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For the area in New York City, see SoHo. For other uses, see Soho (disambiguation).
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OS grid reference:TQ295815
Latitude: 51.517514°
Longitude: -0.132659°
London borough: Westminster
County level: Greater London
Region: London
Constituent country:England
Sovereign state:United Kingdom
Ceremonial county: Greater London
Historic county: Middlesex (1889)
Police force: Metropolitan Police
Fire brigade: London Fire Brigade
Ambulance service: London Ambulance
Post office and telephone
Post town: LONDON
Postal district: W1
Dialling code:020
UK Parliament: Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly: West Central
European Parliament: London
London | List of places in London

Soho is an area of central London's West End, in the borough of the City of Westminster. It is an area of approximately one square mile bounded by Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, Shaftesbury Avenue to the south, and Charing Cross Road to the east. The area to the west is known as Mayfair, to the north Fitzrovia, to the east Holborn and Covent Garden, and to the south St James's. Chinatown and the area around Leicester Square can be considered as either just inside or just outside the southern edge of Soho.


[edit] History

The area which is now Soho was grazing farmland until 1536 when it was taken by Henry VIII as a royal park for the Palace of Whitehall. The name Soho first appears in the 17th century. The name is derived from a shortening of Somerset House, a grand palace to be found to the south of the strand, built in 1547 [1]. It is part of Soho folklore that the area’s name derives from the ancient ‘soho!’ hunting call (Soho! There goes the fox!, etc.); though by the time the name was in use, hunting had ceased in the area. The name is also believed to have come from the nickname of the Duke of Monmouth who used ‘soho’ as a rallying call for his men, and who in the 1600s was among the first to build in the area. There is an indication that he may have given one of his houses the name Soho. [2].

In the 1660s the Crown granted Soho Fields to Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans. He leased 19 of its 22 acres to Joseph Girle, who as soon as he had gained permission to build there, promptly passed his lease and licence to bricklayer Richard Frith in 1677, who began its development. In 1698 William III granted the Crown freehold of most of this area to William, Earl of Portland. Meanwhile the southern part of what became the parish of St Anne Soho was sold by the Crown in parcels in the 16th and 17th century, with part going to Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester.

Despite the best intentions of landowners such as the Earls of Leicester and Portland to develop the land on the grand scale of neighbouring Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Mayfair, immigrants, such as French Huguenots, settled in the area, and it never became a fashionable area for the rich. Indeed, it has been the making of Soho’s charm and character that it has been neglected and undeveloped and allowed to run a little wild and rough and cosmopolitan. By the mid 1700s all the aristocrats who had been living in Soho Square or Gerrard Street had moved out and the artists had started to move in.

By the mid 1800s all respectable families had moved away and prostitutes, music halls and small theatres had moved in. By the early part of the 1900s there was a healthy mix of foreign nationals opening cheap eating houses and it became a fashionable place to eat for intellectuals, writers and artists.

From the 1930s to the early 1960s, if Soho folklore is believed, the pubs of Soho were packed every night with drunken writers, poets and artists, many of whom never sobered up enough to become successful; and it was also during this period that the great Soho pub landlords established themselves.

The Soho name is deliberately imitated by Soho, Hong Kong, one of the main tourist areas on Hong Kong Island. SoHo, New York is named because the area is South of Houston Street in lower Manhattan. Beijing Soho (JianWai SoHo) stands for Small Office (Home Office).

[edit] John Snow

Image:John Snow memorial and pub.jpg
John Snow memorial, with John Snow pub shown in the background

A major event in the history of public health was the study of an outbreak of cholera in Soho by Dr. John Snow. He identified the cause of the outbreak as the public water pump in Broadwick Street (then named Broad Street). Snow disabled the pump, thus ending the outbreak. A replica of the pump, with a memorial plaque, now stands near the location of the original pump next to the John Snow pub.

[edit] Bohemian Soho

Soho is a small, multicultural area of central London which is home to industry, commerce, culture and entertainment, as well as a residential area for both rich and poor. For centuries it has housed waves of immigrants: the French church in Soho Square is witness to its position as a centre for French Huguenots in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Admiral Duncan pub

Soho is famed for its many clubs, pubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as late night coffee shops that give the street an "open all night" feel at the weekends and not forgetting the array of sex shops dotted here and there. Indeed, most Soho weekends are now so busy as to warrant closing-off of some of the streets to vehicles. This measure was implemented for a brief period in the mid-1990s, but Westminster Council later removed most of the pedestrianisation, supposedly after complaints from some local businesses about loss of trade.

