Leicester Square
Leicester Square is a pedestrian
A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running. In some communities, those traveling using roller skates or skateboards are also considered to be pedestrians. In modern times, the term mostly refers to someone walking on a road or footpath, but this was not the case...

ised square in the West End
West End of London
The West End of London is an area of central London, containing many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings, and entertainment . Use of the term began in the early 19th century to describe fashionable areas to the west of Charing Cross...

 of London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. The Square lies within an area bound by Lisle Street, to the north; Charing Cross Road
Charing Cross Road
Charing Cross Road is a street in central London running immediately north of St Martin-in-the-Fields to St Giles Circus and then becomes Tottenham Court 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
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, and about equal distances (about 400 yards (365.8 m)) north of Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

, east of Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly...

, west of Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a district in London on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit and vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as...

, and south of Cambridge Circus
Cambridge Circus, London
Cambridge Circus is a traffic intersection at the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road in central London...



The Square is named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester
Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester
Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester was an English aristocrat and diplomat.-Life:He was the son of Robert Sidney, 1st Earl of Leicester, and his first wife, Barbara Gamage...

, who purchased four acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

s (1.6 hectare
The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

s) 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
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 of their right to use the previously common land. The parishioners appealed to King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, and he appointed three members of the Privy Council
Privy council
A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

 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
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales was a member of the House of Hanover and therefore of the Hanoverian and later British Royal Family, the eldest son of George II and father of George III, as well as the great-grandfather of Queen Victoria...

 but by 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
The Holophusikon was a museum of natural curiosities exhibited at Leicester House, on Leicester Square in London, England, from 1775 to 1786 by Ashton Lever.-History:...

 in the 1780s and was demolished about 1791–1792.

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
Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham
Charles Christopher Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham PC KC was a British lawyer, judge and politician. He was twice Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.-Background and education:...

, decided 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
Albert Grant (company promoter)
Albert Grant ; Baron Grant in the nobility of Italy, was an Irish born British company promoter.-Early life:...

 (1830–1899) purchased the outstanding freeholds and donated the garden to the Metropolitan Board of Works
Metropolitan Board of Works
The Metropolitan Board of Works was the principal instrument of London-wide government from 1855 until the establishment of the London County Council in 1889. Its principal responsibility was to provide infrastructure to cope with London's rapid growth, which it successfully accomplished. The MBW...

, 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.

By the 19th century, Leicester Square was known as an entertainment venue, with many amusements peculiar to the era including Wyld's Globe
Wyld's Globe
Wyld's Great Globe was an attraction situated in London's Leicester Square between 1851 and 1862, constructed by James Wyld , a distinguished mapmaker and former Member of Parliament for Bodmin.At the centre of a purpose-built hall was a giant globe, in diameter...

 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. A large theatre, the Alhambra
Alhambra Theatre
The Alhambra was a popular theatre and music hall located on the east side of Leicester Square, in the West End of London. It was built originally as The Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts opening on 18 March 1854. It was closed after two years and reopened as the Alhambra. The building was...

, 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
Winter of Discontent
The "Winter of Discontent" is an expression, popularised by the British media, referring to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by local authority trade unions demanding larger pay rises for their members, because the Labour government of...

, garbage collectors went on strike. Leicester Square was used as an overflow dump, earning it the nickname of "Fester Square".


In the middle of the Square is a small park, in the centre of which is a 19th century statue of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 surrounded by dolphins. The four corner gates of the park have one bust each, depicting Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

, the scientist; Sir Joshua Reynolds
Joshua Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

, the first President of the Royal Academy
Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, London. The Royal Academy of Arts has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and...

; John Hunter
John Hunter (surgeon)
John Hunter FRS was a Scottish surgeon regarded as one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine. The Hunterian Society of London was named in his honour...

, a pioneer of surgery; and William Hogarth
William Hogarth
William Hogarth was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects"...

, the painter. The most recent addition is a statue of film star and director Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

. On the pavement are inscribed the distances in miles to countries of the former British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...



Leicester Square is the centre of London's cinema
Movie theater
A movie theater, cinema, movie house, picture theater, film theater is a venue, usually a building, for viewing motion pictures ....

