Coventry Street, W1D

Road in/near Soho, existing between 1681 and now

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JANUARY
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2015

Coventry Street is a short street connecting Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. On the London Monopoly board, it was named after the politician Henry Coventry, secretary of state to Charles II.


There is historical evidence of a road linking Haymarket with Wardour Street in 1585, roughly in the present location of Coventry Street. This pre-dated Leicester Square, and ran as far as St. Martin’s Field, stopping short of St. Martin’s Lane.

Coventry Street was constructed in 1681 as a thoroughfare between the two places. Henry Coventry had previously built a house in this location, and renamed it Coventry House in 1670. The house was described as "a capital messuage with divers outhouses, Gardens, Yards. … capable of being greatly improved." Coventry died in 1686 and the house was demolished four years later, to be replaced by a group of smaller houses. The land to the north of the street was partly owned by Colonel Thomas Panton, and partly by the Earl of St Albans. John Ogilby’s 1681 map of London shows Coventry Street built up on both sides.

The street had been designed for commercial and entertainment purposes, rather than a place of residence. For much of the 18th and early 19th century, there were a number of gambling houses along the street, contributing to a shady and downmarket character. The historian J.T.Smith remarked in 1846 that Coventry Street had "a considerable number of gaming-houses in the neighbourhood at the present time, so that the bad character of the place is at least two centuries old, or ever since it was built upon".

The Trocadero sits in the area between Coventry Street, Great Windmill Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, with the main entrance on Coventry Street. The origins of the site can be traced back to 1744, when John Cartwright gave a 99-year lease on this land to Thomas Higginson, in order to construct a real tennis court. Higginson retained ownership of the court until 1761, after which it had a number of owners through to the 19th century. From the 1820s onwards, it was used as a music and exhibition hall. After the lease expired in 1842, ownership passed to John Musgrove, who sublet it to Robert Bignel. Bignel redesigned the premises as a number of assembly rooms called the Argyll Rooms. It acquired a notorious reputation for prostitution, and consequently closed in 1878. It re-opened four years later as the Trocadero Palace, a music hall. A group of shops were established on the site in 1889, and the entire development was sold to J. Lyon’s & Co in 1895. Having been part of the Lyons restaurant complex and shops for much of the 20th century, it is now a shopping centre.

Wishart’s tobacco makers was established on Coventry Street in 1720. The family business survived through to the following century. The goldsmiths and jewellers Lamberts were established at Nos. 10–12 Coventry Street in 1803.

Coventry Street was mostly made up of retail properties by the 19th century. In 1835, an exhibition named the "Parisian infernal machine" was set up on Coventry Street, that depicted a murderer attempting to assassinate the French Royal Family. During 1851, a French wizard known as Robin performed in a building on Coventry Street. Coventry Street was widened between 1877 and 1881 by reducing the frontage to properties on the southern side, as part of general traffic improvements in the area that also saw widening of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue.

The London Pavilion was at the corner of Coventry Street with Piccadilly Circus and Shaftesbury Avenue. It was established in 1861 as an extension to the Black Horse Inn, hosting music hall events. It was demolished in 1885 and rebuilt and reopened by Edmund Villiers, becoming a theatre in 1918. It subsequently became a cinema, closing in 1982. The site is now part of the Trocadero Shopping Centre.

Charles Hirsch, a bookseller, sold French literature and pornography from his shop "Librairie Parisienne" in Coventry Street in the late 19th century. Hirsch was friends with Oscar Wilde and claimed to have sold him various items of homosexual pornography.

The Prince Of Wales Theatre opened in 1884 on Coventry Street. It was built for and financed by actor-manager Edgar Bruce from profits made at the Scala Theatre. The Private Secretary, written by Charles Hawtrey, was first performed here. Throughout the 20th century it mainly performed musicals and revues, with occasional ventures into farce. The theatre was rebuilt in 1937, and again between 2003–4 at a cost of £7.5 million. It can now accommodate 1,133 patrons.

The first J. Lyons and Co. Corner House was built on Coventry Street in 1907, on the west corner with Rupert Street. It was one of the first buildings in London to have a white-glazed terracotta exterior. In 1920, the former premises of Lamberts at Nos. 10–12 were demolished in order to accommodate an extension that could accommodate up to 3,000 diners.

Soho

Soho is a world-famous area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London.

The name "Soho" first appears in the 17th century. Most authorities believe that the name derives from a former hunting cry. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, used "soho" as a rallying call for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, half a century after the name was first used for this area of London. The Soho name has been imitated by other entertainment and restaurant districts such as Soho, Hong Kong; Soho, Málaga; SOHO, Beijing; SoHo (South of Horton), London, Ontario, Canada; and Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. SoHo, Manhattan, gets its name from its location SOuth of HOuston Street, but is also a reference to London’s Soho.

Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation as a base for the sex industry in addition to its night life and its location for the headquarters of leading film companies. Since the 1980s, the area has undergone considerable gentrification. It is now predominantly a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices, with only a small remnant of sex industry venues.

Soho is a small, multicultural area of central London; a home to industry, commerce, culture and entertainment, as well as a residential area for both rich and poor. It has clubs, including the former Chinawhite nightclub; public houses; bars; restaurants; a few sex shops scattered amongst them; and late-night coffee shops that give the streets an "open-all-night" feel at the weekends. Record shops cluster in the area around Berwick Street, with shops such as Phonica, Sister Ray and Reckless Records.
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Maps


Central London, north west.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)

Cruchley's New Plan of London Shewing all the new and intended improvements to the Present Time. - Cruchley's Superior Map of London, with references to upwards of 500 Streets, Squares, Public Places & C. improved to 1848: with a compendium of all Place of Public Amusements also shewing the Railways & Stations.
G. F. Cruchley

Cary's map provides a detailed view of London. With print date of 1 January 1818, Cary's map has 27 panels arranged in 3 rows of 9 panels, each measuring approximately 6 1/2 by 10 5/8 inches. The complete map measures 32 1/8 by 59 1/2 inches. Digitising this map has involved aligning the panels into one contiguous map.
John Cary

John Rocque (c. 1709–1762) was a surveyor, cartographer, engraver, map-seller and the son of Huguenot émigrés. Roque is now mainly remembered for his maps of London. This map dates from the second edition produced in 1762. London and his other maps brought him an appointment as cartographer to the Prince of Wales in 1751. His widow continued the business after his death. The map covers central London at a reduced level of detail compared with his 1745-6 map.
John Rocque, The Strand, London

Engraved map. Hand coloured.
Chapman and Hall, London

Engraved map. Hand coloured. Insets: A view of the Tower from London Bridge -- A view of London from Copenhagen Fields. Includes views of facades of 25 structures "A comparison of the principal buildings of London."
Chapman and Hall, London

Engraved map. Hand coloured. Relief shown by hachures. A circle shows "Extent of the twopenny post delivery."
Chapman and Hall, London

London Underground map from 1921.
London Transport

Prime meridian replaced with "Miles from the General Post Office." Relief shown by hachures. Map printed in black and white.
Published By J. H. Colton. No. 172 William St. New York

London Underground map from 1908.
London Transport

Ordnance Survey colour map of the environs of London 1:10,560 scale
Ordnance Survey. Crown Copyright 1939.

Outer London (1901) FREE DOWNLOAD
Outer London shown in red, City of London in yellow. Relief shown by hachures.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment. London : Edward Stanford, 26 & 27, Cockspur St., Charing Cross, S.W. (1901)
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