Wyld’s Great Globe

Place of Interest in/near Soho, existed between 1851 and 1862

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Place of Interest · Soho · WC2H ·

Wyld’s Great Globe was an attraction situated in Leicester Square between 1851 and 1862.

Sectional view of Wyld’s Great Globe, which stood in Leicester Square, London 1851–62
Credit: Illustrated London News
It was constructed by James Wyld (1812–1887), a distinguished mapmaker and former Member of Parliament for Bodmin.

At the centre of a purpose-built hall was a giant globe, 60 feet 4 inches in diameter. The globe was hollow and contained a staircase and elevated platforms which members of the public could climb in order to view the surface of the earth on its interior surface, which was modelled in plaster of Paris, complete with mountain ranges and rivers all to scale. Punch described the attraction as "a geographical globule which the mind can take in at one swallow." In the surrounding galleries were displays of Wyld’s maps, globes and surveying equipment.

Wyld originally proposed that the globe should be constructed at the Great Exhibition, but its size and Wyld’s desire to run it as a promotional venture precluded it from being featured inside the Crystal Palace, so Wyld negotiated with the owners of the gardens of Leicester Square, and after much wrangling secured an agreement to site it there for ten years. The exhibition hall and model of the Earth were hastily constructed to coincide with the Great Exhibition.

In its first year the Great Globe was a resounding success, with visitor numbers second only to those of the Great Exhibition, but from 1852 onwards public interest in the attraction slowly waned. Though the novelty of a concave globe continued to win accolades for Wyld, he was faced with competition from other educational attractions, and had to adapt the entertainments on offer in order to maintain visitor numbers. Wyld held topical exhibitions and gave lectures on current events, and attempted to transfer ownership of the attraction to the "Cosmos Institute" to establish a national geographic and ethnological museum. In 1862, when Wyld’s agreement for the use of the land expired, the exhibition hall was removed and the globe broken up and sold for scrap. The complicated ownership of Leicester Square gardens, combined with Wyld’s failure to honour his agreement to restore the gardens after the removal of the exhibition building, led to extensive legal wrangling and questions in Parliament. Wyld finally sold his interests in the gardens, and in 1874 they were donated to the City of London.

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence


Sectional view of Wyld’s Great Globe, which stood in Leicester Square, London 1851–62
Illustrated London News



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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