 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 premières and has seen the likes of the Harry Potter
Harry Potter (film series)
The Harry Potter film series is a British-American film series based on the Harry Potter novels by the British author J. K. Rowling...

and James Bond
James Bond (film series)
The James Bond film series is a British series of motion pictures based on the fictional character of MI6 agent James Bond , who originally appeared in a series of books by Ian Fleming. Earlier films were based on Fleming's novels and short stories, followed later by films with original storylines...

film series, Avatar, Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)
Alice in Wonderland is a 2010 American computer-animated/live action fantasy adventure film directed by Tim Burton, written by Linda Woolverton, and released by Walt Disney Pictures...

, and animation films such as Shrek
Shrek is a 2001 American computer-animated fantasy comedy film directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. Loosely based on William Steig's 1990 fairy tale picture book Shrek!...

; and co-hosts the London Film Festival each year. Similar to Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Grauman's Chinese Theatre is a movie theater at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. It is on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame.The Chinese Theatre was commissioned following the success of the nearby Grauman's Egyptian Theatre which opened in 1922...

 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
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 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 fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

ulently. Despite 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 nightclub
A nightclub is an entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night...

s, making it often very busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Major cinemas

  • Odeon Leicester Square
    Odeon Leicester Square
    The Odeon Leicester Square is a cinema which occupies the centre of the eastern side of Leicester Square, London, dominating the square with its huge black polished granite facade and high tower displaying its name. Blue neon outlines the exterior of the building at night. It was built to be the...

    , which dominates the east side of the square, had the first digital projector in Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

     (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
    Odeon West End
    The Odeon West End is a cinema on the south side of Leicester Square, London. It contains two screens—screen 1 seats 500 and screen 2 seats 832 . Both house large screens in comfortable auditoria...

    , on the south side, contains two screens, which can seat 1,000 altogether. Screen 1 holds 400 people and Screen 2 holds 600. It is used for smaller premieres.
  • Vue
    Vue (cinema)
    Vue Entertainment , formerly known as SBC International Cinemas, is a cinema company in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The company was formed in May 2003 when SBC acquired 36 Warner Village cinemas. There are now 69 Vue cinemas, with 654 screens totaling 140,500 seats, including the rebranded...

    , on the north side, near the north east corner, was previously the Warner Brothers Village, a multiplex that hosted only Warner Bros.
    Warner Bros.
    Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

     film premieres. Together with the rest of the Warner Village
    Warner Village Cinemas
    Warner Village Cinemas UK was a chain of multiplex cinemas operated by Warner Brothers in the United Kingdom. Created in November 1996, it was a joint venture between Warner Bros.Intl. Theatres and Village Roadshow Australia. In the UK the chain was subsequently purchased by SBC International...

     chain, it was bought out by Vue in 2004.

Other cinemas

  • A short distance from the west of the Square, on the south side of Panton Street, is the Odeon Panton Street, another four-screen Odeon cinema.
  • Just to the North of the square, Prince Charles Cinema
    Prince Charles Cinema
    The Prince Charles Cinema is a repertory cinema located in Leicester Place, 40 metres north of Leicester Square in the West End of London. It shows a rotating program of cult, arthouse, and classic films alongside recent Hollywood releases - typically more than ten different films a week on two...

     is a cheap-ticket second-run and cult
    Cult film
    A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

     cinema famed for its regular showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the 1975 film adaptation of the British rock musical stageplay, The Rocky Horror Show, written by Richard O'Brien. The film is a parody of B-movie, science fiction and horror films of the late 1940s through early 1970s. Director Jim Sharman collaborated on the...

    and a sing-along version of The Sound of Music
    The Sound of Music (film)
    Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is based on the Broadway musical The Sound of Music, with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and with the musical...

  • Cineworld is a short distance down Coventry Street
    Coventry Street
    Coventry Street is a short London street, within the City of Westminster, running from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. The street is the main conduit between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square and at the weekend up to 150,000 people walk from one to another along the street...

     in the Trocadero Centre.

Clubs, bars, restaurants

Just off Leicester Square
  • Hippodrome, London
    Hippodrome, London
    The Hippodrome is a building on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square in the City of Westminster, London. The name was used for many different theatres and music halls, of which the London Hippodrome is one of only a few survivors...

