With Chinatown to the north, Trafalgar Square to the south, Covent Garden to the east and Piccadilly Circus to the west, Leicester Square lies right in the heart of the London’s lively and exciting West End. A fabulous and energetic area that regularly sees celebrities and performances, Leicester Square is a much-loved part of the city with a plentiful history.
A pedestrianised square in the West End of London, Leicester Square was once not so energetic. There is a ‘woodcut’ map of the late sixteenth century called ‘Civitas Londinium,’ which is one of the oldest of its kind, which portrays Leicester Square as an area for drying clothes. Women would lay out clothing to dry, and cows grazed close by. In 1670, the square was laid out, and was named after the contemporary Leicester House, which was named after the second Earl of Leicester.
It became a middle-class residential area, and was home to many famous occupants including Frederick, Prince of Wales, William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds and Karl Marx. Towards the end of the 18th century, Leicester House was pulled down and the square became more down-market. Retail establishments were built and thrived, and the area became a centre of entertainment in the capital. Numerous theatres were built throughout the 19th century, and these were subsequently adapted to be cinemas in the 20th century.
Nowadays, the area is dense with expensive and nationally important cinemas, including the Odeon Leicester Square and the Empire Leicester Square, which are both regularly used for film premieres. Radio stations, casinos and other culturally significant establishments are located in the square, as well as many successful restaurants and bars. The park in the centre has been home to statues of William Hogarth, Charlie Chaplin, John Hunt, Sir Isaac Newton and William Shakespeare, and the discounted theatre ticket office Theatreland is also situated amongst the greenery. Leicester Square drives in countless tourists, hosts events for Chinese New Year, and was also refurbished for the 2012 London Olympics.
With features of the old and new city combined into one, Leicester Square is definitely a favourite for locals and visitors in London.
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