Before its construction, the square was once a plot of land owned by Earl of Leicester Robert Sidney, who purchased it from the government in the 1630s. When the land was walled and used exclusively by the rich, it sparked a public outcry. King Charles II responded to the outcry by making the field public once again.
In the late 17th to 18th century, the square became popular for its duels, which originated from a pub quarrel between British officers which ended with a fatality. As the land was became developed and eventually made into a public square, it soon became a popular location for entertainment. An opera house and a museum was then built near the square.