There’s a long history of hospitality here on Great Chapel Street, especially at No 22. Great Chapel Street and Hollen Street were originally built in 1695.
This street has seen all sorts of trade, apothecaries, carriage makers, cabinet makers, the hat factory, the Ivor Novello music factory, and my personal favourite, Watsons gin shop, which traded in Great Chapel Street in the 1846.
There is a long history of slaking Londoners thirst here at No.22, a public house / tavern has been on the site since at least 1790. Originally The George (it was the Crown for just 1 year in 1846) it then became The Bloemfontein in 1895, the original stone sign is still in place above the door on the first floor). In 1904, fearing for the temperance of the nation, the government sought to reduce the numbers of pubs by offering licensees the opportunity to relinquish their license in return for compensation, the landlord of The Bloemfontein gave up his licence and the pub closed its doors around 1909.
In 1933 on May 25th (exactly 82 years ago today) my Dad’s Dad, Ambrose Forte purchased a ‘Confectioners and tea shop’ and named it The Star (we’re not sure what it as called before) and our family have been here ever since. My granddad, my dad and now me.
A lot has happened in 82 years… HC Beck revolutionized the Underground map in 1933. The Second World War which brought rationing and the blitz, during which time my granddad kept a diary of all the nights they paid a bomb spotter to sit on the roof and watch for fires. King Edward’s abdication, the first TV broadcast (which was from Frith Street, Soho), Gone with the Wind, the birth of the National Health Service, two Olympics and the moon landing. Elvis, The Festival of Britain, Ella Fitzgerald at the 100 Club, The Beatles, decimalisation, Mods, Rockers, the birth of Punk, Grease, the 3 day week, the Miner’s strike, the poll tax riots, Abba, Live Aid, big hair, even bigger shoulder pads, Black Monday, Reservoir dogs, an earthquake, the recession, Facebook, Twitter, Crossrail! Goodness we could go on… and that is what we intend and hope to do. Soho is changing, with so few small, family run businesses left, however we intend to continue to bring hospitality and refreshment to the people of London, as has been done from 22 Great Chapel Street since 1790!