Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Soho Walk and beyond 4th November 2014

On 4th November 2014 I left home to go for a walk. I decided on a London walk as it had rained heavily for days and the paths elsewhere were muddy. I choose the Soho walk from the London's Hidden Walks Book and set off.

I arrived at Tottenham Court Road Underground station and made my way over to Charing Cross Road after getting my bearings.
I turned into Manette Street (formerly Rose Street), this was renamed after Dickens character Dr Manette from A Tale Of Two Cities 1859 who lived near to Soho Square.

A replica of the 'Golden Arm' mentioned in Dickens','A Tale of Two Cities.' 
 I walked through a narrow alleyway beneath the Pillar of Hercules Public House into Greek Street. This pub opened here in 1733 and is also mentioned in The Tale Of Two Cities. The Current building dates from 1935 and has become a favourite meeting place for writers such as Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes.

 These square streets were favoured by the wealthy,but these classes soon moved to new developments such as Mayfair and were replaced by newly arrived immigrant groups. These included French Huguenots who fled Catholic France after the edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685. By the early 18th century nearly half of Soho was French giving rise to the area's nickname of Petty France.
The Huguenots success here encouraged more immigration including the Greeks escaping persecution by the Turks(hence Greek Street). Germans and Italians fleeing revolutions at home and Jews building new lives here away from the pogroms of Eastern Europe.
The last surge began mid 20th century where the Chinese began to move in from The East End to create Chinatown.

The Gay Hussar opened in 1953, this restaurant became the regular of left wing politicians such as Tony Benn, Roy Hattersley, Michael Foot and Tom Driberg as well as Soviet agents based in London. It was also frequented by General Eisenhower and the Queen of Siam. In the 60s a Labour MP and suspected Soviet spy tried to persuade Mick Jagger and his girlfriend Marianne Faithful to help target young people for Labour. However Jagger thought playing music was more attractive and the encounter came to nothing.

Next door is the House of St Barnabas in Soho(number one) which was built in the 1740s and a fine example of a Georgian Mansion. In the early 19th century this building served as offices of The Westminster Commissioner for Works for Sewers. From here Sir Joseph Bazalgette planned the 86 miles of sewers and 120 miles of drainage that still serves London today.
In 1863 the house was taken over by a charity to help homeless women and it still does.

Penny Chute used to collect donations for Barnabas.
I walked across the road into the Square. The Square was laid out in the 1680s and was originally named Kings Square after Charles II. The statue of the King in the middle of the square dates from 1681 and was returned here in 1938 after being in private ownership for many years.

Today the houses around the Square have been replaced by modern offices including Twentieth Century Fox Film Co and MPL Communications Ltd.

Sir Paul McCartney's "MPL"  is at no 1 and its basement contains an exact replica of EMI studio number two,where The Beatles recorded. McCartney first came to the square in the 1970s when he was in Wings and ran the bands affairs from the second floor of number one.
Underneath the square itself are a number of secret underground tunnels and shelters,last used to protect Londoners from The Blitz.
I walked a little further around the square to a lovely looking church.
The French Protestant Church (Eglise Protestante Francise de Londres) was built in 1893 and was designed by architect  Sir Aston Webb. This church is a rare legacy of the Huguenots and its services are still conducted in French.

Number 14 on the Square is where the pioneering nurse Mary Seacole (1805-1881) lived during 1857, writing her autobiography Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Mary Seacole in Many Lands. Seacole was born in Jamaica,her mother a Jamaican and her Father Scottish. Her mixed race heritage in Victorian times meant she faced many obstacles as she tried to help wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. Unlike Florence Nightingale (of greater fame), Seacole ventured onto the battlefields to help the injured.

On the East side of the square is St Patrick's Catholic Church dating from 1891. Designed in an Italianate style by John Kelly. St Patrick's is the oldest church in London dedicated to Ireland's Patron Saint.

The Church stands on the site of Carlisle House where in the 1760s the opera singer Theresa Cornleys hosted masked balls, her occasional lover Casanova also visited her here.

I walk back onto Greek Street down towards The Three Greyhounds Public House.

I stop by Zebrano where  Peter Cook once ran The Estabishment club here.The venue allowed the opportunity for budding comedians and satirists to perform new material in a nightclub setting, outside the jurisdiction of the Lord Chamberlain, whose censorship of language and content was a problem for many performers. Some who appeared included Lenny Bruce in 1962 (subsequently banned from entering the UK a year later), Barry Humphries (as Edna Everage), and musically, The Dudley Moore Trio. The Establishment, a tie-in album of comedy routines and sketches featuring John Bird, John Fortune, Eleanor Bron and Jeremy Geidt, was released on the Parlophone label in 1963.

