Soho Square: A Brief History


Soho Square Origins

Soho Square was originally called King Square (after Charles II) and was built in 1681 on Soho Fields. It was one of the coolest places to live in London – and definitely one of the more expensive.

White House Brothel

But by the 1800s the Soho Square was in a pretty shoddy state – between 1778 and 1801, Manor House at 21 Soho Square was the famous White House brothel. It was styled as a hotel, but the reality was that the rooms – named the “Gold Room”, “Silver Room” and “Bronze Room”, a “Painted Chamber”, “Grotto”, “Coal Hole” – were actually places for girls to work and for men to have a good time (although in Magic’s Moment it suggests the men who went there were more into feeling guilty for paying for sex)

Henry Mayhew wrote of the White House:

In one room, into which some wretched girl might be introduced, on her drawing a curtain as she would be desired, a skeleton, grinning horribly, was precipitated forward, and caught the terrified creature in his, to all appearance, bony arms. In another chamber the lights grew dim, and then seemed gradually to go out. In a little time some candles, apparently self-ignited, revealed to a horror stricken woman, a black coffin, on the lid of which might be seen, in brass letters, ANNE, or whatever name it had been ascertained the poor wretch was known by. A sofa, in another part of the mansion was made to descend into some place of utter darkness; or, it was alleged, into a room in which was a store of soot or ashes.

Hospital for Women

The first hospital in London for women was started by Dr. Protheroe Smith in 1843 at 30 Soho Square. The objective of the hospitalwas to treat “those maladies which neither rank, wealth, nor character can avert from the female sex.”

Soho Square

Did you know…?

Underneath Soho Square gardens is a bomb shelter, built in 1939.

Leslie Hardcastle, president of the Soho Society, said he recalls spending the night in the shelter several times during the war.

It was lined with about 12 inches of brick and had concrete as a roof. It could take about 150 to 200 people initially although that became less when they put tiers of bunks in. The only facility was a toilet and it could get quite smelly with all the people down there.

Soho Square

Want to see more? Take a look at my Soho Square Pinterest board.