Soho is a large London area bordered by Regent Street, Oxford Street, Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. You won’t find many ‘ladies of the night’ here, but neon signs and strip-joints are ten-a-penny.
The area was once a favourite haunt of aristocrats, whose cry of
So-ho! whilst hunting hares gave the area its name.
An influx of refugees followed the Great Fire in 1666, and a swathe of immigrants descended in the hundred years that followed. Italians and Chinese soon made their presence felt, and the French almost managed to turn it into a mini-Paris.
Writers and artists came next, attracted by Soho’s bohemian air – which it still retains today. Theatres and music-halls sprang up in the mid 19th-century, which in turn attracted the pubs, clubs and prostitutes.
By the 1960s, the area was a full-blown seedy hell-hole, and the residents banded together to clean it up. Parliament passed an act to limit the spread of sex-shops, and the nefarious businesses fell six-fold. The area still retains its cosmopolitan charm – but now you can drink the night away and not get beat up.
A lot of Soho’s streets have gained a worldwide fame – Carnaby Street, for example, is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. And Old Compton Street is the gay-est street in England. Waldour Street is the heart and soul of the British film industry, and the area around Leicester Square is filled with theatres.
Pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants litter the area (as does the litter!), and it doesn’t shut down until the sun comes up. If you want some music, then head on over to Ronnie Scott’s – the most famous jazz club in the land. Soho is well-known for it’s bands – The Stones and Jimi Hendrix both played at the Marquee in Wardour Street (which is sadly now defunct).
You may also like to visit the memorial pump, plaque and pub that commemorates the taming of cholera by doctor Dr. John Snow. For forty years during the 19th-century, cholera was the city’s biggest killer. At the height of the rage, in the summer of 1854, five hundred deaths were recorded in a span of just ten days.
Snow recorded all of the deaths onto a street map of Soho, and recognised that all of the dying victims were clustered around a tap in Broadwick Street (then named Broad Street). He promptly removed the handle, and the epidemic died within a week.