HISTORY

Ever changing, always iconic, Leicester Square is truly unique, with a heritage shaped by events spanning nearly 400 years.

1631

Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, bought four acres in St. Martin’s Field in 1630. By 1635, he had built himself a large residence, Leicester House, at the northern end.

1710

Sir Isaac Newton had his London residence in St. Martin’s Lane, Leicester Square, a gable end house of three storeys.

1750

After parishioners appealed to King Charles I, Lord Leicester was ordered to keep part of his land, Leicester Fields, open to the public.

1760

Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy, moved into a large house on the west side of Leicester Square, with space to show his works and accommodate his assistants.

1792

Leicester House is demolished. It was the first home of the Holophusikon (The Leverian Museum), a natural history collection assembled by Ashton Lever.

1854

A popular theatre and music hall, the Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts opened on 18th March 1854. Later it reopened as The Alhambra.

1861

Jules Leotard, a revolutionary French acrobatic performer, developed the art of trapeze and debuted in the Panopticon in the Square. The one-piece gym wear is named after him.

1884

The Empire Theatre Opened on 17th April 1884 as a West End variety theatre on Leicester Square.

1937

The Odeon Cinema was built in 1937 to the design of Harry Weedon and Andrew Mather, on the site of the Turkish Baths and the adjoining Alhambra Theatre. The opening night was Tuesday 2nd November 1937. The film shown that night was The Prisoner of Zenda.

1960

Notre Dame de Paris has a crucifixion mural, including a self portrait painted by the French artist Jean Cocteau in 1960.

2012

The Square has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years. The works commenced in December 2010, and lasted for 17 months. The Square was reopened on 24th May 2012, with the listed William Shakespeare statue taking pride of place.

Today

Leicester Square is home to cinema land as well as Theatreland. Odeon Leicester Square, which dominates the east side of the Square, had the first digital projector in Europe (1999) and is the largest cinema in the Square. It is the home of the red carpet for international movie stars and is a leading world film première venue, showcasing films such as Bond’s Casino Royale (2011), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011), and the latest instalment of The Hunger Games (2014) to name but a few. Leicester Square is also home to a vast array of restaurants and retail outlets.