Leicester Square, now one of
London's favourite tourist meeting places, was once a fashionable
place to live.
It was laid out in 1670 south
of Leicester House; a long-gone royal residence. The
square's early residents included the scientist Isaac Newton
and the painters Joshua Reynolds and Willam Hogarth.
From his elegant studio at No.46 Reynolds made his fortune
painting high society portraits.
In 1801 Hogarth's house, in the
south-east corner of the square, became the Hôtel de la Sablionère,
probably the area's first public restaurant.
In the mid-19th century Leicester
Square was famous for its music halls including the Empire,
now a cinema of the same name, and the Alhambra, which was
replaced in 1937 by the Art Deco Odeon.
By the late-20th century Leicester
Square had become run down and seedy. Fortunately Westminster
Council decided to refurbish the area in the 1990's and today
is is a pleasant, if rather over-crowded space.
The Shakespeare fountain in the
Square dates from an earlier renovation in 1874, and the statue
of Charlie Chaplin by John Doubleday was unveiled in 1981.
Square is surrounded by buildings housing some of London's
largest cinemas. These include the Empire and the black-clad
Odeon, venues for many film premières.
In the north-west corner of the
square is the Swiss Centre with its hourly chiming cowherd
clock, which always draws the crowds.
important part of Leicester Square is the Society of West
End Theatre's 'Half-Price Ticket Booth'. Housed in the
Clocktower Building by the south entrance to the gardens,
this sells cut-price tickets on the day of the performance
for a wide range of mainstream shows. Open Monday to
Saturday from noon for matinees, and 2.30 - 6.30 pm for evening
performances, tickets are sold on a first come first served
basis and there is a limit of four tickets per customer. Payment
must be by cash and a small service charge is payable.