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Old Compton Street, London

3.2
#1540 of 3,642 in Things to do in London
Old Compton Street is a road that runs east–west through Soho in the West End of London.
The street was named after Henry Compton who raised funds for a local parish church, eventually dedicated as St Anne's Church in 1686. The area in general and this street in particular became the home of Huguenots, French Protestant refugees who were given asylum in England by Charles II in 1681.
By the end of the 18th century, fewer than ten of the houses were without shop fronts. In the middle of the 19th century, while there were some workshops too, as well as restaurants and public houses, the ground floors of most of the houses were still used as shops. The number of people of overseas descent continued to grow and the street became a meeting place for exiles, particularly those from France: after the suppression of the Paris Commune, the poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine often frequented drinking haunts here.
Old Compton Street had its resident curiosity in the form of Wombwell's Menagerie. George Wombwell kept a boot and shoe shop on the street between 1804 and 1810 and, by all accounts, was quite an entrepreneur. Of short statue and an alcoholic, he nonetheless built up three hugely successful menageries from a starting point of two snakes bought at a bargain price. The menageries travelled around England and made him a wealthy man before his death in 1850.
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  • Loads of street cafes/bars for all persuasions here! Most are nice, some want a lick of paint! That's the bars not the pedestrians! Very easy to access this street. I did see one-two undesirables hang...  more »
  • We stayed in an apartment here and we fell in love with this lively atmospheric street! There is so much to eat, see, and do on Old Compton street. We took a walk at 11 at night and the streets were b...  more »
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