Leicester Square at night in 2005: a
view towards the northeast corner.
Leicester Square ( ) is a
pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England.
lies within an area bound by Lisle Street, to the north; Charing Cross
Road, to the east; Orange Street, to the south; and
Whitcomb Street, to the west.
- For the British guitarist, see Lester Square.
The park at the centre of the
Square is bound by Cranbourn Street, to the north; Leicester
Street, to the east; Irving Street, to the south; and a section of
road designated simply as Leicester Square, to the west.
within the City of
Westminster, and about equal distances (about ) north of
Square, east of Piccadilly Circus, west of Covent Garden, and south of Cambridge Circus.
Leicester Square in 1880, looking
The Square is named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of
, who purchased four acres
) in St. Martin's Field in 1630; by
1635, he had built himself a large house, Leicester House, at the
northern end. The area in front of the house was then enclosed,
depriving inhabitants of St. Martin's Parish
of their right to use the previously common land. The parishioners
appealed to King Charles I
he appointed three members of the Privy
to arbitrate. Lord Leicester was ordered to keep part
of his land (thereafter known as Leicester Field and later as
Leicester Square) open for the parishioners.
The area was developed in the 1670s. It was initially fashionable
and Leicester House was once residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales
the late 18th century, the Square was no longer a smart address and
began to serve as a venue for popular entertainments. Leicester House became
home of a museum of natural curiosities called the Holophusikon in the 1780s and was demolished about
In 1848, Leicester Square was the subject of the land-law case of
Tulk v. Moxhay
. The plot's previous owner had
agreed upon a covenant not to erect buildings. However, the law
would not allow purchasers who were not 'privy' to the initial
contract to be bound by subsequent promises. The judge, Lord Cottenham
that future owners could be bound by promises to abstain from
activity. Otherwise, a buyer could sell land to himself to
undermine an initial promise. Arguments continued about the fate of
the garden, with Tulk's heirs erecting a wooden hoarding around the
property in 1873. Finally, in 1874 the flamboyant Albert Grant
purchased the outstanding freeholds and donated the garden to the
Metropolitan Board of
, laying out a garden at his own expense. The title passed
to the succeeding public bodies and is now in the ownership of the
City of Westminster.
19th century, Leicester Square was known as an entertainment venue,
with many amusements peculiar to the era including Wyld's Globe which was built for the great exhibition and housed
a giant scale map of the Earth.
Several hotels grew up
around the square making it popular with visitors to London.
theatre, the Alhambra, built in 1854, dominated the site, to be joined in
1884 by the Empire Theatre of Varieties.
The square remains the heart of the West
End entertainment district today.
During the Labour government's 1979 Winter of Discontent
collectors went on strike. Leicester Square was used as an overflow
dump, earning it the nickname of "Fester
The Shakespeare fountain and
Bust of Hogarth
In the middle of the Square is a small park, in the centre of which
is a 19th century statue of William
surrounded by dolphins
corner gates of the park have one bust each, depicting Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist; Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the
Academy; John Hunter,
a pioneer of surgery; and William
Hogarth, the painter.
The most recent addition is a
statue of film star and director Charlie
. On the pavement are inscribed the distances in miles
to countries of the former British
Leicester Square is the centre of London's cinema
land, and one of the signs marking the
Square bears the legend "Theatreland
It is claimed that the Square contains the cinema with the largest
screen and the cinema with the most seats (over 1600). The square
is the prime location in London for major film premieres and has
seen the likes of James Bond films, animation films such as Shrek
and even co-hosts the London Film Festival each year.Similar to Grauman's
Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the square is surrounded by floor mounted plaques
with film stars names and cast handprints.
The Square is also the home for 'tkts', formerly known as the
Official London Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth. This booth is
jointly operated by TKTS and LondonTown.com. Tickets for theatre
performances taking place around the West
End that day are sold from the booth for about half the usual
price. The popularity of the booth has given rise to many other
booths and stores around the Square that advertise half-price
tickets for West End shows. It is claimed that at least some of
these booths operate fraudulently
having names like 'Official Half-Price Ticket Booth', they are not
official and they do not always advertise the booking fees which
commonly come with purchasing tickets.
The Square is home to several nightclubs
making it often very busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday
- Odeon Leicester Square, which dominates the east side of the square, had
the first digital projector in Europe (1999),
hosting most premieres with capacity for 1683 people, arranged in
circle and stalls.
- The adjacent Odeon Mezzanine has five smaller auditoria
(capacities of 50–60 each).
- Empire, on the north of the Square, is the next-largest
cinema, with 1,330 seats in the main screen (the only THX certified
screen in the square), as well as eight smaller screens, with 349,
96, 58, 49, 48, 42 and 23 seats. Eight of the screens are
digital. The main screen and one smaller one can also play 3D
films. Many premieres are hosted here.
- Odeon West End, on the south side, contains two screens, which can
seat 1,000 each, and is used for smaller premieres.
- Vue, on the north side, near the
north east corner, was previously the Warner Brothers Village, a multiplex
that hosted only Warner Bros. film
premieres. Together with the rest of the Warner Village chain, it was bought
out by Vue in 2004.
Clubs, bars, restaurants
Just off Leicester Square
Global Radio has its headquarters on the east
side of Leicester Square, close to the Odeon
The building houses the radio stations
95.8 Capital FM
, Classic FM
, Choice FM
was formerly Home (a seven-floor superclub
launched in 1999, which went into receivership after having its
licence revoked by police for one month in March 2001 because of
drugs issues, and at which Paul
Oakenfold was a resident D.J.), is
now an MTV UK television studio, used for the
UK version of Total Request
Live and the Russell
Brand–fronted show 1 Leicester Square.
also used for the first series of BBC Saturday morning show
square regularly hosts a fair each winter and a stage is erected
for performances connected to other events such as Chinese New
The main electric substation
for the West
End is beneath the Square. The electrical cables to the substation are
in a large tunnel ending at Leicester Square, and originating in
Wimbledon, at Plough Lane, behind the former Wimbledon FC football ground, before which the
cables are above ground.
The square is set to change in its appearance over the next few
years as Westminster Council is planning a new design. The
envisioned changes will not significantly alter the square's
character but will, amongst other things, enhance its function as a
backdrop for film premieres.