Number 47 Greek Street was the home of Casanova for several months in 1764. Casnova had an illegitimate child by Theresa Cornelys and arrived in Soho escorting another of Cornelys children to London.
Casanova left London after running into trouble with the law,running up debts and contracted venereal disease.
The Coach and Horses PH at 29 Greek Street was founded in 1847. The area was notorious for gangsters that created a Bohemian atmosphere that resulted in the area being nicknamed Boho.  The gangsters over the years included The Krays,Billy Hill and Jack Spot and various Jewish,Maltese and Albanian Mafiosi that controlled the clip joints,pornography shops and brothels that made this the centre of London's sex industry.
Corrupt Police turned a blind eye to what went on, encouraging a high degree of tolerance and inadvertently the homosexual community.
For several decades the pub served drinks to his regular cliente of writers and actors including Tom Baker and John Hurt.
Next to the pub is Maison Bertaux, Londons oldest French Patisseries and cafe with a Bohemian feel that served the best cakes and pastries in Soho since 1871.

I head into Romilly Street and past Kettners restaurant. In its heyday the private rooms above were frequented by Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. Other pleasure seeking customers included King Edward VII and his mistress Lily Langtry.

I turn onto Frith Street and stop by Old Compton Street. This street built in the 1670s was named after The Bishop Of London Henry Compton and today is home to London's most vibrant gay scene.

I continue up Frith Street to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club,famous for its world class jazz performances. This was the venue for the first public performance of The who's rock opera Tommy in 1969 and for Jimi Hendrix's final public performance in 1970.

On my right is Bar Italia that opened in 1949 by an Italian family. An upstairs room hosted the worlds first live television broadcast in 1925. The inhabitant John Logie Baird arrived in Soho after being evicted from a previous home after causing an explosion. Baird constructed the first TV equipment and his experiment in October 1925 and ran downstairs to Mr Cross office and seized by the arm his office boy, William Taynton and took him upstairs and put him in front of the transmitter. Baird bribed the boy with 2s 6d to take part in the experiment and thus he became the first televised person in history.

Further up the street at no 20 is the site of the house where composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) stayed in the 1760s. Wolfgang came to London with his Father and his talented 4 year old sister entertaining visitors for a fee.

At  53 Frith Street Dr John Snow (1813-1858) lived here. he helped with the scourge of Cholera.

Frith Street was also home to painter John Constable in 1810-1811 and diarist William Hazlit in 1830.

William Hazlitt (10 April 1778 – 18 September 1830) was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, as the greatest art critic of his age, and as a drama critic, social commentator, and philosopher. He was also a painter. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is currently little read and mostly out of print.

I walk back up to Soho Square and cut through Carlisle Street and up to no 6 home to the satirical magazine  Private Eye .

I walk back to Dean Street and take a detour up St Annes Court to no 17. It was here in 1967 that Trident Studios was opened. The studios was used by The Beatles to record a number of songs from the White Album and Hey Jude. They were attracted by the lure of the 8 track recording equipment far more superior than the 4 track at Abbey road.  Other artists recorded here including David Bowie(Hunky Dory,Ziggy Stardust), The Boomtown Rats(I don't like Mondays),Elton John(Your Song),Lou Reed(transformer),Genesis(A trick of the Tail) and Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody).

You can book tours of the former studio by calling 020 7734 6198) Mon- Fridays 0930am - 5.30pm

Karl Marx first lived for a few months in 1850 at now demolished no 64 with his wife and children.
The Marx family moved to 28 Dean Street where they stayed for six years paying an annual rent of £22. The restaurant Quo Vadis now occupies the site, but sadly Marx's former rooms aren't open to the public.

The members only Colony Room Club at no 41 (grey doorway) a grungy bar opened in 1948 by Muriel Belcher. It attracted the best of London's society including painters Lucian Frued, Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon, Musician George Melly, actors Peter O'Toole,Tom Baker and Trevor Howard. The Club has now closed and is now flats.

At no 49 is the French House. A pub for centuries. During WWII the pub became the unofficial HQ of the Free France under Charles De Gaulle with strategy meetings being held upstairs When DeGaulle visited the normally vibrant pub, the pub became quiet, the French drinkers standing to attention.
Dylan Thomas left his only manuscript of Under Milk Wood here in 1953 during a drunken pub crawl. Thomas when sober asked BBC producer Douglas Clevedon to find it offering the manuscript as a prize. Clevedon sold the manuscript for a large sum after Thomas death.

