Chinese London

Chinese London

By the late 19th century, London had two small Chinese communities in the East End. Chinese sailors from Shanghai had settled in Pennyfields in Poplar. In Limehouse Causeway, another group associated with southern China had settled. Virtually all were single men, some of whom married British women.

By 1914, there were around 30 businesses and 300 people living in these small East End communities. Limehouse and Pennyfields became known as 'China town', and many of its inhabitants made a living through running laundries. In 1937, the first Chinese school opened in Pennyfields.

During the Second World War, around 10,000 Chinese men enrolled in the Merchant Navy while others defended Hong Kong and undermined Japanese forces in the Far East.

In London, bombs badly damaged the old dockside districts. London's Chinese community moved west to find a new centre in south Soho, which at the time was a run-down area.

The number of Chinese in London rose five-fold during the 1950s and 60s. Wives and children joined the single men who had migrated after the Second World War in search of work. The 1950s saw Chinese hand laundries made obsolete by automatic washing machines. But the restaurant and catering trades began to boom as dishes such as sweet and sour pork and chop suey became favourites in the British diet.

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