Leicester Square was originally common land, owned by Westminster Abbey, where cattle could be grazed and washing hung out without charge. Robert Sydney, the Second Earl of Leicester, bought it, in 1630 and built Leicester House at the northern end and enclosed it, but King Charles I ensured the Gardens stayed accessible to Londoners.The House became derelict but the grounds were rescued in 1874 by Albert Grant MP who planted an ornamental garden around a fountain of dolphins dedicated to William Shakespeare to help gentrify the area. Statues were added to the artist William Hogarth and painter Joshua Reynolds, (who both lived around The Square in 18th century) the scientist Sir Isaac Newton and surgeon John Hunter.Today, only the playwright remains, but in 1981 he was joined by a bronze of film star Charlie Chaplin reflecting the Garden’s position at the heart of London’s stage and screen. The surrounding theatres and cinemas continue to host film premiers and red carpet events attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world and helping secure its place as the easy to find official start of the Jubilee Walkway since 1977. Her Majesty The Queen opened the Walkway here on 04/06/1992 and the panel was updated in July 2003 and unveiled by Cllr Jan Prendergast but went missing in 2012. A new panel is planned in the near future.
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