Soho: A History of London's Most Colourful Neighbourhood by Judith Summers - review by Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

Murder Mile

Soho: A History of London's Most Colourful Neighbourhood


Bloomsbury 240pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

I have an old map of London, dating back to 1574, on which Soho is marked as an area of open fields and woods, with a few weird looking animals - like a cross between horses, cows and geese - dotted about. It always produces a powerful nostalgia to look to the north of Oxford Street (then Tyburn Road) and find nothing but green fields intersected with streams and cart tracks. I experienced much the same kind of nostalgia as I read Judith Summers' Soho (unnecessarily subtitled 'A History of London's Most Colourful Neighbourhood') and learned, for example, that until the mid-19th century, Soho was full of barns and stables, and its most characteristic odour was of cow dung.

According to Summers, Soho began to acquire its sinister reputation in September 1683, when a strange metal coffin was found near Soho Square; through a glass panel in the lid a human corpse could be seen floating in some kind of clear liquid. All kinds of rumours of assassination flew

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