I was just watching a programme about the Crossrail project in London; Soho Square was mentioned, so of course, that was a great cue to mention Soho and its name.
The name is generally accepted to have come from an ancient hunting cry; apparently ‘tally ho!’ is the cry when a fox breaks cover and ‘soho!’ is when huntsmen uncouple the dogs.
There is also a SoHo district in Manhattan; that comes from the fact that the area is South of Houston. And here’s an interesting thing about pronunciation: Houston, Texas is pronounced ‘hugh-ston’ (or, if you’re British, ‘hoo-ston’); Houston Street in Manhattan is pronounced ‘how-ston’
But back to Soho Square, which was built in the late 17th century and was originally called King’s Square, after Charles II. When building began in 1681, apparently there were only a few residents, one of whom was the Duke of Monmouth – one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons. The square eventually took its name from the area, known previously as Soho or Sohoe.
Interestingly, the Duke of Monmouth used ‘Soho!’ as a rallying cry for his troops at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the final battle in his rebellion.
The square is home to the House of St Barnabas, a charitable organization was founded in 1846 and was “the only Home in London gratuitously afforded to such distressed persons as are of good character, upon a recommendation from some one who knows them”.
In 1859, Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was published and immortalized the garden and a plane tree beneath which Dr Manette and Lucy were portrayed entertaining.
About Me (and my Obsession)
My obsession with London street names began in the early 90s when I worked in the Smithfield area and happened upon Bleeding Heart Yard. In my wanderings around London, kept adding to my store of weird and wonderful street names. Eventually it was time to share – hence my blog. I hope you enjoy these names as much as I do.
- Poultry and Hen and Chickens Court – names for National Poultry Day
- Greenberry Street and Red Lion Square: street names for St Patrick’s Day and Red Nose Day
- Bleeding Heart Yard: revisiting (and debunking) old favourites
- Colours and music in London street names
- Pardons (or not) and justice in street names
4 responses to “Soho: hunting cries, Manhattan, and a house of charity”
Nice to see Soho featured. When I lived in Camden, Soho was my hangout of choice. Coffee at bar Italia, great custard doughnuts at Patisserie Valerie. Occasional Jazz nights at Ronnie Scott’s club, a good selection of bars and restaurants alongside traditional pubs. There is so much more to the area than strip clubs, sex shops, and clip joints. But they are worth a look too, if only for the sleazy atmosphere.
Best wishes, Pete.
[…] yard is not far from the Soho area, once grazing farmland and then taken by Henry VIII as a royal park for the Palace of […]
[…] Square, which was built in the late 17th century, was originally called King’s Square, after Charles II. When […]
[…] can’t leave without a tenuous link, so we have Soho. That name is generally accepted to have come from an ancient hunting cry; apparently ‘tally […]