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12 Things You May Not Know About London's Soho
James Gould / © Culture Trip
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12 Things You May Not Know About London's Soho

Picture of Ruaidhrí Carroll
London Travel Writer
Updated: 30 December 2017

Nowadays, Soho is a Central London area brimming with bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, but this hasn’t always been the case. From the origins of the name to its insalubrious reputation throughout the 20th century, here are 12 things you may not know about London’s Soho.

Liberty was built using two ships from the Royal Navy

Famous, high-end department store Liberty was constructed from the timbers of HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan, which was as long as the Great Marlborough Street storefront is wide.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Soho has its beginnings in the Great Fire of London

After the Great Fire of London devastated the city in 1666, destroying 13,200 houses and leaving 100,000 Londoners homeless, attention quickly turned to rebuilding the capital. Gerrard Street and a few surrounding streets were developed on the site of a former military training ground during the 1670s and 1680s.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Five pubs in and around Soho are called The Blue Posts

Whether they’re related to the boundaries of the historic hunting ground or they’ve got something to do with former pick-up points for sedan chairs, there are three pubs in Soho called The Blue Posts, while another two dwell in Fitzrovia and St James’s, respectively.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Soho is probably named after a hunting cry

Now one of the most famous districts in the capital, Soho probably takes its name from an old hunting cry. The area had served as a royal park during the Tudor era.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Mozart lived in Soho

Frith Street was home to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during a European tour in 1764, where it is believed he composed his Symphony No. 4 in D Major.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

The story of Ordnance Survey maps begins in Soho

Major-General William Roy was living on Argyll Street, Soho when he established the difference in longitude between Paris and London. Roy’s findings are considered to have inspired the first Ordnance Survey shortly after his death, while the first Ordnance Survey map (mapping Kent) followed in 1801.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

One of Britain’s most famous nurses penned her autobiography in Soho Square

Like Florence Nightingale, Jamaican-born Mary Seacole rose to fame for her services in nursing during the Crimean War. After the war, she returned to London and lived at 14 Soho Square, where she began writing her autobiography.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Marxism was born on the streets of Soho

Karl Marx wrote the first volume of Das Kapital (1867) in a house that he rented with his wife at 28 Dean Street.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Soho hosted the first television set

In January 1926, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the first-ever television set to 40 members of the Royal Institution, an organisation devoted to science, in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

Soho boasts the only theatre in London not to close during the war

The Windmill hosted a variety show incorporating comedy acts alongside semi-nude female performances during the years of the Second World War. Nowadays, it’s a table-dancing club.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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London’s sex industry centres on Soho

During the 20th century, Soho had a reputation as a debaucherous entertainment hub where the sex industry was prominent. Gentrification towards the end of the century has seen lots more salubrious businesses move into the area, but there are still remnants of Soho’s sexual past.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

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James Gould / © Culture Trip

The statue in Piccadilly Circus isn’t really of Eros

The statue in the fountain of Piccadilly Circus is commonly believed to be Eros, the Greek god of sexual attraction, but it is actually a monument to the philanthropic Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury depicting the Angel of Christian Charity.

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James Gould / © Culture Trip