This is an alley on Old Compton Street that’s still technically public, but also legitimately sealed off from the public.
It first shows up as an unnamed gap between the houses facing what was known at the time as Little Compton Street leading to three homes that were still at the time surrounded by fields.
The back of the alley ended with what was a theatre built in 1911 by Montagu Pyke with its main entrance on Charing Cross Road. However, it struggled and suffered from a fire until it was bought by Gaumont and rebranded as the Tatler Theatre in 1931.
Oddly, it specialised in Russian films, which may explain why it was bought by Jacey in 1950 and became a more conventional cinema. It changed hands a number more times until it finally closed in January 1987. Today the old cinema is the Montagu Pyke pub, and while the cinema’s curved ceiling remains intact, sadly, other than the pub chain’s trademark garish carpets, there’s nothing of the cinema heritage left to see.
Back to the alley though, it was a normal alley of use for storing rubbish from the surrounding cafes and access to the flats above.
Until April 1992 that is.
A request to seal off the alley was approved by Westminster Council.
The public footpath was sealed off with the doorway, and behind it, the open-air alley was covered with a glazed canopy.
That doorway has changed colours a few times over the years. In 2008 it was a green door in a white recess. In 2012 it was entirely red, but that wasn’t popular as in 2014 the whole lot was painted dark blue and it’s been the same ever since.
While it’s been sealed off, with permission, there doesn’t appear to be a Traffic Management Order which is needed to make it a private space. So, it’s still technically a footpath, albeit it one that’s legally been sealed off.
And that is why it still needs road signs by the doorway.