Some years ago I purchased a book called “Traditional Shops of London-STILL OPEN” by Black Dog Press.

It was a book that created a photo essay and story of the stores and shops that are over one hundred and twenty five years old in continuous operation.

The credits went to the author and to the photographer Brian Benson of London. Brian is a noted London photographer and documentarian.

I contacted him to ask him a few questions about the book and whether there were any other places discovered since publication.

I was headed to London and intending on following the trail of all these retail shops mentioned in this fascinating book.

At the time he was busy contracted doing photography work for the London Olympics.

By the time I arrived the Olympics were over and he was gracious enough to give us a walking tour of London through the keen eyes of a London photographer.

We walked for perhaps ten or fifteen kilometers on his well thought out pathway that left no steps unproductive.

We would find ourselves perfectly aligned with photos of London that aligned the Horse Guards with the London Eye and many other tourist views.

Our aspiration and interests were the people in this community that have been involved in the retail and craft trades for many generations.

The tour/walk was exceedingly inspiring and when chatting with a grouchy old shop owner he recanted the story of his place in the book.

He exclaimed, “the book said We’ve been in business four hundred and twenty five years…….We moved a hundred and seventy five years ago….so we’ve not been here that whole time!”

Today we’ve reconnected with Brian Benson just to rekindle our relationship and by doing so we get the benefit of his wise counsel.

We spend our afternoon is the SoHo district of London. I enquired to the origin of the name “SoHo” and got an immediate answer.

Brian states “SoHo was a hunting call similar to the cry “tally ho” and back at the time of the London fire 1666,  SoHo was a hunting grounds for the king and royalty.

Today the SoHo area is bound by Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road tube stops.

It includes Carnaby Street, a street that has been popular for many years and is most associated with the 1960’s Flower Generation era. I think of “Twiggy” an icon of that era and area.

In years past a couple of streets have been known for sex shops and prostitutes, so the “hunting grounds” SoHo still vaguely applies.

The SoHo that is associated in New York City is an acronym for the words “South of Houston”.

The London SoHo district of today is known for the theatre trade, most major plays and opera’s can be found here.

We all agreed this part of London seemed more “human scale”, though filled with people everywhere the minute you step off onto a side street the density of people drops exponentially.

We’ve found ourselves having lunch at a new cafe and jazz club called Zedel. We duck in off the street and head down a beautifully appointed fight or two of steps. Far, far below the din of traffic created on street level.

We were unprepared for the magnitude of this amazing restaurant. Brian was the guide and he hadn’t intended to show us the mundane. We once again hit pay dirt with our association with him.

The adventure of London continues. “SOHO’!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.