  • The Venue Leicester Square
    The Venue Leicester Square
    The Leicester Square Theatre , is a 420-seat studio theatre in Leicester Square, in the City of Westminster, London, which opened in 2002 with the premier of Boy George's Taboo. The building originated as the Notre Dame Hall in 1953, replacing an earlier building that had been destroyed by World...

     (West End theatre)


Global Radio
Global Radio
Global Radio UK Ltd. is a British commercial radio company, the largest in the country following acquisitions of Chrysalis Radio and GCap Media.The company's Chief Executive Officer is Stephen Miron, while the Group Chairman is Charles Allen...

 has its headquarters on the east side of Leicester Square, close to the Odeon Leicester Square
Odeon Leicester Square
The Odeon Leicester Square is a cinema which occupies the centre of the eastern side of Leicester Square, London, dominating the square with its huge black polished granite facade and high tower displaying its name. Blue neon outlines the exterior of the building at night. It was built to be the...

. The building houses the radio stations 95.8 Capital FM, Classic FM
Classic FM (UK)
Classic FM, one of the United Kingdom's three Independent National Radio stations, broadcasts classical music in a popular and accessible style.-Overview:...

, Xfm London
Xfm London
Xfm London is a commercial radio station in the United Kingdom owned by Global Radio and broadcasts on 104.9 FM in London, on digital radio via 30 DAB multiplexes across the country, Sky, TalkTalk TV and Virgin Media....

, Choice FM
Choice FM
Choice FM, branded on-air as London's Choice, is a brand used by the UK's biggest radio company, Global Radio for its network of black music radio stations...

, Gold, Heart and LBC
LBC Radio operates two London-based radio stations, with news and talk formats. LBC was Britain's first legal commercial Independent Local Radio station, providing a service of news and information to London. It began broadcasting on 8 October 1973, a week ahead of Capital Radio...


In what was formerly Home
Home (nightclub)
Home was a music venue and nightclub located at 1 Leicester Square in central London. It was closed by Westminster Council in late March 2001 due to evidence of open drug-dealing occurring within the club. The club went into receivership shortly after it was closed...

 (a seven-floor superclub
Superclub is a term used to refer to a nightclub owned and managed by a dance music record label, such as The Haçienda club, which was owned by Factory Records...

 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
Paul Oakenfold
Paul Mark Oakenfold is a British record producer and a trance DJ.-Early Career: 1979–84:Paul Oakenfold's career was set to be a chef, after having hopes of becoming part of a band. He describes his early life as a "bedroom deejay" in a podcasted interview with Vancouver's 24 Hours, stating he grew...

 was a resident D.J.
Disc jockey
A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience. Originally, "disc" referred to phonograph records, not the later Compact Discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.There are several types of disc jockeys...

), is now an MTV UK television studio, used for the UK version of Total Request Live
Total Request Live
Total Request Live is a television series on MTV that featured popular music videos. TRL was MTV's prime outlet for music videos as the network continues to concentrate on reality-based programming. In addition to music videos, TRL featured daily guests...

and the Russell Brand
Russell Brand
Russell Edward Brand is an English comedian, actor, columnist, singer, author and radio/television presenter.Brand achieved mainstream fame in the UK in 2004 for his role as host of Big Brother spin-off, Big Brother's Big Mouth. His first major film role was in the 2007 film St Trinians...

–fronted show 1 Leicester Square. It was also used for the first series of BBC Saturday morning show TMi
Sam & Mark's TMi Friday was a British children's television show that was presented by Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes . It originally aired on Saturday mornings on BBC Two from its launch on 16 September 2006, until the end of its fourth series on 19 December 2009. Sam & Mark were joined by Caroline...


Also mentioned in the song Emit Remmus on the Californication album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Other attractions

The square regularly hosts a fair each winter and a stage is erected for performances connected to other events such as the Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration...



The main electrical substation
Electrical substation
A substation is a part of an electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system. Substations transform voltage from high to low, or the reverse, or perform any of several other important functions...

 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
Wimbledon, London
Wimbledon is a district in the south west area of London, England, located south of Wandsworth, and east of Kingston upon Thames. It is situated within Greater London. It is home to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and New Wimbledon Theatre, and contains Wimbledon Common, one of the largest areas...

, 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. The implementation of the square commenced in December 2010 and is expected to be completed by April 2012, in time for London 2012.

External links

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