Looking down the street to Chinatown.
I now walk back onto Old Compton Street to no 52 The Admiral Duncan PH. A popular gay venue.This was bombed in 1999 by right wing extremist David Copeland killing three people. the PH is named after a Scottish naval hero who won a naval victory against the Dutch in 1797.

Further up the road at no 59 is the site of  2i's Coffee shop(pronounced two eyes). The bar is regarded as the birth place of Rock N Roll in the UK. Here in the late 1950s many stars cut their teeth performing. Including Tommy Steele,Adam faith,Marty Wilde, Hank Marvin and Cliff Richard. Peter Grant the manager of Led Zeppelin learnt his strong arm tactics whilst working as a doorman here.

I now walk down to Wardour Street where I stop at St Annes Church. It took a little while before I realised that only the frontage has survived and you are unable to enter. Built between 1677 am 1686 designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Only the front survived the Blitz.

I turn left into Brewer Street and the  into Walkers Court and presented with Sohos Sex Trade industry.

I cross into Berwick Street.

The Street is dominated by Kemp House. The only tower built of 4 that was going to have a glass ceiling over Soho.Each tower was to have its own helipad and canals.

Ahead is the John Snow PH named after the teetotaler Dr John Snow who made history after making the connection with Cholera and infected water supplies.

I walk pass the Pub and turn into Marshall Street on the right is a horrible tower block which stands on the site of the birthplace of Poet William Blake (1757-1827).

I walk pass and into Ganton Street crossing over into Carnaby Street, the fashion heartland of the 1960s.

On Kingley Street I stop at the  Bag O Nails Club where members of The Rolling Stones,the Beatles,the Who and Jimi Hendrix amongst others would socialise together. It was also where Paul McCartney met his wife Linda Eastman in May 1967 as they both attended a Georgie Fame concert.

I then turn into Beak Street at no 41 is where Venetian artist Antonio Canaletto lived between 1749 and 1751.
I turned into Upper James Street and up to Golden Square.The area is mentioned in Dickens Nicholas Nickleby .Possibly laid down by Sir Christopher Wren, the plan bears Wren's signature, but the patent does not state whether it was submitted by the petitioners or whether it originated in Wren's office. This west London square was brought into being from the 1670s onwards. It very rapidly became the political and ambassadorial district of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, housing the Portuguese embassy among others.

George II statue

                       No 22-24 where the Portuguese embassy once stood in the mid 18th century.

I head back onto Brewer Street and right onto Warwick Street and walk up to Our Lady of The Assumption and St Gregory,now home to the Eritrean Catholics. In the past it served  as a chapel for the Portuguese and Bavarian legations in London and is the only surviving former catholic embassy chapel to have been built before the Catholic Emancipation of 1829.

I walk back onto Brewer Street and then onto Great Pulteney Street named after Sir William Pulteney who laid out Brewer Street in the 1660s
At no 38 is where former resident John William Polodori (1795-1821) who served as physician to the poet Lord Byron. Byron stayed here in 1816 and came up with an idea of having a ghost story writing competition. The result was Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Polodori contributed The Vampyre.

I walk along Brewer Street and see more evidence of Sohos famous sex industry.

I turn onto Windmill Street named after a 16th century windmill that once stood here. On the corner with Archer street is Be At One formerly The Red Lion. Karl Marx once held lectures upstairs in this pub. It was here that Marx and Engels submitted proposals to the league to secure a commission to write what became the communist manifesto. The Walk Ends here, but I continue to have a wander.

Shaftesbury Avenue

The New Routemaster Bus
I wander now over into Chinatown for a look around.

No 33 Wardour Street once home to the Flamingo Jazz Club. It was here in 1963 that the rolling Stones first performed with the line up of Mick Jagger,Keith Richards,Charlie Watts,Brian Jones and Bill Wyman. Later The home of the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in the 60s frequented by Hendrix,McCartney and Pete Townsend.

Trafalgar Square

"The Bear Of London" Designed by Boris Johnson(london Mayor)
One of 50 Statues of Paddington Bear to celebrate his 60th Birthday. Only here until December 30th!!

50 different designs by famous people such as David Beckham,Emma Watson,Nicole Kidman,Stephen Fry and more.

Horse Guards Parade

Chelsea Pensioners selling poppies

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