district in London, United Kingdom

Soho is an area of the City of Westminster and the West End of London. It is long established as an entertainment district. For much of the 20th century Soho had sex shops, prostitutes, jazz clubs, bars, night clubs, theatres and the movie industry.

Soho Palace Theatre
OS grid referenceTQ295815
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
UK Parliament
  • Cities of London and Westminster
London Assembly
List of places

Since the early 1980s, the area has changed greatly: it has moved upmarket.[1] It now is a fashionable district of expensive restaurants and media offices, with only a few sex industry venues. Some music venues survive, such as Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. The area includes Carnaby Street, the centre of the 'Swinging London' fashion scene of the 1960s, and Wardour Street, a centre of the movie and entertainment industry.


Map of Soho

Soho was never an administrative unit with formal boundaries. It is an area of about a square mile, bounded by Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, Leicester Square to the south and Charing Cross Road to the east. Apart from Oxford Street, all of these roads are 19th-century metropolitan improvements.

The area to the west is known as Mayfair, to the north Fitzrovia, to the east St Giles and Covent Garden, and to the south St James's. According to the Soho Society, Chinatown, the area between Leicester Square to the south and Shaftesbury Avenue to the north, is part of Soho, although some consider it a separate area.

Broad Street pump

John Snow memorial, with John Snow pub in the background

A significant event in the history of epidemiology and public health was Dr. John Snow's study of an 1854 outbreak of cholera in Soho.[2] He identified the cause of the outbreak as water from the public water pump located at the junction of Broad Street (now Broadwick Street) and Cambridge Street (now Lexington Street), close to the rear wall of what is today the John Snow public house.

John Snow mapped the addresses of the sick, and noted that they were mostly people whose nearest access to water was the Broad Street pump. He persuaded the authorities to remove the handle of the pump, thus preventing any more of the infected water from being collected. The spring below the pump was later found to have been contaminated with sewage. This is an early example of epidemiology, public health medicine and the application of science–the germ theory of disease.[3]

Science writer Steven Johnson describes the 2006 appearance of places related to the Broad Street Pump cholera outbreak:

Almost every structure that stood on Broad Street in the late summer of 1854 has been replaced by something new... Even the streets' names have been altered. Broad Street was renamed Broadwick in 1936. The pump, of course, is long gone, though a replica with a small plaque stands several blocks from the original site on Broad Street... On Broad Street itself, only one business has remained constant over the century and half that separates us from those terrible days in September 1854. You can still buy a pint of beer at the pub on the corner of Cambridge Street, not fifteen steps from the site of the pump that once nearly destroyed the neighbourhood. Only the name of the pub is changed. It is now called The John Snow.[3]

A replica of the pump, with a memorial plaque and without a handle (to signify John Snow's action to halt the outbreak) was erected near the location of the original pump.

Theatre and movie industry


Soho is near the heart of London's theatre area, and is a centre of the independent movie and video industry as well as the television and movie 'post-production' industry.[4] It is home to Soho Theatre, built in 2000 for new plays and stand-up comedy. The British Board of Film Classification, formerly known as the British Board of Film Censors, can be found in Soho Square.

Soho is criss-crossed by a rooftop telecommunication network, and below ground level with fibre optics making up Sohonet, which connects the Soho media and post-production community to British movie studios such as Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios, and to other major production centres (such as Rome, New York City, Los Angeles, Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand.

There are also plans by Westminster Council to deploy high-bandwidth Wi-Fi networks in Soho as part of a programme to further encourage the development of the area as a centre for media and technology industries.


  1. To 'move upmarket' = to become expensive and respectable.
  2. Making the Modern World — John Snow and the Broad Street pump
  3. 3.0 3.1 Steven Johnson 2006. The Ghost Map: the story of London's most terrifying epidemic and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world. Riverhead Books, New York. 227-8
  4. Post-production: all work done after filming.

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