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Visiting Soho Square, With Its Market Cross Building Centrepiece: Nuanced, Tudor Revival Heritage in London, England

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Overhanging area on the northern side of the Gardener's Hut in Soho Square, City of Westminster.

Overhanging area on the northern side of the Gardener's Hut in Soho Square, City of Westminster.

Soho Square https://web.archive.org/web/20161102053951/http://www.panoramio.com/photo/113553630

Soho Square https://web.archive.org/web/20161102053951/http://www.panoramio.com/photo/113553630

Backdrop to a quiet, garden haven

This small, heritage building ("listed") in Central London, England, in Soho Square, which I visited a number of years ago, is constructed in Tudor Revival style. Features include its octagonal shape, exposed timber framing, hipped roof and overhanging windows (as seen in one of the photos, supplied, above).

The building has been known variously as a market cross and a gardener's hut. Its origins might be described as prosaic for a heritage building itself now almost a century old: it was originally designed as a covering for visible features of an electricity substation. It was completed in 1926.

Whether or not the building has in the past been regarded as prosaic in a truly accurate way, the surrounding Soho Square Gardens are managed by the City of Westminster Parks, and have regularly won awards from the prestigious London Garden Squares Society.

Another name for the Tudor Revival style in which the building is executed is Mock Tudor. As a style popular among some British architects in the early 20th century, Mock Tudor was vehemently derided by architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1). With regard to this particular building, the use of the word 'Mock' would arguably beg questions as to its relation to other styles; would its detractors for example have been so vehement if this market cross replica had been replaced by a structure in New Brutalist (2) style? Such arguments are circular and endless.

The market cross building in Soho Square is roughly contemporaneous with Liberty's, the noted, London department store within reasonable walking distance which also exhibits Tudor Revival style.

The Square, a short distance from Oxford Street along Soho Street, was founded in 1661, and formerly known as King's Square (3). Prominent residents of Soho Square have included House of Commons Speaker Arthur Onslow (1691-1768), publisher and editor Sir Rupert Hart-Davis (1907-1999) and composer Benjamin Frankel (1906-1973), whose residence was a regular meeting place for writers such as Poet Laureate Cecil Day Lewis (1904-1972) and novelist and publisher Leonard Woolf (1880-1969).

In the 19th century, food producer Crosse and Blackwell (4) (warranted by Queen Victoria in 1837) was based at No.s 20-21.

For many decades after 1852, the Hospital for Women was housed at No. 30 (5).

January 20, 2021

Notes

(1) Sir Nikolaus's capacity for trenchantly expressed viewpoints has been widely known among historians.

(2) New Brutalism was supposed to be a reaction against nostalgic architectural style; but one wonders if a hypothetical future 'Brutalist Revival' would itself be regarded as somehow nostalgic? While everyone has an opinion, my own here is not worth very much; these blog pieces simply record impressions.

(3) (Subsequently, the variant 'Sohoe Square' was also known, as well as the currently used spelling.)

(4) Crosse and Blackwell was known as a wholesaler of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce.

(5) Founded in 1843 by Dr. Protheroe Smith (1809-1889), who pioneered the use of anaesthetic in labour, it was the first hospital of its kind in the world. The Hospital for Women eventually merged with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Euston Road, in the late 20th century.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Soho Square, circa 1730 Taken from: The Wager Disaster:  By C.H. Layman

Soho Square, circa 1730 Taken from: The Wager Disaster: By C.H. Layman

Also worth seeing

Also in Soho Square are various, notable structures; these include: the French Protestant Church, dating as a congregation from 1550 in the reign of Edward VI, housed in an ornate, terracotta building by Sir Aston Webb, completed in 1893 ; the Italianate St. Patrick's Church, by John Kelly, also completed in 1893, and known for its extensive catacombs, has a noted musical tradition and is a regular venue for concerts; a statue of King Charles 1, in whose reign the Square was created, sculpted by Caius Gabriel Cibber from Denmark, dates from 1681; a number of the sought after properties on the Square are identified with companies prominent in the film industry; the wider neighbourhood is strongly linked with the retail and entertainment industries.

London has such huge numbers of visitor attractions that I will refer to only a small fraction of the principal ones; these include: Trafalgar Square; the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster; Westminster Abbey (where Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and where Prince William and Kate Middleton were married); St. Paul's Cathedral; the Royal Albert Hall; and so many others.

How to get there

United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Underground and train services link Heathrow Airport with Central London. Soho Square is easily accessible via Tottenham Court Road Underground Station (Central and Northern Lines). Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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