June 20 2013 Latest news:
Monday, July 2, 2012
So, how well do you think you know Soho? Whatever you think of London’s “naughty district”, here is a selection of facts and pieces of trivia which unzip a hidden side to it which you may not have seen before.
The information here is provided by Emma Parker, founder of guided tours company Coutours.
1. If the City of London (the Square Mile) is the financial district, then Soho (also approximately a square mile) must be the musical and pleasure district.
2. London has always been a haven for Greeks, especially with the issues surrounding the division of Cyprus in the 1920s and ’30s. However, Greek Street was named after a mass of Greek Christians who arrived in London around 1670 after being persecuted under Ottoman rule.
3. Meard Street is not named after the French word merde. Instead, it was the unfortunate name of the main developer of the area in the 1720s and ’30s. He was John Meard – I just hope he didn’t visit France with that name!
4. Soho has had a reputation for being a rather saucy area from its inception. The Hellfire Club was set up in 1719 by Philip, Duke of Wharton. It was rumoured to be the place where notable people could enjoy immoral acts.
In 1981, there were no fewer than 184 sex establishments. Nowadays, only Brewer Street, the upstairs windows of Old Compton Street and some of the alleys near Berwick Street belie its naughty past.
5. The Philip Morris cigarette factory used to be on Great Marlborough Street. This is where Marlboro cigarettes come from.
6. Look out for the noses on Soho walls. This was an artist bemoaning London’s CCTV turning us into a Big Brother state. The noses were originally put up where there were gaps in the TV coverage.
7. Frith Street was referred to as Froth Street due to the number of milk bars and cafes located there in the 1950s.
8. The Marquee Club (located on the site of Floridita in Wardour Street) was the most important music venue for British rock and has been hailed as the venue that launched pop music in Europe.
The Rolling Stones played their first gig at the club in 1962, when it was still in Oxford Street. More firsts were to follow: David Bowie, Cream, Yes and Led Zeppelin to name just a few.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s the Marquee, which moved to Wardour Street in 1964, saw the development of punk and new wave with bands such as the Clash, Ultravox, the Pretenders, the Police, the Cure, Joy Division, the Damned, Generation X, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Sex Pistols.
9. According to Justine Picardie’s Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, the 2nd Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, met and fell in love with Coco Chanel. They were together for five years.
He allegedly put her insignia, the linked Cs of Chanel, on the lampposts of his Grosvenor Estates. His rationale was that she lit up London. The Grosvenor Estates refuses to comment.
10. The adult entertainment industry was such big business in the early 1970s that shops were quite happy to pay back-handers to the police to keep them open.
It is reputed that it cost up to £14,000 paid to the police just to open an adult shop and £500 a week to keep it open. The scandal was unearthed in the mid-1970s.
Explore Soho on a guided tour, followed by dinner and a live show at the Floridita bar, restaurant and entertainment venue for £35 per person. Details at www.floriditalondon.com