Archer Street, W1D
Musicians waiting for work on Archer Street.
Credit: Musicians Union
Archer Street was Arch Street in 1675, Orchard Street in 1720 and Archer Street by 1746.

In Colonel Panton’s building petition of 1671, Archer Street first appears as a "short street leading from out of Windmill Street over against Windmill Yard towards St. Giles." Before 1836, the street came to an abrupt end at the eastern boundary of Panton’s ground. It was connected to Rupert Street by a narrow passage through a stable yard. But in 1836, the stable buildings had been demolished and Archer Street extended to Rupert Street.

Archer Street was lined for the most part with modest houses. Old photographs showed a pair of small cottages dating from about 1700.

So far, a normal Soho street history.

But in the twentieth century, Archer Street became known as a meeting point for West End musicians. The street became this hub due to its proximity to work places (nearby theatres and clubs) and places to drink and socialise.

The Apollo and The Lyric both had stage doors which opened onto the street. Meanwhile, the Musicians’ Union London Branch was also here - musicians would go there between a matinee and an evening performance in the many theatres nearby, or to find a deputy, or just to meet friends and colleagues.

By the 1940s, Archer Street was described as the place “where anyone would go if they wanted to book musicians for a ‘gig’, or to play on the big liners, which all employed musicians to play at meal times and for dancing, or for the summer seasons in the Holiday Camps.”

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