Off the west side of Charing Cross Road, about 35 yards north of Leicester Square Station is Newport Court one of the alleys leading to Chinatown. This area has long been associated with shops and retailers stalls, for here was the extensive Newport Market, curtailed when Charing Cross Road was extended southward in 1887. It was in this market that politician Horne Tooke, when in his youth, helped out at his father’s poultry shop.
[H]orne never lived it down when his chums at Eton asked what his father did. “A turkey merchant.” he replied – which is, of course, the reason Newport Court is featured today.
Many of the courts in the Charing Cross Road area are typically shopping thoroughfares, some with little cafes, and the occasional pub. They were, of course, not originally built for the purpose of retailing, but most private dwellings were turned into shops in the late 1800’s when the area became a traders’ paradise. Of particular note in Newport Court are numbers 21 to 24, a row of 17th century buildings converted, as seemed to be the trend, in Victorian times. They were built by the property developer Nicholas Barbon (see Crane Court) on the site of Newport House which he purchased from George, Earl of Newport, in 1682.
Newport Court is a notably different court – nearly all the shops are Chinese. On the corner of Newport Place there is a Chinese supermarket with stalls outside displaying exotic fruits and vegetables. Further along is a tiny cafe advertising ham and egg buns and sausage buns, there is a travel agents, book shop, Chinese Tourist Information Centre, a jeweller, and many others. If you want to sample real Chinese food, this is the place to come, as long as you don’t mind being the only none Chinese person eating. Even the Court name board bears the Chinese translation.
Much of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.