Leicester Square in London
Leicester Square and its Underground station are often busy with people on their way to or from an entertainment venue. Many West End theaters are just a short walk from Leicester Square. Film premieres—along with the movie stars and paparazzi that such events attract—are commonly held in the large cinemas nearby.
Some theater goers may try to cut their entertainment costs by using the tkts ticket booth located in the Square. The booth sells half price and discount theater tickets for that day’s shows. (A second tkts booth, located at Canary Wharf in the Docklands area, has closed.)
The Square gets its name from Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased the land in 1630. He built a house (okay, it was a stately manor he named Leicester House) and tried to prevent the locals from St. Martin’s Parish from using his property. The people appealed to King Charles I, whose arbitration committee ruled for the little guys, declaring that Leicester Field (later known as Leicester Square) would continue to be common land.
William Shakespeare stands in the center of today’s Leicester Square. His statue atop a fountain is a duplicate of the Bard’s memorial in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. Until theaters and music halls started springing up around the area, Leicester Square was considered a fairly posh neighborhood, and several famous people had their home here.
The Square’s four corner gates each include a statue of a prominent former resident—Sir Isaac Newton (scientist), Sir Joshua Reynolds (painter and first President of the Royal Academy), Dr. John Hunter (surgeon and scientist), and William Hogarth (painter). Charlie Chaplin (depicted as the Little Tramp) is the latest gentleman to join the group; his statue was installed in 1981.
Those looking for a geography lesson can read the pavement and learn the distances to countries that were part of the British Empire.
Bibliophiles might want to consider a stroll on nearby Charing Cross Road with its many new, specialty, and second-hand bookstores. The number and variety of bookstores along the road has decreased due to London rental prices and the effect of mega-chain and Internet bookstores, but booklovers will still enjoy perusing the one-of-a-kind manuscripts and well-read classics that can be found on many a shelf.
by Katie Calvert