Chinese New Year (PDF)

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Author: Melanie Backe-Hansen

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The 31st January 2014 saw
the beginning of the Chinese
New Year - the year of the
horse - with celebrations
taking place in London on
2nd February.

At this time the annual rateable value of the
larger houses in Gerrard Street ranged from
£120-£200, which equates to around £14,000
to £22,000 in today’s money, but with a buying
power of approximately between £2 million and
£3.5 million.

At the heart of the celebrations stands
Chinatown, centred on Gerrard Street, between
Shaftesbury Avenue and Lisle Street in the West
End. It may appear as if this area has been
home to the Chinese community for
generations, but in fact it is barely 60 years old.

By the 18th century, Gerrard Street and the
surrounding area had evolved into a lively
centre of London and became the home of
many celebrated residents, including a number
of artists and writers. The poet John Dryden
lived in Gerrard Street during the late 17th
century, and Samuel Johnson and Joshua
Reynolds met at the former pub The Turk’s
Head where they founded The Club in 1764.
Later, Ronnie Scott’s jazz club was founded in
the basement of No.39 Gerrard Street, and in
1968 another basement flat was the location
for the first rehearsal of Led Zeppelin.

The original Chinatown of London was not in
the West End, but was by the banks of the
Thames at Limehouse in the East End. It was
first established during the 18th century when
Chinese sailors, employees of the East India
Company, began to settle in London. This small
community continued to develop during the
19th century with shops and businesses, but all
this changed after extensive bomb damage was
inflicted on the docks during the Second World
War. A large portion of the old Chinatown was
destroyed and the Chinese community were
forced to move elsewhere.
Prior to the developments of today’s
Chinatown, the area looked much like the
surrounding areas of Covent Garden and Soho.
Gerrard Street (original spelt “Gerard”) was first
built as a residential street during the 1670s
and 80s, shortly after the Great Fire of London.
At this time it belonged to Charles, Lord Gerard
who became the 1st Earl of Macclesfield, which
also gave the name for Macclesfield Street. The
earliest residents during the 1680s were largely
wealthy Londoners and members of the
aristocracy, including William Cavendish later
1st Duke of Devonshire.

Address: 52 Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 5DS

It was during the 1950s and 60s that the area
around Gerrard Street began to evolve into the
Chinatown we know today.
After the Second World War, with returning
servicemen having experienced the food and
culture in the Far East, along with a growing
number of immigrants from Hong Kong, new
restaurants and businesses began to open in
the area, particularly helped by cheap rents and
short leases at the time.
By the 1980s, the new Chinatown of London
was firmly established, with a large number of
restaurants, as well as schools, bookshops,
doctors, and a growing number of businesses.
In 1985 the first organised Chinese New Year
celebrations took place in Chinatown and by the
end of the 80s the familiar Chinese gates and
Chinese street furniture were installed. Today,
Chinatown has become an integral part of the
life of the West End.

Phone: +44 (0) 207 268 2030


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