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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.