The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 15 Regent Street and Soho

Leicester Square

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From Piccadilly Circus Coventry St., with the Prince of Wales's Theatre, runs east to Leicester Square and is continued thence by Cranbourn St., with Daly's Theatre and the Hippodrome, to Charing Cross Road. Leicester Square, built on Leicester Fields in the latter half of the 17th century, is named from Leicester House (circa 1630-1790), which stood on the north side, next door to Savile House, both of which have disappeared. In the centre of the gardens, once a resort of duellists, is a statue of Shakespeare, by Fontana (1874), a copy of that in Westminster Abbey, and at the four corners are busts of distinguished residents: Newton (by W. A. Marshall), Hogarth (by Durham), Reynolds (by Weekes), and John Hunter (by Woolner). On the east side is the Saracenic facade of the Alhambra Music Hall. Pennant calls Leicester Square 'the pouting-place of princes' because George II. (then Prince of Wales), after quarrelling with his father in 1718, removed to Leicester House, as did his son Frederick, another Prince of Wales, in 1741 for a similar reason. Frederick died at Leicester House in 1751 and his widow continued to reside there until her removal to Carlton House in 1766. From 1753 until his death in 1764 Hogarth had his town-house at the south-east corner of the square (No. 30), now Archbishop Tenison's School. In his youth he was apprenticed to a goldsmith in Cranbourn St. At No. 29 Leicester Square John Hunter built a museum for the famous Hunterian collection, now at the College of Surgeons. Sir Joshua Reynolds lived at No. 47, on the west side (now Puttick and Simpson's), from 1760 till his death in 1792; the studio has vanished, but the balustrade of the fine staircase and the upper rooms are little changed. Speaker Onslow lived in this square before removing to Soho Square; Swift had rooms here in 1711, Mrs. Inchbald before 1803. In St. Martin's St., leading out of the square on the south side, stood the house occupied by Sir Isaac Newton (1710-27) and Dr. Burney (1774-94). Here Fanny Burney wrote 'Evelina' and 'Cecilia.' This house was carefully taken down in 1913 and removed to Hitchin, to await re-erection. Adjacent, until 1913, stood Orange Street Chapel, founded by the Huguenots in 1688, where Augustus Toplady preached in 1775-78.