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Leicester Square

London WC2

Leicester Square, now one of London's favourite tourist meeting places, was once a fashionable place to live.

It was laid out in 1670 south of Leicester House; a long-gone royal residence.  The square's early residents included the scientist Isaac Newton and the painters Joshua Reynolds and Willam Hogarth.  From his elegant studio at No.46 Reynolds made his fortune painting high society portraits.

In 1801 Hogarth's house, in the south-east corner of the square, became the Hôtel de la Sablionère, probably the area's first public restaurant.

In the mid-19th century Leicester Square was famous for its music halls including the Empire, now a cinema of the same name, and the Alhambra, which was replaced in 1937 by the Art Deco Odeon.

By the late-20th century Leicester Square had become run down and seedy.  Fortunately Westminster Council decided to refurbish the area in the 1990's and today is is a pleasant, if rather over-crowded space.

The Shakespeare fountain in the Square dates from an earlier renovation in 1874, and the statue of Charlie Chaplin by John Doubleday was unveiled in 1981.

Leicester Square is surrounded by buildings housing some of London's largest cinemas.  These include the Empire and the black-clad Odeon, venues for many film premières.

In the north-west corner of the square is the Swiss Centre with its hourly chiming cowherd clock.

An important part of Leicester Square is the Society of West End Theatre's 'Half-Price Ticket Booth'.  Housed in the Clocktower Building by the south entrance to the gardens, this sells cut-price tickets on the day of the performance for a wide range of mainstream shows.  Open Monday to Saturday from noon for matinees, and 2.30 - 6.30 pm for evening performances, tickets are sold on a first come first served basis and there is a limit of four tickets per customer. Payment must be by cash and a small service charge is payable.

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