Save Soho: Fascinating old photos of the vibrant heart of London's West End over the years

Campaigners are battling to save Soho, the vibrant heart of London's West End, from the worst ravages of gentrification. The area's independent shops, clubs and restaurants, often owned by generation after generation of immigrant families, are being demolished to make way for luxury apartments for the wealthy.

Successive waves of immigrants – French Huguenots, Jews, Russians, Italians and Chinese – helped shape Soho's unique character. The area is a jumble of sex shops, textile wholesalers and bespoke tailors, independent record stores and shops catering to the counter-culture, world famous live music venues, gay bars, plus one of the oldest street markets in London.

In December 2014, singer and songwriter Tim Arnold created the campaign group Save Soho after the closure and repossession of Madame Jojo's. Backed by celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch and Marc Almond, the group's aim is to protect the area's music and performing arts venues. Soho is in Arnold's genes – both his mother and his grandparents were cabaret performers in Soho nightclubs. (See the rather saucy photo of his grandparents performing at the Raymond Revue Bar towards the end of this gallery of Soho scenes over the years.)

Circa 1910: The smallest shop in London at 4 Bateman Street, Soho. The shop, occupied by a cobbler, is six feet long, five feet high and two feet deep. The rent is three pounds a week.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
10 April 1913: English lessons for Italian children at a school in Soho. Signor de Villa instructs boys in reading and spelling.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
14 June 1913: Crowds watch the cortege of suffragette Emily Davison, who was killed by the King's horse at the Derby, passing Eros at Piccadilly Circus.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
November 1933: The bustling market on Berwick Street in the heart of London's Soho.Fox Photos/Getty Images
24 November 1933: Men raise their glasses in a public house in London's Soho.Fox Photos/Getty Images
circa 1937: A small crowd gathers to watch a man trying to extract himself from chains on a street in Soho.General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
22 May 1940: A shopkeeper removes the word 'Italian' from the sign above his restaurant in Soho, after anti-Italian riots throughout Britain.Arthur Tanner/Fox Photos/Getty Images
15 August 1945: Crowds assemble in Piccadilly Circus to celebrate the news of Japan's surrender and the end of the Second World War.Keystone/Getty Images
1 January 1955: Revellers cram into London's Piccadilly Circus to count in the New Year.Harry Kerr/BIPs/Getty Images
1955: Waiters carrying half bottles of champagne set off on the annual waiters' race from Soho Square to Greek Street.Slim Aarons/Getty Images
10 July 1955: The prize-winning float parades through the streets upon the opening of the Soho Fair.Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images
August 1955: A rainy night in SohoBIPS/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
25 November 1955: US troops and their girlfriends say goodbye in Piccadilly Circus after leaving the Club Americana, a Saturday night jazz club open from midnight until 7amKeystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
12 June 1956: People look at notices outside a newsagent's shop on Frith Street, where a newspaper board reads: 'They saved London'John Firth/BIPs/Getty Images
8 July 1956: A man in drag heads a carnival procession down Old Compton Street during the Soho Fair.Ron Gerelli/Express/Getty Images
21 July 1956: Andria Loran, a model who was democratically elected Queen of Soho 1956, stands in the doorway of the Mambo Club, keenly noticed by an onlooker.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
5 September 1956: Youths hang out on the backstreets of Soho.Werner Rings/BIPs/Getty Images
February 1958: Singer and guitarist Bill Kent entertains some teenage fans in The Two I's Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho.John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images
18 June 1960: Policemen try to control fans of the rock and roll singer, Tommy Steele, outside Saint Patrick's Church on Soho Square, where he is to be married to Ann Donoghue.Fox Photos/Getty Images
1 November 1960: The reverend Vernon Mitchell visits numerous strip clubs in Soho to determine what should be censored.Peter Dunne/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
January 1963: Dressed in minuscule fur bikinis, Kean Fluffles, Angela Parker and Audrey Crane perform in London's Casino de Paris in Soho.John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images
30 April 1965: Actress Barbara Windsor and her husband Ronnie Knight sit with Reggie Kray and his wife Frances Shea at the El Morocco nightclub in Soho, owned by the Kray Twins.Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
16 February 1966: A man sweeps his cloak around him after getting out of a sports car on Carnaby Street.John Waterman/Fox Photos/Getty Images
11 May 1966: Men watch as a model takes part in a photo shoot in the window of a new Henry Moss boutique on London's fashionable Carnaby Street.John Downing/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
13 May 1966: A sign offering a brand of briar pipes for sale at a reduced rate is seen at Coleman Cohen tobacco shop in Old Compton Street.Roberts/BIPs/Getty Images
September 1966: Two men look at each other while standing on a street corner in Soho.BIPS/Getty Images
27 November 1966: John Lennon, dressed as a Public Lavatory Commissionaire during the filming of the 'Not Only...But Also' Christmas Special, starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, stands outside a public convenience on Broadwick Street.Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images
1969: Dickie and Dottie Arnold, the grandparents of troubadour and Save Soho campaigner Tim Arnold, perform at The Raymond Revue BarSave Soho
16 January 1973: A group of men admire the photographs in the window of Swingland Sauna and Massage Parlour in Soho.Fox Photos/Getty Images
12 October 1973: New rubberised, coloured paving tiles are unveiled on Carnaby Street, as part of Westminster City Council's £60,000 face-lift for the pedestrianised street.Graham French/BIPs/Getty Images

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