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17th Century
The first buildings appear on the site of present-day Chinatown in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. Lord Gerrard, the area’s owner gives permission for developer Nicholas Barbon to build houses on what is now Gerrard Street.

18th Century
The first Chinese sailors appear in London as employees of the East India Company.

Britain takes over Hong Kong, paving the way for a growing number of Chinese people to arrive in London.

London’s first Chinatown becomes firmly rooted in the East End as growing numbers of Chinese sailors and traders settle and open businesses in the Limehouse area. Chinese shops and cafes begin to spring up.

At least 30 Chinese businesses, including several laundries, are operating in Limehouse.

The aerial bombing of London’s East End causes so much damage to the Limehouse community that it begins to move west to present-day Chinatown in Soho.

British soldiers returning from the Far East bring with them a new taste for Chinese food; restaurants begin to spring up in the new Chinatown as the community capitalises on this new clientele. By 1950, there are around 2000 Chinese in Britain, including many veterans of the wartime Merchant Navy. Many are working in Chinatown’s new restaurants.

Growing numbers of Chinese arrive from Hong Kong to work in the now-booming restaurant trade. Chinatown’s community grows further as the wives and children of these workers move to London to join their husbands.

A Daily Telegraph article titled “The Strange Community of Gerrard Street” highlights Chinatown’s evolution from an area of solely restaurants to a community serviced by “Chinese barbers, Chinese beauty parlours, Chinese mini-cabs, accountants, bookshops and libraries, supermarkets, travel agents, gambling clubs and even a chamber of trade”. Early 1970s Community life develops further with the introduction of schools to teach Chinatown’s children their mother tongue and maintain links to their homeland. Local clubs and cinemas are rented to show Chinese films to packed audiences.

The London Chinese Chinatown Association is formed to promote stronger links between Chinatown’s community and the City Council, Police and the community outside of Soho.

The Chinese Community Centre is opened and becomes a popular venue for gatherings and social events.

Mid-1980s In recognition of Chinatown’s significance, Westminster City Council collaborates with the Chinese community on a series of initiatives to improve the area, including the restoration of Lisle Street’s 18th century shop fronts.

Chinatown’s first organised Chinese New Year celebrations take place.

Late 1980s Gerrard Street, parts of Newport Place and Macclesfield Street become pedestrianised and Chinese gates, street furniture and a Chinese pagoda are erected.

Chinatown’s Chinese New Year celebrations are expanded to include Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.
Present day Chinatown now encompasses Gerrard St, the bottom half of Wardour St, Rupert St and Rupert Court, a section of Shaftesbury Avenue, Lisle St, Macclesfield Street and Newport Place, Newport Court and Little Newport Street. The community holds several festivals throughout the year and boasts 78 restaurants with cuisine from across East Asia, 53 shops including herbal remedy treatments, hairdressers, pharmacists, reflexology specialists and travel agencies, and 12 bars and pubs.


London’s Chinese Community
Chinese community was formed in eastern London in 18th century, then gradually moved to SOHO in the center of London. In past five years, the quantity of Chinese came from mainland China has doubled, and the quantity of Chinese came from Hongkong increased 33%.

Up to now, more than 80,000 Chinese live in London. Though they live both in downtown and suburban districts, the majority Chinese live in five districts: Barnet, Southwark, Westminster, Ealing and Tower Hamlets.

Community Support Network
China is one of the most rapid developing countries in the world. London attracted one third of total China’s investment in U.K, which is 50% of all China investment in Europe. There are more than 360 big Chinese companies located in Chinese communities. The prosperity of Chinese business community is due to its highly developed support network. Main government institutions here including the PRC Embassy in London, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office and the Hong Kong Trade Development Development Bureau.

Living in London
Chinese Community, is one of the largest and oldest communities in London. Chinese community service centers throughout the city, provided for the Chinese a range of all-around services, such as language courses, cultural seminars and everything.


In 2006 and 2007, more than 3,400 Chinese StudiesStudents graduating from the London University. The trend that Chinese students come to London to have better education is increasing.

Many Chinese schools open Mandarin and Cantonese courses on Saturdays. Some of them unite with Church of Christ in London. They mainly concentrated in the north of London, including Caritas, Wang Youde Memorial school, and many other Chinese schools.

For those who like Chinese food, London is absolutely a super nice place. Various types of Chinese restaurants spread over the whole London. The most concentrated area is the Chinatown in Soho area. There are two particular famous restaurants: luxurious Hakkasan in Bloomsbury and Qiu’s Teahouse in Soho area.

Food store and super market
To meets the needs of Chinese restaurants and Chinese communities, in recent years, many authentic Chinese food stores and supermarkets sprang up like emerge. London’s largest Chinese food supermarket chain is the He Xing, which have branches in all London districts. Similarly other Chinese supermarkets also spread over the city.

London has an organized healthcare network of the London Chinese Community, which contains more than 100 Chinese health and medical centers. It provides a series of bilingual services and specialist treatment, including acupuncture, auxiliary treatment and massage.

Art and Culture
London has its own China Film Association, Chinese dance, Mime Theatre and the Chinese Symphony Orchestra. There are also tens of Chinese community associations in London. Each association hold on several or tens of activities every month, which greatly enriches Chinese leisure lives. Particularly, during the “China Week”, to celebrate Chinese Spring Festival, various celebrations will be held here, such as film shows, celebration gathering, traditional culture shows and exhibitions. All associations are in the charge of London Chinese Cultural Centre.

Bookstore, Library and Medias
Chinatown has a wide range of Chinese books, magazines and newspapers for Chinese to read. There are also some Chinese Books library here. For example, West Min Chinese Temple library has more than twenty thousand types of Chinese books, and another 20 kinds of newspapers and magazines. Furthermore, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offers a series of Mandarin Chinese language news
station, broadcasting, Education and cultural services. London daily Radio also has Guangdong Language programs.

Religion London is a center for all the religions. There are thousands of churches, temples and mosques throughout the city. There are London Chinese Church of Christ for Chinese Christian to gather and pray in Mandarin, Cantonese and English.

This pictures shows the main Chinese Community Services.

The following picture shows how many Chinese freshmen are in London’s Colleges each year.

It is possible that new immigrants will become to the majority of all Chinese in London in following several decades.

You can discover the Chinatown area of London close to Leicester Square, west of the Charing Cross Road and mainly concentrated around Gerrard Street and Lisle street. You are reminded by the Pagoda arches as you enter the area.

Chinatown’s origins date back to the late 18th century when the first Chinese settled in London , having been employed on ships owned by the East India Company. Initially a small community was established around the docks at Limehouse. Following the destruction of the Limehouse area by World War II bombers, the Chinese community migrated to its present location attracted by the low Soho property prices.

A more romanticised theory as to the roots of Chinatown relates to six pages brought back from China following a visit by by Queen Victoria. These are also attributed with starting a community at Limehouse. Perhaps both stories are true.

The establishment of Chinatown was assisted by British soldiers who had returned from the war in the Far East with a new found appetite for Chinese cuisine. Chinatown has been further transformed into a major tourist attraction by pedestrianising Gerrard Street and installing Chinese style street furniture, including the area’s unique pagoda style telephone boxes.

Furthermore following the handover of Hong Kong to Communist China, this vibrant part of town has further expanded with a fresh wave of immigrants having now settled here. The area is now packed with Cantonese and Szechuan restaurants, plus a growing number of supermarkets specialising in exotic cooking ingredients.

Visiting Chinatown in late January will give you the chance to see the Chinese New Year celebrations with traditional dancing dragons and parties in the streets.