This upmarket looking Soho passageway lined with posh shops and a hotel is a far cry from what it looked like just a decade ago — as one of the last remaining WWII bomb sites in central London.

Indeed, the run-down site with the empty plot of land fenced off in otherwise busy Soho was a curious relic and people of a curious mind, almost a tourist attraction to seek out and explore.

Now, it’s just another posh yard with expensive shops.

Originally though, Ham Yard was a square courtyard leading off Great Windmill Street – and called Windmill Yard. Unsurprisingly from the name, yes, there was a windmill here, which survived up to the 1690s.

By the 1740s, it had already been renamed Ham Yard after the Ham pub that stood there, and there were the beginnings of Denman Place on the other side — although given the less appealing name at the time of Stab Yard.

John Rocque’s map 1746

Ham Yard remained largely unchanged for most of the next couple of centuries, although Stab Yard had been enlarged and renamed the more wholesome Wellington Mews by the late Victorian era. The mews was, however, rebuilt in the 1930s as a replacement for the horse-drawn carriage — a multi-story car park called Moon’s Garage.

The main change took place when the whole northern side of the yard was destroyed during WWII, and apart from clearance and being fenced off, it remained an odd sight in busy Soho.

It’s not that there hadn’t been attempts to do something with the site in the past, it’s just that they never got built. In 1979 it was nearly turned into a theatre. In 1984, an office was planned, nearly a cinema in 1986, an office again in 1992, and a mixed-use scheme in 2003.

An office was again proposed in 2008, but in 2011, the current hotel development was approved — and, at long last, built.

So now there’s an expensive hotel and a cluster of expensive shops surrounding a yard that has merged the older Denman Place and Ham Yard into one location. Initially, they kept the two names, but in 2016, they merged the two distinct names into just Ham Yard.

Although the site looks like an alley surrounded by buildings, in truth, the alley passes over the hotel as well — as it extends two floors down, and the basement covers the entire site. A bit of an iceberg situation.

There’s a small cluster of decorative trees and the obligatory public art — Group by Tony Cragg, a rather amorphous bronze blob.

On my visit, the small parking space in front of the hotel was filled with cars that cost more than my house. A lot of men in black were walking around, giving each other instructions about what to do when the group of VIPs came down, how secure their access from the hotel to the car was, and the route to take to get to their destination.

It’s all a far cry from the derelict bomb site that stood here for decades.

Around the corner though the Ham pub which gave the yard and alley their names is still there, although renamed The Lyric in 1890s, and rebuilt in 1906. It closed and was nearly demolished in 2006, but reopened a couple of years later and is now a very busy pub indeed.

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6 comments
  1. Dale Evans says:

    My memory is that there was also an old fashioned cafe sharing that site. Proper old style American type diner?

  2. Will Oliver says:

    Is this the Ham Yard that was the location of The Scene club in the late 1070’s ?

  3. Will says:

    πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ sorry 1970’s of course.

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