Saturday, June 03, 2023

Leicester Square

London The Unfinished City
Empire, Leicester Square.

Leicester Square has been a busy hub for tourists and those visiting the area to watch films and shows for many years. The square is used for exhibitions and events throughout the year and is always bustling with a palpable energy.

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William Shakespeare fountain.

With the Empire Leicester Square and the Odeon Leicester Square, on two sides which are used for film premieres, and more restaurants than you can count and pubs on the other, it is a magnet for anyone heading to the West End. 

London The Unfinished City
Lumiere Festival, 2016.

To the north is Chinatown, the east Covent Garden, south lies Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus is to the west, making Leicester Square a true hub in the West End.

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Enough said.

It is possibly because of how busy the area gets that I prefer walking around other areas of London.

London The Unfinished City
m&m's World.

However, every once in a while, I do head here, especially if there is something worth seeing.

London The Unfinished City
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

Over the years I have seen many changes to the square and its surroundings. Statues have come and gone. Fountains and water features have been rebuilt and installed. Paving and seating has been improved. Theatres, cinemas, shops and restaurants have come and gone, too.

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Celebrity handprints, 2010.

But the atmosphere has always remained.

Brief History

Leicester Square was originally set out in the 1600s, named Leicester Fields, and was a residential area. It would remain this way until the late 18th century, when Leicester House, after which the square was named, was demolished. 

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Refurbishing the old buildings, 2015.

As more retail businesses moved in and theatres began to spring up, in the 19th century, the area became an entertainment hotspot. 

Then, towards the middle of the 20th century, some of he theatres were converted to cinemas and Leicester Square as we know it today came into being.

The square has always had a garden at its centre and was originally common land.

The square did fall into a state of disrepair in the mid 19th century and has been remodelled many times over the years. 

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"I'm Batman!"

In 1873 the fountain of William Shakespeare and four new statues were supervised by Albert Grant, who had purchased the land for £11,060. At his own expense Albert Grant had the square laid out, before handing the deeds to the Metropolitan Board of Works. 

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Mary Poppins.

One 17 month refurbishment took place in order to get the square ready for the crowds expected for the London 2012 Olympics.

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Charlie Chaplin.

Recently, a major upgrade to the electrical substation which supplies the whole of the West End was completed. This substation is situated beneath Leicester Square.

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Bugs Bunny.

As a side note, Premier Inn produced a report that indicated that Leicester Square was the most mispronounced place in the United Kingdom by tourists, who pronounced it "Lie-chester".

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Wonder Woman.

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