After the Greek refugees and their nearby church which in the late 17thCentury turned Soho into London’s first Orthodox community. Greeks are known to have been visiting London since at least the mid-15thCentury however these visitors, refugees, and occasional long-term residents did not constitute an organised community until 1676 when around 100 families from the islands of Samos and Melos migrated to England. They were granted settlements here, at what was then called Crown Street and given permission to build a church where they could practise their Orthodox faith. The church, which was located on the site of Foyle’s bookshop, was consecrated in 1677 by the Metropolitan of Samos, Joseph Georgerinis and dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin. Its founding inscription said it “was founded for the nation of the Greeks, in the reign of Most Serene King Jacob II”. It wasn’t long however before it was abandoned on account of it being too far away from where the majority of Greeks actually lived. It appears on John Rocque’s 1746 map of London as ‘French Church’ which Dan Cruickshank explains in his book Soho is due to it having been taken over by a congregation of French Protestants. Cruickshank says the street’s first house, number 1, famous for its high-quality Rococo plasterwork, is one of the finest mid-Georgian houses in London. Its string of prestigious inhabitants include the wealthy Jamaican trader, Richard Beckford, Sir James Colebrooke, and George Cruickshanks. The house was converted to commercial use in the 19thCentury, Soho having become a less desirable place to live. It was taken over by the Westminster Commissioners of Sewer and is where Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette started working on the construction of the London sewerage system. Immortalised in fiction, Charles Dickens also used the house as a model for the London lodgings of Dr Manette and Lucy in A Tale of Two Cities.
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