. R.B.
  • 23. Court Kalendar, 1733 (copy in B.M., pressmark 2506 g aa).
  • 24. Court and City Register, 1762.
  • 25. The Universal British Directory, 1793.
  • 26. J. T. Smith, An Antiquarian Ramble in the Streets of London, 1846, vol. I, p. 126.
  • 27. Census of England and Wales, 1801, vol. I, p. 21 5 ; Census of Great Britain, 1851, vol. I, division I, p. 14.
  • 28. Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings, 1887, p. 447.
  • 29. Supplementary Report of the Engineer and Surveyor and Medical Officer of Health presented to the Strand District Board of Works, 1901, pp. 62, 64 (copy in G.L.C. Members' Library).
  • 30. Joseph Rogers, Reminiscences of a Workhouse Medical Officer, ed. Thorold Rogers, 1889, p. 2.
  • 31. D. Forbes-Winslow, Daly's, 1944, epilogue by W. Macqueen-Pope, p. 204.
  • 32. The Builder, 5 July 1873, p. 521.
  • 33. J. H. Cardwell and others, Two Centuries of Soho, 1898, p. 104.
  • 34. Saint Anne's Soho Monthly Paper, no. 105, vol. IX, Nov. 1899, pp. 285–90 (copy in B.M., pressmark PP343 ia); Twenty Years in Soho, 1911, p. 43.
  • 35. Soho Monthly Paper, March 1903, pp. 64–5.
  • 36. Twenty Years in Soho, 1911, p. 43.
  • 37. Census of England and Wales, 1881, vol. I, p. 252; ibid., 1891, vol. I, p. 228.
  • 38. Census of England and Wales, 1951, County Reports, London, p. 7.
  • 39. Smith, op. cit., vol. I, p. 119.
  • 40. Routledge's Guide to London, 1869, p. 45.
  • 41. The Builder, 5 July 1873, pp. 521–2.
  • 42. Lewis Jefferis, The American's Guide to London, [1872], p. 60.
  • 43. John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, 1923 ed., p. 473.
  • 44. A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to London, publ. Ward, Lock and Co., 1909, pp. xxxi, xxxiii.
  • 45. Short Guide to London, ed. Findlay Muirhead, 1924, p. 66.