Plagues, parties and rock ‘n’ roll: a trailblazing history of our Soho home

From mods and rockers to the heart of post-production, Carnaby Street has been the host of an ever-evolving society. Carnaby was built in the late 1600’s and became host to many tragedies, medical discoveries and a plethora of trendy retailers. It’s known to many as the colourful and vibrant heart of central London. This evolving reputation is at the centre of what we do here at The Flying Colour Company. 

42-43 Carnaby St, 1967.
42-43 Carnaby St, 2023.

The street was originally purpose-built with pest-houses to combat the rapidly spreading plague in the 17th Century. During the 19th century, the area prompted a revolution of public health due to John Snow’s discovery of a contaminated water pump in Broadwick Street, which influenced and corrected opinions within medical science, government and the royal family at the time. Today, a pub commemorates him at the site of the old pump.

Carnaby remained a largely shabby Soho backstreet right up until 1854, when Carnaby Street began its metamorphosis as a global fashion destination when Bill Green opened a small clothing boutique ‘Vince’. The Vince catalogue boosted its popularity with the then barely-known Sean Connery. To further attract custom, Green hired attractive young men as sales assistants, one of whom was the Glasgow-born John Stephen, later to be known as ‘The King Of Carnaby Street’. He went on to become known for cultivating Carnaby’s place as a trailblazer in the fashion industry.

We are located in several historic buildings: 42-44 Carnaby Street.

43 once boasted a bustling Free house, “The Coach and Horses”, dating all the way back in the 1800s to the mid-60’s. Along with 43, it then became home to fashion retailer Lord John, gaining iconic status through the late 60s for its psychedelic and eclectic designs by pop-art collective “B.E.V”.

The legacy lived on through one of the founders’ daughters, who commemorated the site §in 2017 by a decorative plaque below the Carnaby Street sign adorning our building.

Although a very popular retailer with Mods, many prominent figures also passed through these doors such as The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and The Who, to name a few. It has also stood as a backdrop for cinema, appearing in the The Haunted House of Horror and biopic Judy. 

Directly opposite, with a comparatively simpler history, once stood a sprawling townhouse, with large adjacent rooms, perfect to be adorned as an open plan office space. It sits atop a revolving door of niche retailers, from “Urban Decay” to the newly installed woman’s boutique “Rixo”. It now houses our talented 3D Department and our latest state-of-the-art screening room. 

Photo Mark Earthy