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.

R Horwood map 1799

Within 80 years, the entire area had been filled in, and the alley lined with buildings, and it shows up in early Goad’s Insurance Maps as Star Court, but was showing up as Greek Court by the 1940s

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.

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10 comments
  1. James says:

    Fascinating curio, thanks. At all of about 3 feet, could this be the shortest street in London?

  2. Marc says:

    Always wondered about this one. Thanks for answering my burning questions.

  3. Julia says:

    Why was this little alleyway closed off, please?

  4. Chris H says:

    It’s private land –
    From the document linked to, works were not to commence until a stopping-up order had been confirmed.
    The applicant therefore either unlawfully blocked a right of way which is still a public path, or a stopping-up order was made, public path status extinguished, and the works legally carried out.
    Notice of a stopping-up order was given
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53057/page/16039/data.pdf
    It therefore seems very likely that Greek Court was stopped-up at the time and ceased to be a public path then.
    The placing of a local authority street name plate does not in itself indicate that a way is a public highway or public path.
    Westminster’s website confirms Greek Court to be private:
    https://www.westminster.gov.uk/road-search-results/Greek%20Court

  5. Chris H says:

    Looks like private land –
    The stopping-up order was being progressed at the time:
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/53057/page/16039/data.pdf
    The applicant was not to do the work till the stopping-up order was made (see page 2):
    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/files/A784A5598B84E9388FD0EAB35A074D22/pdf/91_05589_FULL–4845259.pdf
    Westminster’s website confirms it is private land:
    https://www.westminster.gov.uk/road-search-results/Greek%20Court
    The placing of a local authority street name plate does not in itself denote a public path or public highway.

    • Chris H says:

      This duplicates the content of another comment that didn’t appear after I posted it, but there seems to be no facility for me to delete this Ianvisits please delete

  6. Chris H says:

    Looks like it was stopped-up and is private land
    https://www.westminster.gov.uk/road-search-results/Greek%20Court

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