Secrets of the Grand Dame of Soho

No, we’re not talking about the memoirs of Dusty O or Tasty Tim (although the latter does DJ there every Thursday) but the towering Comptons of Soho, which stands bold on Old Compton Street. Although it had a gay following for several decades during the 20th century, the bar came out and proud with its queer identity in 1986 and championed the modern age of homosexualist Soho. This weekend, the bar celebrates its 29th birthday as a gay venue. General Manager Neil Hodgson has been overseeing the shenanigans there since 1998 and knows every nook and cranny of its insides better than Katie Price’s gynaecologist knows hers. In commemoration of such a landmark venue, Neil shares some of the bar’s lesser know secrets…


  • We have 60 years of combined service between us within the Compton’s team.
  • Compton’s pub, previously the Swiss Hotel, takes its name from the street that’s named after Bishop Compton, son of the Earl of Northampton, whose diocese this area encompassed.
  • Behind Compton’s are buried 100,000 plague victims.
  • Current landlord of 16 years, Neil Hodgson is the great nephew of playwright Noel Coward.
  • “SO HO” is a hunting call and this area was originally Henry Vlll’s hunting park.
  • We sell 11 tons of beer a week and 60 litres of vodka.
  • In 1942 the Landlord of the Swiss Hotel was warned by the metropolitan police not to allow sodomites or sodomy on the premises.
  • The Soho Club Lounge (upstairs bar) became a public space with the addition of the main staircase in 1996. Before that it was used as offices.
  • 16 years ago we had blinds up at the windows so people could not see in and the main doors were closed during the day. Today we’re proud to be one of Soho’s most famous gay venues.
  • We were the first gay bar to start the outside drinking culture in Soho with tables and chairs, making a statement “we are here, loud and proud!”

• Comptons of Soho (51-53 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 6HN) celebrates its birthday this weekend.



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