Gardener’s Hut Soho Square

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building which you might have passed without noticing. Now virtually obscured by the building works of CrossRail this little tool shed is a uniquely London curio, which according to local legend contained the entrance to a secret tunnel that links to Buckingham Palace or could, it is thought, have been built by the Charing Cross Electricity Company in the 1920s, to hide an electricity substation.

[N]ow architecturally, the shed is, we are told, an octagonal market cross building in the Tudorbethan style and today the two-storey hut is a Grade II listed structure.

In the 1960s Soho Square was home to some very enterprising vagrants. Before the days when Westminster Council’s raison d’être was raising money from parking charges, you could leave a vehicle in the square at a place ’reserved’ by a chamois leather wielding chap, and for 2/6d have one’s car washed and guarded for the evening.

Soho Square had only been open to the public since April 1954. Previously named King’s Square for a statue of King Charles II once stood at its centre, and was possibly the earliest London square to be built around a purposely laid out and enclosed garden, which was created in 1680-81

In February 1886 the local residents had spent £1,200 on improvements; at which time the Monarch’s likeness had been removed. At the time so corroded by the London air nobody was sure if it was a likeness of the King or the Duke of Monmouth.

The statue was replaced by the present timbered structure. Part tool shed, part arbour, part pigeon perch. New railings by architect S. J. Thacker were erected and it is presumed the Elizabethan tool shed is also his work.

Recently a bench commemorating the late Kirsty MacColl was placed in the garden. An inscription reads ’One day I’ll be waiting there/No empty bench in Soho Square’. A line from the English singer-songwriter’s track Soho Square on her album Titanic Days.

The car washers of yesterday could have made use of that bench after their labours washing my car.

Gardener’s hut Soho Square by Panhard (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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