Sunday, August 17th 2014
This evening we went for a little ramble around Soho and Leicester Square. We had no particular purpose in mind and wandered hither and thither as fancy took us. Below are some of the photos that I took en route of things that caught my attention.
There is no narrative to this post so I will just show you the photos, commenting where I have something to say about them.
St Martin’s Theatre is the present venue for the show The Mousetrap, the longest ever run (62 years, I think).
This statue, raised as a tribute to the great comic actor, Charlie Chaplin, was originally placed in Leicester Square. It was removed in 2010 for renovation and has now been placed in a less prominent location in a side street.
This extraordinary building today serves a relatively mundane purpose as the locale of a pub, perhaps with apartments on the upper floors. This hides a more illustrious past when it served as the premises for the St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, which lived here from 1936 until the 1960s.
A large part of the Soho district consists of China Town, where the Chinese community lives, works and plays, and invites to world to partake of what it has to offer. Most of the people gathered in front of the gate seemed to photographing the gate and one another. I can’t complain, I suppose, as I was taking photos too!
This colourful lion, a joint project by a Chinese artist, Hsiao-Chi Tsai, and a Japanese artist, Kimiya Yoshikawa, is said by its colours to represent the diversity of East Asians living and working in the UK.
The House of St Barnabas was founded in 1846 and moved to this building in 1862. The house itself was built as a residential property in the late 1600s but went through several non-residential uses before being occupied by the charity. It is now a Grade I listed building. More information on its history here.
Soho is an area of diverse communities, culturally and linguistically. St Patrick’s Church reflects this: when we took a look inside, we found a sermon being given in Spanish.
The French Protestant Church was founded by the Huguenot immigrants who sought refuge from religious persecution in Catholic France and found it here, in the England of Edward VI. The King’s charter provided a home and religious freedom for the Huguenots while enormously benefitting, commercially and culturally, their adopted country.
As is usual with French institutions, the church is closed in August. We were lucky, however, to find it open because some sort of social event was being held there. The participants kindly allowed us to come in and photograph the church.
The present church, relatively plain, but elegantly styled, was built in 1891-3.
The Church once had a companion school, L’École Protestante Française de Londres, but I think this no longer exists. (At least, I have not found any modern references to it.) The school bell has been placed in the church as a memorial to Edgar S. Burdett, who was director of the school from 1910 to 1944.
Over the church door is a beautifully carved tympanum that narrates in graphic form, the flight from France of the Huguenots and their being received by Edward VI whose charter gave them the right to become resident in England. It was erected in 1950 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the church’s foundation.
Waiting for the bus home (getting out your camera is a sure way of making the bus come!), I took this picture of Centre Point, basking in evening sunlight. It has always been controversial, politically, architecturally and socially. Richard Seifert, the designer, has not enjoyed the best of reputations as an architect, either. Many hate the building and would love to see it demolished. I understand their concerns and share them to some extent but cannot help feeling that, illumined thus in sunshine, it acquires a certain grandeur. (OK, throw your brickbats now 🙂 )