Old Compton Street in London's Soho.

June 7, 2017

Coleman Cohen Tobacco Shop, Old Compton Street, 1966.

The Virgin was a pipe made by Comoy's of London from the finest briar.

 

Old Compton Street in the Soho district of London is featured in MAELSTROM (my new m/m romance) as the location for Random Funk – the fictional gay strip club where Kylor tracks down Eden.

 

Originally named Compton Street, the first buildings were erected here around the middle of the 17th century for French immigrants, artists and shopkeepers on former farmland known as Soho Fields.

 

By the turn of the 18th century virtually every building either had a shop front or was a tavern. Some of the trades represented were pianofortemaker, waxchandler, tinman and two gilders. As the leaseholds of the time indicated, virtually every building was owned by foreign immigrants as London became a magnet for those escaping religious persecution across Europe.

 

In the first half of the 20th century, there were more cafes and restaurants, alongside newsagents and tobacconists, but soon the sex industry began to dominate the whole of Soho, which for a time became regarded as a red-light district.

 

Westminster City Council decided to clean up the district in the early 1980’s and by 1987 there were just three strip clubs, two soft porn cinemas and a lot of vacant premises remaining in some of London's prime real estate.

 

During this period, the Swiss Tavern in Old Compton Street (already known for being "not entirely straight") closed for renovations and when it re-opened in 1986 it rebranded itself as a gay bar called Comptons of Soho. Other similar business premises opened around it and eventually Old Compton Street became the centre of London’s gay community.

 

In 1999 Old Compton Street was targeted by a militant neo-nazi who killed three people with a nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan pub. In defiance at the attack on its community, the pub hung the rainbow flag outside of its premises, flouting the council’s planning regulations.

 

In solidarity with the gay community in Orlando, in 2016 thousands crammed into Old Compton Street to hold a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings.

 

   

 

 

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