There are many record shops in the area, specifically around Berwick Street, where shops such as Blackmarket Records and Vinyl Junkies dish out the "freshest grooves". Soho is also notable as the home of London's main gay village, centred on Old Compton Street. The area had been gay-friendly for many years, but became even more so beginning in the early 1990s. There are now dozens of gay bars and businesses all vying for the pink pound. Not everyone has been happy with the trend; on April 30 1999 at about 18:30, the Admiral Duncan pub on Old Compton Street, which serves the gay community, was damaged by a nail bomb planted by neo-Nazi David Copeland. It left three dead, two of whom were heterosexuals, and 30 injured.

London's Chinatown is centred on Gerrard Street and is a mix of import companies and restaurants (including Lee Ho Fook's, made famous in Warren Zevon's song Werewolves of London). Several street festivals are held throughout the year, most notably on the Chinese New Year.

As recently as Valentine's Day 2006, a new campaign was launched to drive business back into the heart of Soho London. The campaign, called I Love Soho, features a community focused web-site ( The campaign was launched in a blaze of publicity at the iconic former Raymond Revue Bar in Walkers Court, with such celebrities in attendance as Charlotte Church, Amy Winehouse and Paris Hilton. I Love Soho is backed by the Mayor of London Ken Livingston, the Soho Society, Westminster Council and Visit London.

[edit] Theatre and film industry

Soho is near the heart of London's theatre area, and is a centre of the independent film and video industry as well as the television and film post-production industry. It is home to Soho Theatre, purpose built in 2000 to present new plays and stand-up comedy. The British Board of Film Classification, formerly known as the British Board of Film Censors, can be found in Soho Square.

Soho is criss-crossed by rooftop free-space communications laser beams, and below ground level with fiber optics, known as Sohonet, which connects the Soho media and post-production community to British film studio locations such as Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios, and to other major production centres such as Rome, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Wellington, New Zealand.

There are also plans by Westminster Council to deploy pervasive high-bandwidth Wi-Fi networks in Soho as part of a program to further encourage the development of the area as a centre for media and technology industries.

[edit] Soho and the sex industry

The Soho area has the reputation of being the heart of London's sex industry for at least 200 years, but has increased in the last 50 years.

In the 1950s, the area already had several brothels and by the 1970s, in an area stretching from Chinatown along Wardour Street, and up Old Compton Street, there were over 250 unlicensed sex shops, cinemas, clip joints and illegal bars, a large number of brothels, and many freelance prostitutes either soliciting on the street or offering their services from staircases with doors open to the street. The Metropolitan Police Vice squad at this time suffered from several corrupt police officers involved with enforcing organised crime control of the area, but simultaneously accepting "back-handers" or bribes.

Major Organisation was done by Maltese pimps and Prostitutes after the Maltese Government purged the ancient city of Valletta from Prostitution. These sex-related activities were kept alive however in Gzira and mostly exported to Soho where today there one finds the major control of prostitution. [citation needed]

By the 1980s, purges of the police force along with a tightening of licensing controls by the City of Westminster led to a crackdown on these illegal premises. By 2000, a substantial relaxing of general censorship, and the licensing or closing of unlicensed sex shops had greatly reduced these to a small area around Brewer Street and Berwick Street. Still, several strip clubs in the area were reported in London's Evening Standard newspaper in February 2003 to be rip-offs (known as Clip joints), aiming to intimidate customers into paying for absurdly over-priced drinks and very mild 'erotic entertainment'. Prostitution is still widespread in parts of Soho, with several buildings used as brothels, and there is a persistent problem with drug dealing on some street corners.

Soho has, however, never lost its hardy residential community; and it includes Soho Primary School on Great Windmill Street which is attended by local children. Soho is such a varied and cosmopolitan area that in most of it the sex industry is not very evident; the idea that it is wholly a red light district is now out-dated. Even in those streets where the sex trade is present, the manifestations of it which are visible to the casual passer-by are tame compared with many red light districts elsewhere in the world.

[edit] Notable places in Soho

[edit] Nearest places

[edit] Nearest tube stations

[edit] Major streets in or bordering Soho

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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da:Soho de:Soho (London) fr:Soho (Londres) he:סוהו (לונדון) nl:Soho (Londen) no:Soho pl:Soho (dzielnica) sk:Soho sv:Soho, London zh:倫敦蘇豪區


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