Where is it?
The final two orange properties are a little further west of Bow street, but still in the heart of London’s West End. Marlborough Street actually doesn’t exist, and is thought that the manufacturers actually meant Great Marlborough Street in Soho. Vine Street is a tiny dead end, just off Piccadilly towards the south end of Regent Street.
What’s the story?
These two streets are an odd inclusion on the Monopoly board. Marlborough Street, because, as mentioned, it doesn’t exist, and Vine Street because it’s only about 70ft long, without anything of note on it, not even a pub. It is thought that the three orange properties were a nod to law and Policing, which in 1935 when the British version of Monopoly was created, all three were synonymous with. Bow Street (as previously mentioned) is famous for the ‘Bow street runners’ and subsequently the Bow Street Police Station & Magistrates Court. Great Marlborough Street was home to the once very famous Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, whilst although a damp squid now, Vine Street at the time housed another large Police station.
Later in this series I will be writing about Piccadilly, Regent Street and Oxford Street (all very close by) so to avoid repetition will for the benefit of this, concentrate on Great Marlborough Street and the area of Soho.
Great Marlborough Street was developed in the early 18th century and named after one of Winston Churchill’s ancestors; John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. The name Soho which refers to a triangular area hemmed in by Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue and Regent Street, is thought to get its name from a hunting cry. The area was in the 16th century largely woodland, used for hunting.
How do I get there?
The nearest Underground Station is Oxford Circus, but Soho is also flanked by Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus Underground Station (just a few minutes walk to Vine Street …not that you’ll be really wanting to go there).
What’s it like now?
When Great Marlborough Street was first developed it was a wealthy residential street, but is now lined with shops, a few restaurants and businesses. The main reason you’re likely to go there is to visit the department store Liberty’s, or en route to Carnaby Street to do a spot of shopping.
Where would I stay?
Soho is actually a great location to stay whilst visiting. It’s close to a lot of the main sites found in Westminster, but has its own vibe going on that makes you feel like you removed from the pomp of the Royals and the Victorian grandeur of Whitehall. Soho is a maze of streets, all packed with bars, clubs, restaurants and pubs. For this reason it's very much a destination where Londoners go for post work drinks and revelry, and for that reason will be noisy at night. I’ve met many people who have stayed in Soho and they’ve all mentioned the noise, although I think most have stayed in privately rented apartments rather than hotels.
On Great Marlborough Street itself and formerly the magistrates court previously mentioned is the Courthouse Hotel. If you fancy staying where some famous people have appeared in court, then it might be the place for you. In 1895 Oscar Wilde took the Marquess of Queensbury to court there for libel. In 1963, Christine Keeler attended over sex allegations which lead to the Profumo scandal becoming public. Mick Jagger received a £200 fine for drugs charges and a few years later, fellow Rolling Stone Keith Richards was fined after being found guilty of drugs and firearms charges. John Lennon, Francis Bacon and Johnny Rotten all appeared in court there.
Other hotels nearby include the Soho Hotel, The Resident (formerly The Nadler) and if you a seeking some historic boutique hotel action, then try Hazlitt’s on Frith Street.
What’s of interest?
The Photographer’s Gallery
Opened originally in 1971 nearer Covent Garden, the Photographer’s Gallery was the first gallery dedicated to photography in the UK, re-opening on its current site on Ramillies Street in 2012. As well as continuous exhibitions of their own, TPG is home to the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize.
Generally, just called Liberty’s, this department store dominating the west end of Great Marlborough Street has been going for nearly 150 years. Although the black and white wooden facade would lead you to believe it’s a Tudor building, the shop was actually built in the 1920s using timber from two Victorian Royal Naval ships. The frontage on Great Marlborough Street is apparently the same length as one of the ships; HMS Hindustan.
Charing Cross Road, until reasonably recently was synonymous with bookshops. There still are a number of second hand and antiquarian bookshops which are well worth browsing, but I wanted to mention Foyles, which at some point in its potted history held the record for the world’s largest bookshop, based on having 30 miles of shelves. Foyles relocated next door a few years back and has scaled down (and modernised), but is still a great bookshop. Foyles was founded in 1903 by two brothers, who when they discovered in the 1930s that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were burning books, sent Hitler a telegram offering to buy them from him. Hitler declined.
Originally opening from a basement on nearby Gerrard Street in 1959, Ronnie Scott’s which has been based on Frith Street since 1965 is a world famous Jazz club, and was also the last place that Jimi Hendrix performed in public, shortly before his death in 1970.
You’re never going to be far from a theatre in Soho, but just opposite Liberty’s on Argyll Street is the London Palladium; an early 20th century, Grade II listed theatre which people in the UK generally associate with the annual televised Royal Variety Performance. A far newer addition to London’s theatre scene is the Boulevard Theatre, which opened in 2019 in the former Raymond Revuebar by the grand daughter of Paul Raymond ‘the King of Soho’. Another theatrical stalwart is the Soho Theatre on Dean Street, who specialise in new writing, comedy and cabaret.
The Seven Noses of Soho
In the 1990s, artist Rick Buckley stuck casts of his own nose on buildings around Soho in response to the amount of CCTV cameras on our streets. I think he literally felt that the government were being nosey. Most were removed, but seven of the noses escaped the attention of Westminster Council and have become part of buildings and are known collectively as the Seven Noses of Soho. If you can’t spot them yourself, you might wish to enlist the help of tour guide Pete Berthoud and join his quirky Seven Noses of Soho tour.
Old Compton Street
If you’re in search of a gay bar or five, then Old Compton Street is the place for you. It’s been a focal point of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for decades. In 1999, the Admiral Duncan pub was targeted by a Neo-Nazi with the intention of injuring members of the gay community. Unfortunately, the nail bomb he detonated killed three people and injured many more.
The epicentre of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ lost its mantle of being a mecca for British fashion over half a century ago, but never-the-less is still a name most people recognise and is remembered in the Kinks song ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Today there’s still loads of shops, but more high street than boutique.
Eating and Drinking
Soho is a great place for restaurants and pubs, so I highly recommend wandering around and seeing what you can find that tickles your taste buds. However, here are three:
Mildreds is a great vegetarian and vegan restaurant on Lexington Street. You can’t book a table and it can get pretty busy at peak times, so be prepared to wait.
Directly opposite Mildreds, nestling in an 18th century town house is Andrew Edmunds who have been serving quality British fare for over 30 years. I’ve been a couple of times and thoroughly recommend it. It’s a cosy, candlelit delight.
The John Snow
If you’re having dinner at either of the two above restaurants, then pop in for a drink at the John Snow first; a great boozer named after the man, who in 1854, after a devastating Cholera epidemic in that exact area told everyone (for the good it did) that he had discovered that Cholera travelled not in the air, or by contagion, but in the water. He ordered the handle of a water pump (which was close to were the pub now stands)to be removed after realising the source had become contaminated.
Soho Square just close to Tottenham Court Road Station is a hang out at lunchtimes for all the media, TV and film people that work in the area, and is a perfectly nice place to watch the world go by. You might even spot Paul McCartney, as he has an office on Soho Square. Another is Golden Square, just off Beak Street. It’s a bit paved over now and surrounded by advertising, film and publishing companies, but if you’re in the area and fancy somewhere to rest your weary legs …it might do the trick.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.