Squares in London have been present for a long time. Coming in different forms, such as town or city squares and garden squares, such places go by different names in other countries such as plaza (Spain), piazza (Italy), and platz (Germany). Most of the squares in the United Kingdom started out as private communal gardens, which were intended for use by the surrounding houses. Today, most of these squares are open to the public while others, such as Notting Hill, are still private. Over the years, the term ‘square” has to come to have loose definitions since not all squares are square-shaped. Some of they may be triangular or shaped like a pentagon.
Naturally, all the squares are different. Some of the squares have pavements (such as Granary Square) while others may have grass, trees, or other forms of vegetation (such as Russell Square), especially for garden squares. These squares have several social functions. For example, a famous BBC drama, known as EastEnders, featured Albert Square while singer Kirsty Maccoll is commemorated at the Soho Square.
3. Trafalgar Square
This public square is located in the City of Westminster in Central London in the region that was previously called Charing Cross. The name was chosen in commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar, which was a naval war won by the British during the Napoleonic Wars back in 1805 off the coast of Spain’s Cape Trafalgar. Even before the construction of the square, the site of the square had been a significant landmark of the UK. For example, since the 13th century, it had the King’s Mews until King George IV shifted the Mews to Buckingham Palace. Upon the shifting, John Nash began the redevelopment of the area in 1826 but he passed away before its completion. His death delayed the work and pushed the opening of the square all the way to 1844 instead of the pre-planned opening of 1830.
The square is crucial as it plays host to several events throughout the year. For example, despite a lack of prearranged celebrations, many revelers gather at the square every year to celebrate the New Year. The celebrations are not prearranged because the relevant authorities have concerns of overcrowding. However, a prearranged Christmas Ceremony has been held every year at the square since 1947. The Christmas tree for the celebration is presented by Oslo (the capital city of Norway) as an appreciation for Britain’s help during World War II.
Aside from the revelry, the site is also a popular site for political demonstrations. One of the most famous rallies was the 1848 Chartist rally, which was planned by the working class in order to force social reforms. Recently, in 2011, the square was a site for a protest against the UK budget. Other uses for the square include sports and film productions.
2. Leicester Square
Leicester Square is a pedestrian square that is located in England’s West End. Constructed back in 1670, the square derives its name from the Leicester House, which is named after the second Earl of Leicester, Robert Sidney. Since its inauguration in 1670, the square has gone ahead to become an important landmark, especially for cinemas like the Odeon Leicester Square. Another crucial importance is the tourism revenue it generates. Tourists come to see its features such as the fountain of William Shakespeare, the park at its center, and its statues. The name ‘Leicester Square” does not only refer to the square itself but also to the regions in the immediate surroundings. These places include Coventry Street, St. Martin’s Street and others.
Over the years, the fortunes of the square have been varied. For example, the square was almost decrepit in the middle stages of the 19th century due to its constant change in ownership. However, it was saved by restoration efforts by politician Albert Grant into what it is today. Recently, the square was renovated for the 2012 London Olympics for a whopping £15 million over a period of 17 months.
Under the management of the Westminster City Council, the square serves several functions. One of its most important function is entertainment, which has earned the square the nickname ‘Theaterland.” One of the cinemas has the largest screen and the largest capacity with more than 1,600 seats. In fact, due to its prime location, it is usually a host of the annual London Film Festival. Other functions include hosting festivals related to the Chinese New Year under the organization of the London Chinatown Chinese Association. In addition, the square has the globe’s largest Lego store.
1. Parliament Square
This square is located in the northwestern region of central London’s Palace of Westminster. The square features a garden at the center while the western side has some trees. In addition, it also features twelve status of notable individuals such as political leaders including Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Millicent Fawcett, and others. Some of the notable buildings around the square include the likes of the church Westminster Abbey, the Middlesex Guildhall, and a few others. Located in the heart of London, the square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city.
The square was established back in 1868 in order to create room around the Palace of Westminster and ease the traffic. The very first traffic signals in London were installed at the square. The first architect responsible for the design was Sir Charles Barry who designed things like the Buxton Memorial Fountain, which was moved in 1940. Today, the fountain is situated close to the Victoria Tower Gardens. In 1950, George Grey Wornum, a British architect, was called in to redesign the place and made a few changes to the design.
In addition to being a popular tourist site, the square has also become the common place for protests. For example, a peace activist, Barbara Tucker, organized the Parliament Square Peace Campaign back in 2001 in order to remove economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations. Another popular protest was the Democracy Village peace camp in 2010 to protest against the involvement of the British in the affairs of the Middle East.