This is a narrow alley in Soho with a famous pub at one end, and — if you know the significance — a famous pizza outlet at the other.
The block bounded by Rupert Street on one side and Wardour Street on the other was laid out in the late 17th century – initially, it seems without the alley – and although described by John Strype in 1720 as “a pretty handsome, well built Street”, but despite that the whole block was rebuilt within the decade, and that seems to be when the alley was added.
Rupert Street itself was named after Prince Rupert, the cousin of King Charles I.
You’d think an alley that leads off Rupert Street would always have a related name, but in fact, Rupert Court used to be called George Court. The name changed in the 19th century.
On the corner is The Blue Posts pub. The building is known to date from 1729, and the pub to at least 1739, and may have been the original occupant. It’s been the Blue Posts pub though for nearly 300 years.
Although unproven, it’s thought that the name derives from blue posts that would have stood outside to hold sedan chairs which were for hire — an early taxi service, although a more convincing suggestion is that blue posts were erected to mark the limit of outdoor drinking. There is something local about the name though, as there are quite a few blue post pubs in Soho.
The building was altered and enlarged in the middle 19th century. The existing shopfront to Rupert Street and Rupert Court as well as the “Gothick” first floor window appear to date from the 1920s Regency Revival.
At the moment, the entire frontage of the building is a deep blue matching the pub name, but that’s new – it used to be more classically dark ground floor with a pale cream upper story. The current monolithic colour dates from 2016.
Next to it is one of the very many Chinese style restaurants in the area, and if you look up at the neat brickwork, it’s also recent, replacing a fairly garish mock-stone effect that was added in the late 1970s when it was that other staple of the area, a sex shop.
The alley was also once home to many striptease outlets, all swept away in recent years, so today it’s a fairly clean passage between two roads, and a convenient short-cut, lined mostly with the Chinese restaurants who have replaced the sexy outlets.
The other end of the alley has yet another Chinese venue – once the Garners steakhouse frequented by The Beatles, and there’s a fairly famous photo of them in the alley, which is now replicated by Beatles fans on a pilgrimage.
On the other corner though, is a branch of Pizza Express. While it looks like all the other Pizza Express branches, look at the blue plaque – this is the original one, opened in 1965.
The neon signs on the outside in the 1980s looked rather more “soho” at the time as well.
At the time, Italian food in the UK was a rarity, so this was a shocking arrival on the streets. Today, mid-range Italian restaurants can now be found on every high street, which is in part why so many of them are struggling now — we’re overloaded with pizza and pasta.
So if you fancy a Chinese takeaway in a spot once enjoyed by the Beatles, an original pizza and an ancient pint of beer, it’s a rather busy little alley.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] Rupert Court
- 2] Whitcomb Court
- 3] Long's Court
- 4] Tyler's Court
- 5] Cranbourn Alley
- 6] Tower Court
- 7] Mason's Yard, SW1
- 8] Lazenby Court
- 9] Conduit Court
- 10] Notre Dame de France
- 11] RC Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory
- 12] St James's Church Piccadilly