The Garden Guide

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

Shaftesbury Avenue and Soho

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Shaftesbury Avenue, likewise beginning at Piccadilly Circus, runs diagonally to the north-east, through the south part of Soho, crossing Cambridge Circus and joining New Oxford St. near High Holborn. This broad thoroughfare, which opened up a much-needed route through a very poor neighbourhood, contains the Lyric, Apollo, Globe, Queen's, and Shaftesbury Theatres in its south half. In Cambridge Circus, where Charing Cross Road is crossed, is the Palace Theatre; and in West St., leading to the south-east from the Circus, are the Ambassadors and St. Martin's Theatres. Farther on Shaftesbury Avenue passes the French Hospital, and near its end is the Prince's Theatre. The characteristic Soho streets running north from Shaftesbury Avenue are not in themselves attractive, apart from their foreign elements and their historical associations. Wardour Street , once noted for its spurious antiques, extends from Coventry St. to Oxford St. The Royal Society of Musicians, at 12 Lisle St., the first turning on the right, contains portraits and mementoes of famous musicians. At No. 43 Gerrard St., the next turning on the right, Dryden lived from 1686 till his death in 1700; No. 37 (now a restaurant) was occupied by Edmund Burke in 1787. It was at the 'Turk's Head' in Gerrard St., a tavern closed in 1783, that Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds founded in 1764 their famous 'Literary Club,' which exists to the present day, though it meets to dine elsewhere. Farther on in Wardour St., to the north of Shaftesbury Avenue, is the church of St. Anne, a plain church dating from 1685, with a curious tower of about 1802; it is noted for its music. In the churchyard (now a recreation-ground), against the west end of the church, are the monuments of William Hazlitt (1778-1830) and Theodore, King of Corsica (died 1756), the latter with an inscription by Horace Walpole. Theodore died at a tailor's in Great Chapel St. To the west of Wardour St., farther on, is Broad Street, at No. 28 in which William Blake was born in 1757 and lived till 1771 and again from 1778 till his marriage in 1782 (tablet). At 15 Poland St., to the north, Shelley lodged in 1811, Flaxman lived at No. 27 in 1780-82. Dr. Burney also lived in Poland Street in 1760-70. In Dean Street , parallel with Wardour St., is the Royalty Theatre, enlarged from Miss Kelly's little theatre. Sir James Thornhill, the painter, Hogarth's father-in-law, lived at No. 75 (next door). In Frith Street Sir Samuel Romilly was born in 1757 and Mrs. Inchbald lived. Hazlitt died at No. 6 in 1830; Mozart lodged at No. 51, in 1763, when a boy. Greek Street is named after a colony of Greeks, whose church was in Charing Cross Road. Nos. 12 and 13 were Wedgwood's show-rooms from 1774 onwards. Douglas Jerrold was born in Greek St. in 1803. At No. 61 (then 58) the young Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) found a chilly nightly asylum in 1802 in the house of a friendly attorney. Manette St., entered by an archway in Greek St., reminds us that Dickens places the London abode of Dr. Manette, in his 'Tale of Two Cities,' in Soho.