Soho is the trendy hub of classy eateries and media offices, situated in the City of Westminster, London. It is abuzz with locals and visitors that want to taste the excitement of the film and entertainment industries, for which Soho is famous. It is, of course, also well known as the historical home of the sex industry in England.
During the earlier part of the 16th Century, the area now known as Soho served as grazing land for cattle. However, Henry VIII seized it to be used as a royal park for the Palace of Whitehall in 1536. Then, approximately 125 years later, the monarchy sold Soho Fields to the First Earl of St Albans (Henry Jermyn). He sublet portions of it and the land thus began its development. During this time, some of the other areas were sold off. Land owners built and expanded the area, but it never reached the level of other similar areas, which were in demand by the rich and elite. During the mid-1700’s, even those wealthy aristocrats that had lived in the Soho area had moved away.
Original Soho art district in London
This abandonment led to the area’s complete degradation. It soon became a place where only prostitutes, their customers and theatrical performers working at one of the small theatres would frequent. Immigrants opened up shops and restaurants in the area during the early-1900’s. Because these establishments were cheap, they attracted artists that needed a place to think, meet, network and create without the funding to support such a lifestyle. This, in turn, led to the rise of the pub culture, as writers and poets seldom left the area, staying until all hours of the morning and drowning their artistic sorrows. Renowned writer Dylan Thomas was one of these characters.
Today, Soho is characterised by a lively, multicultural destination. It is home to those with money and without, and remains famous for its fantastic array of entertainment. It is also still known for playing a certain role within the sex industry, but is no longer identified solely by this feature. The nightlife on weekends sometimes becomes so busy that certain roads in Soho need to be blocked to traffic. Significantly, Soho is also an important epicentre for the gay community of London. There is a gay village around Old Compton Street in which specific business are located and designed exclusively for the use and benefit of gay and lesbian consumers.
Soho has a total area of approximately 2.6 square kilometres (one square mile) and is bounded by Oxford Street, Regent Street, Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road. However, it must be remembered that Soho is not technically an administrative unit, so its boundaries are not formally set or contained.
Important places to see and things to do in and around Soho include:
• Shopping in Oxford and Regent streets
• Old Crompton Street
• The Trocadero Centre
• Carnaby Street
• Soho Square
• The French House and The Coach & Horses (both historical pubs)
• Gerard Street
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