Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Greek Court- another lost alleyway with a note on Rimbaud Verlaine and the lost Little Compton Street

If you walk along Great Compton Street in Soho you’ll see a doorway at 14a with CC camera and various intercoms. However what is of most interest is the street sign “Greek Court “posted on the right of the doorway. There have been remarks on the internet that this must be the shortest street in London but I have seen the alley stretching back quite away when the door was left open. The alley looks greasy and dilapidated but apparently is the entrance to various holiday apartments. As zorrodp notes at

Greek Court was stopped up/gated in the early '90s:

Local councils in London have been letting go various alleys, lanes and courts over the last few decades to private developers. It remains unclear as to whether they were even given a price for relinquishing these public thoroughfares. Other such alleys and lanes that have been handed over have been Ivy Bridge Lane, Miles Place, Man in the Moon Passage, Dunn’s Passage ( more about that alley in a future entry) Heathcock Court, Prince’s Circus and Castle Place.

Greek Court, like nearby Greek street, was named after a Greek Church built on Hog’s Lane , now Charing Cross Road, in 1677. Unfortunately the Greeks  migrated to another part of London and the church fell on hard times, and was taken over by incoming French Huguenots in 1684. The St Martin’s College of Art building now stands on the site of the church.

If you stand on the traffic island in the middle of Charing Cross Road and look down through the grid you can see another mysterious street sign, Little Compton Street. This once connected Old Compton Street with New Compton Street and appears to have vanished in the development of Charing Cross Road. As to why this street sign is now underground remains a mystery.

The Hibernia Pub stood at 5 Little Compton Street and it was frequented by Rimbaud and Verlaine during their London sojourn. Alan Parish in his London’s Pride wrote that: "Before long they found more congenial surroundings in which to meet friends and talk. Chief of these meeting places was the bar at 5 Little Compton Street ... It was in such unpretentious surroundings that the refugees from the Commune gathered and some of the two friends' finest poetry written. Verlaine finished his collection later published as Romances sans Paroles and Rimbaud, using a new verse form, the prose-poem, continued Les Illuminations. In one of these last, relying on the arrangement of distorted images, he gives a surreal impression of the garish, gas-lit West End." 

Rimbaud and Verlaine apparently belonged to the "Cercle d'études sociales" which met on the first floor of the Hibernia pub.

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Actually there are two street signs for Little Compton Street beneath the grille, one in enamel, white lettering on blue background, and a little below that a white bacground that appears to be directly painted on to the brickwork, with black lettering.
It could be speculated that these signs are for the use of sewer workers to help direct them around the system.
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