The history of Soho and some of its famous pubs

When in London, visitors are never short of places to explore and sights to see. This two thousand year charming capital of the UK is famous for its iconic landmarks and tourist attractions to see. London is all the more captivating because it is a perfect blend of the old and the contemporary. It is these features that have made it a major draw with tourists from across the globe.

Being a tourist haven, it offers the finest in luxury hotels to stay at with hotels like The Marble Arch by Montcalm London, being a popular place to stay, among visitors to the city. Being centrally located The Marble Arch by Montcalm London, offers easy access to all the prominent tourist attractions that are in close proximity.

If you want to spend an exciting evening in town with a visit to the theatre or go clubbing, then the West End, also known as the entertainment district is the place to be. Soho is the hub of entertainment in the city with a vibrant club culture that is second to none. The place has undergone a total transformation from the mid 1980s onwards, when it had the dubious distinction of being the red light district. While the adult entertainment industry still does exist albeit to a lesser degree, the area has seen steady development with up-market clubs, restaurants and cafes coming up all over the place.  Some of its more famous watering holes are:

De Hems

The De Hems is a local favourite with Soho locals with the place having historical significance, which is not known to many who visit it. It has always been a favourite watering hole with Dutch expats in the City of London since early days, when sailors feeling nostalgic about home used to frequent the place. When the First World War broke out its manager at the time Papa De Hem, helped each of his patrons by giving them £50, a princely sum in those times, to return to Holland. He felt the country needed them in their fight against the threat of German invasion. When eventually Holland came under German occupation in World War II, the pub became a focal point for Dutch Resistance fighters in exile. It continued to remain their stamping ground all through the war years. The place still retains its Dutch feel and the moment you step in and savour Holland’s famous bitterballen, served with authentic Fruli to wash it down with, you will feel as if you are in Holland. De Hems still remains a favourite with Dutch visitors as well as locals in the area.

The John Snow

In 1854, London was not a very salubrious place to live in, with dirt and squalor being rife in several parts of the city. With an ever growing population and no proper means of waste removal and disposal, it came as no surprise that it was a hotbed for a number of outbreaks and diseases.  It was in 1854 that the city saw a severe outbreak of cholera with people dying in large numbers. The source of the disease just could not be determined, until Dr. John Snow a celebrated anaesthetist and pioneer of epidemiology postulated that the cholera virus was spread through water.  He then got the local water pump at Broadwick Street turned off, and the spread and effect of the cholera virus began to diminish. It prevented a severe outbreak and as a consequence a grateful local pub owner in the Broadwick area, decided to name his pub after the good doctor. It is to be found in the same place and now is part of Sam Smith’s chain of pubs, across the city.

The French House

The French House has the distinction of being out of the best bars in Soho, with a rich history that goes back over a century ago to the Victorian Era. It was opened in 1891 by Herr Schmitt (a German national) and was originally named as the York Minster. After his death in 1911, his wife Bertha Margaretha Schmitt ran the place till 1914, when she sold it to Belgian Victor Berlemont and his family. After France was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War, the place became a regular meeting place for members of the French resistance, including General Charles de Gaulle.  Its connection with France was further strengthened during World War II and it is said that General De Gaulle penned his famous lines “À tous les Français” here, which rallied the citizens of France against German Occupation. The name the French House was only adopted later in 1984, after a fire broke out and damaged the place.  The place has a very Gallic feel to it with drinks served only in French measures. Remember there is no TV, or mobiles allowed being strictly a place for drinks and conversation!

The Dog and Duck

The rather idiosyncratically named “The Dog and Duck” pub is a major draw with Soho residents and tourists in the area. For those who are fans of literature particularly George Orwell, will be delighted to learn that it was his favourite drinking spot. It still retains its distinct charm and is a great place to enjoy a nice relaxed drink, with incredible interior decor that gives it a very warm and cozy ambience. Besides being George Orwell’s favourite haunt, it’s purported to have been patronised by John Constable, probably the most renowned British artist in history. Another well known patron was Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Madonna also had dropped in a few times in the last few years, and if you are lucky you might find a celebrity enjoying one of its delicious pints, when you visit!


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