Seven Dials marks the convergence of 7 mysterious backstreets between Shaftesbury Ave and Longacre, part of the dangerous and filthy Rookery (or slum) of St Giles that stood on this site between the 17th and 19th Centuries. Famously depicted in William Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’, (1751), it was later described by Keats as a place ‘where misery clings to misery for a little warmth, and want and disease lie down side by side and groan together.’
Terrifying tales of the area being haunted date back to the 18th Century when a rumour started claiming that the Earl of Bedford, the man responsible for initially developing the land that became Covent Garden, had been buried with all his treasure under the sundial column that forms the centerpiece of 7 Dials. The ghosts are those poor unfortunates – the drunks and chancers who, on moonless nights made their way to the dark crossroads to try and find the buried gold, never to return. Widely known as a ‘hotbed of villainy’, 7 Dials was not somewhere to linger. Indeed it was widely acknowledged that ‘the walk through the Dials was an act that none but a lunatic would have attempted’. Carriages and riders, afraid of attack, would speed through the streets, rarely stopping for any unexpected obstacle and many of these late night would-be thieves were killed by these fast-moving vehicles.
To this very day it is said that drivers passing through 7 Dials on nights dark and still have seen glimpses of horrifying tortured figures rising slowly out of dark holes in the road, only to instantly vanish as the headlights fall on them…
Situated as our 7 Dials café is, right opposite the crossroads, we can’t say we’ve seen any sign of them – we’ve seen one or two tortured souls in the neighbourhood, that’s for sure, but none rising out of roads. But we like to keep an open mind about these things and we’re always willing to provide a restorative whiskey cocktail for anyone who does…
Balans Soho Society Café – 32-24 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9HA