Essential Architecture-  London

Leicester Square




It is within the City of Westminster, and about equal distances (about 400 yards or 300 metres) north of Trafalgar Square, east of Piccadilly Circus, west of Covent Garden, and south of Cambridge Circus.




Outdoor space

Leicester Square at night in 2005: a view towards the northeast corner.

Leicester Square (pronounced "Lester Square") is a pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England. The Square 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. 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. It is within the City of Westminster, and about equal distances (about 400 yards or 300 metres) north of Trafalgar Square, east of Piccadilly Circus, west of Covent Garden, and south of Cambridge Circus.


Leicester Square in 1750, looking north. The large house set behind a forecourt at the northeast corner is Leicester House, then the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

The Square is named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased four acres (1.6 hectares) of land in St. Martin's Field in 1630; by 1635, he had built himself a large house, known as Leicester House, at the northern end of it. The enclosure was part of the site for building deprived the inhabitants of St. Martin's Parish of their right to use the common land. The parishioners appealed to King Charles I for assistance, and he appointed three members of the Privy Council to arbitrate. Lord Leicester was ordered to keep part of his land (which thereafter was known as Leicester Field and later as Leicester Square) open for use by the parishioners.

The area was developed in the 1670s. It was initially a fashionable area, and Leicester House was once even the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales; but, by the later part of the 18th century, the Square was no longer a smart address and began to serve as a venue for popular entertainments. Leicester House became the home of a museum of natural curisities called the Holophusikon in the 1780s and was demolished about 1791–1792.

In 1848, Leicester Square was the subject of the famous land-law case of Tulk vs. Moxhay. The plot's previous owner had agreed upon a covenant not to erect buildings after his purchase. However, the law would not allow purchasers who were not 'privy' to the initial contract to be bound by any subsequent promises. The leading judge, Lord Cottenham, decided that future owners of land could be bound by promises to abstain from activity. Otherwise, a buyer could simply sell land to himself again to undermine an initial promise. Hence, the Leicester Square known today was saved from development. By the 19th century, Leicester Square was known as an entertainment venue, and also housed several hotels. It was popular with overseas residents and visitors to London. A large theatre, the Alhambra, built in 1854, dominated the site. The square remains the heart of the West End entertainment district even today.

In November, 2006, the square saw one of the biggest royal premiers for the James Bond film, Casino Royale. Nearly the whole square was taken over for a long list of notable actors, directors, celebrities as well as the Queen and Prince Philip. The actor Daniel Craig was at the centre of attention as the new actor for the role of James Bond.



The centre of Leicester Square

In the middle of the Square is a small park, in the centre of which is a statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. The four corner gates of the park have one statue each, depicting Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist; Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal 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 Chaplin. On the pavement are inscribed the distances in miles to countries of the former British Empire.

Leicester Square is the centre of London's cinema land, and one of the signs marking the Square bears the legend "Theatreland". UK film premieres are typically hosted at one of the square's four cinemas. It is claimed that the Square contains a cinema with the largest screen and a cinema with the most seats (over 2000).

Leicester Square's Odeon.

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 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. Despite having names like 'Official Half-Price Ticket Booth', they are not official and they do not offer half-price tickets.

The Square is home to several nightclubs, making it often very busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Major cinemas

Leicester Square in 1880, looking north east.

Odeon Leicester Square, which dominates the east side of the square, had the first digital projector in Europe (1999), hosting most premieres with capacity of about 1,700 persons.
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 before the main screen, as well as two smaller screens, with 350 and 77 seats.
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.
A short distance from the west of the Square, on the south side of Panton Street, is the Odeon Panton Street, another two-screen Odeon cinema.

Other cinemas
Prince Charles Cinema is a cheap-ticket second-run and cult cinema famed for its regular showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a sing-along version of The Sound of Music.

Clubs, bars, restaurants
-Just off Leicester Square-

Hippodrome, London
Zoo Bar
The Comedy Store
The Venue (West End theatre
Fiori - Italian cafeteria and restaurant
-Facing Directly on the Square itself-

Radisson Edwardian Hampshire (hotel, and Apex and Crescent bars)
The Moon under Water: one of many J D Wetherspoon pubs named after an idyll of "solid comfortable ugliness" extolled by George Orwell in a 1946 essay in the Evening Standard.
All Bar One
Sound Bar
Chiquito, Mexican Bar and Grill
Pizza Hut
Equinox nightclub: soon to be closed and turned into a casino.
Metra nightclub
The Penthouse


The GCap Media building in Leicester Square.

GCap Media has its headquarters on the east side of Leicester Square, close to the Odeon Leicester Square. The building houses the radio stations Capital Radio, Classic FM, Xfm London, Choice FM, Capital Gold, Capital Disney, Capital Life and Planet Rock.

In what was formerly Home (a seven-floor superclub launch in 1999, which went into receivership [1] after having its licence revoked by police for one month [2] in March 2001 because of drugs issues, and at which Paul Oakenfold was a resident D.J.) It 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. It is also used for the BBC Saturday morning show TMi.

Other attractions
Affixed to the corner of the Swiss Centre, in the northwest corner of the square, is an elaborate mechanical clock, installed in 1984.

Beneath the Square is the main electricity substation for the West End. The cables carrying the high-voltage electricity to the substation are in a large tunnel that ends at Leicester Square and originates in Wimbledon, at Plough Lane, behind the former Wimbledon FC football ground, before which the cables are above ground, carried by pylons.