Celebrities from all over the world have been flocking to London like moths to a flame, but Soho in particular seems to have been holding a special place for artists, musicians, writers, intellectuals and progressive minds in London for over a hundred years.
Stretching from Regent Street to the west, Oxford Street to the north, Charing Cross Road to the east and Chinatown to the south, Soho was little more than a space of open fields until the 17th century, but it gradually transformed into a suburb packed full of the fancy homes and workshops for artisans which drew in people from all over the city, and even the UK as well.
After the European revolutions of 1848, German, Italian and Hungarian radicals fled to London; and after making their homebase in Soho, they eventually started opening a variety of restaurants specializing in international cuisine. It's because of this that Soho was suddenly transformed into a "bohemian utopia," especially during the 1930s and 1940s. Eventually Soho became known around the world as being one of the bohemian capitals of Europe, and soon celebrities, writers, artists and even philosophers and politicians settled down in Soho in order to thrive in the local artistic community.
Some famous individuals like Francis Bacon and Dylan Thomas were known to frequent Soho's many pubs, but these five famous artists were lucky enough to call Soho their home:
1. William Blake
This famous 18th century poet became a household name thanks to his Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence, which helped put his name on the poetry map thanks to the various mystical and philosophical undertones in his writing.
Blake was both born and raised in Soho (he was born at 28 Broad Street, Carnaby Market but also lived at 8 Marshall St.), and actually only spent three years of his life living outside of London.
Although Blake's house has since been demolished, you can still see a blue plaque marking the spot of where he was born, and there's even a nearby block of flats that were named after him as well.
2. Joseph Haydn
The world-famous Austrian composer who has been described as everything from the "Father of the Symphony" to the "Father of the String Quartet" and even the "Shakespeare of Music," had actually spent a short period of time living in Soho at the height of his career.
Haydn only lived at 18 Great Pulteney Street from January 1791 to July 1792, and had chosen the location because it was conveniently close to the Hanover Square Rooms (where he was a resident composer), as well as near the King's Theatre in Haymarket (where he was asked to write an opera). Haydn also frequented the nearby Catholic chapel in Golden Square during his time in Soho, as he was a devout Catholic.
However, Haydn wasn't particularly fond of his time in Soho as he complained that the area was quite noisy. Nevertheless an English Heritage blue plaque was erected on the address in his honour back in 2015, which the Haydn Society of Great Britain had been pushing to do for nearly 50 years!
3. Karl Marx
Followed by the European revolution in 1848, Karl Marx (known today as being one of the world's most revolutionary socialists) was forced to flee from Germany to London, where he eventually spent the rest of his life working in The British Museum to research for his future piece of work: Das Kapital.
Marx and his family lived at 28 Dean Street in Soho between 1851 and 1856, although his time in the home wasn't exactly a happy one. He was living on small sums of money working as a foreign correspondent for a New York newspaper, and three of his six children died at the address during their time there. After his wife Jenny inherited £120 from her mother , the family eventually moved out of Soho into a more liveable accommodation in Kentish Town.
4. Jeffrey Bernard
Often referred to as "The Soho Tom Sawyer," Jeffrey Bernard was a famous British journalist who was known best for writing nearly 1,000 of his "Low Life" columns in The Spectator magazine). But to those who lived in Soho, he was also known as being one of the "Soho Set" along with Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Peter O'Toole, Lester Piggott and Graham Greene, among others.
Although Bernard was born and raised in London, he immediately fell in love with Soho's alternative, bohemian lifestyle when he first visited the area in 1946. He used to frequent the many pubs along Dean Street and Old Compton Street (although his favourite pub was The Coach and Horses on Greek Street), and became so well-known for drinking himself into a stupor, his life (and drinking) was later immortalized into Keith Waterhouse's hit West End play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, which helped make Bernard famous around the world.
5. William Hazlitt
During the course of his career Hazlitt wrote for various newspapers and journals (with his most famous work being Of Persons One Would Wish To Have Seen), and his work was admired by the likes of John Keats and John Hamilton Reynolds.
As a matter of fact, Hazlitt had become so famous over the years, that his former residence at 6 Frith Street in Soho was eventually transformed into one of the area's most fashionable hotels and named after him (Hazlitt's). The address was actually the last home Hazlitt ever lived in, and apparently much of the interior has been left relatively untouched since his death.
If you're a hardcore Hazlitt fan but you don't have the funds to pay for a £200 a night room in Hazlitt's Hotel, you can still visit his grave in St. Anne's churchyard (which is about a three-minute walk away from his former residence).
Fascinated with Soho? Join us on our free Soho Tour every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. from M&M's World in Leicester Square!