In one of the twists of serendipity that make history research come alive for me, I happened on this statue of Charles II in Soho Square Gardens yesterday. It was only two days after visiting Grimsdyke Hotel in Harrow Weald where the statue once stood. You can see from the inscription that the restored statue was presented by Lady Gilbert, the widow of librettist W.S. Gilbert.
Apparently when the statue was first commissioned during the king’s lifetime, it was part of an ornate fountain which stood in the square, then called King Square. 150 years it was very much the worse for wear and removed to Grimsdyke, which was then the residence of the artist, Frederick Goodall.
A plaque in the square notes that Joseph Banks once lived at 32 Soho Square. I have a certain fascination for Banks, as he is often portrayed as the aristocratic antagonist to my hero, working class James Cook. Lets just say that his reputation was not enhanced in my eyes when I realised that he bought his home in Soho Square in 1779, at which time the notorious White House brothel was already established at 21 Soho Square.
I was also interested to read that underground the gardens are honeycombed with tunnels and air raid shelters from the Second World War.