1. Exquisite Tweets from @garius, @Endless_PaulyT

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    It's Friday. I should be boozing but no. Lockdown.

    So have a history thread about where I should be.

    Let's talk about Bradley's Spanish Bar, London's classiest and oldest (maybe) dive bar, and about how a bunch of old Greek wrestlers helped turn a tiny corner of Soho Spanish.

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    garius

    John Bull

    So this is Hanway Street which links Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. If you're a Londoner, you've probably walked past it bunch of times.

    Two things should set your London history spidey senses off here:

    1) It's PROPER tiny and wobbly.
    2) It has weird old bollards.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Both these things shout 'VERY OLD ROAD' and that's 100% true. Hanway Street is an ancient parish boundary lane. It's no-man's land. Soho's forgotten March on Fitzrovia's southern border.

    Which is, I suspect, why @neilhimself made it an entrance to London-below in Neverwhere.

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    garius

    John Bull

    This leads us to our Hanway Street mystery:

    Just how did it end up full of Flamenco clubs, Tapas bars and Spanish bars, of which Bradley's seems to be the last true survivor?

    Enter a bunch of (mostly) Greek wrestlers. No really.

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    garius

    John Bull

    This is Milo Popopocopolis. Or Milo Popocopolis. Or Milo the Greek. or Mike Prince. He had two brothers Johnny Milo and Tommy Milo.

    Confused? Well this is what happens when a family of Greek Cypriot wrestlers pitch up in post-war London and find the locals can't say their names.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Now Milo is a smart cookie. When he becomes a big star, he invests his money in property. Mostly in the area he knows best: Soho.

    In 1952, this includes setting his brothers Johnny and Tommy (also wrestlers) up at 22 Hanway St with a coffee shop that Johnny names 'Acapulco'.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Legend says that Acapulco was a Spanish cafe as Johnny's wife was Spanish.

    Ahah! You say, that's the first bit of Spanish Hanway Street sorted!

    Well, no.

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    garius

    John Bull

    In fact, Acapulco wasn't the first bit of Spain on Hanway Street. It was Milo being canny again: Hanway Street was home to major Spanish sherry and wine importers, Williams & Hubert (@bodegaswilliams) who'd been running a wine bar at no. 42 since 1890 or so

    Remember that address

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    garius

    John Bull

    It IS true though that the Milo brothers pick up the Spanish theme and decide to go big with it.

    They even get their mate, Mike Demitre, the 'Greek Adonis' (actually Canadian) to do the decor, as he loved a bit of interior decorating and dabbled in it on the side.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Did they REALLY care about the Spain thing? Nah.

    Spanish writer Victor Fuentes was a Barista there in the 50s. He remembers that Johnny just wanted an excuse to wear loud shirts and loved the Betty Gable film 'Diamond Horseshoe' (released as 'Acapulco' in Greece).

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    garius

    John Bull

    Weirdly though, despite this, the Spanish thing stuck. Fuentes describes watching Greek guitarists butcher Flamenco songs at first, but then REAL Spanish exiles started showing up, and the whole place started getting genuinely Spanish in feel.

    The touchpaper had been fired.

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    garius

    John Bull

    And then something nobody expected happened: the Skiffle music explosion in Soho proper.

    As luck would have it, the manager of the 2i club at the heart of Skiffle was another wrestler: Dr Death.

    The Milos get in on the action quick and soon the Acapulco is part of the scene.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Hanway Street is PERFECT for skiffle. It thrives in the small coffee shops with basements that can double as performance rooms. The nightlife there explodes.

    This is why it's Hanway Street cafes that feature
    in Cliff Richard's breakout film Expresso Bongo youtube.com/watch?v=1Ao_hB…

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    garius

    John Bull

    Now the Spanishness of Hanway St becomes self-fulfilling. More cafes and clubs open, and they go Spanish to fit in with the general vibe. And when Skiffle moves on, Flamenco fills the gap.

    Meanwhile, the Milo's property empire continues to grow.

    Which brings us back to Bradleys

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    garius

    John Bull

    Ask round Hanway (or hunt online) there's a story about how Bradley's starts.

    In the early 60s William Bradley, president of the Hanway Social Club, persuades the Milos to buy the building they drink in. They do and call it Bradley's Spanish Bar, riding the theme.

    This is wrong

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    garius

    John Bull

    The truth is actually both sadder and sweeter.

    Remember the wine bar at 42 Hanway St since 1890?

    THAT'S Bradleys. It was ALREADY there, serving booze over two floors. The posh wine bit upstairs, but with an 'English' pub in the basement.

    Which is where William and co drank.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Indeed it's actually pretty easy to work out WHEN the bar changes hands, because we can check the phone directories from the time.

    And in 1968, the bar is still run by Short's Wine Merchants, another Spanish importer who took it over from W&H at some point in the 50s.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Then, suddenly, in 1969 Short's disappear. And in 1970 Bradley's Bar appears instead, under the same phone number. The Milos, and Bradley's as we know it today, have arrived.

    So what's the sad but sweet bit?

    William Bradley died in 1962. The bar is POSTHUMOUSLY named for him.

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    garius

    John Bull

    Think about that. Think about the impact you have to have on folk memory on that street, in that bar, on your drinking buddies, that even seven years after you're gone, they think of you when they're naming the place.

    There's something pretty damn special about that.

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    garius

    John Bull

    And that's the story of Hanway St and Bradley's Spanish Bar. How a stupidly old bar with genuine Spanish origins kicked off a Spanish takeover led by a bunch of Greeks, then got sucked into it, picking up an English name on the way.

    There's just something so LONDON about it all.

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    garius

    John Bull

    That it's still there today, a unique Spanish dive bar run by people from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and the rest, makes it even more special. It's a tiny oasis of past and present still intertwined.

    Yet there is a sad note to this:

    The Lockdown means it's struggling to survive.

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    garius

    John Bull

    So if you've liked this little wander through London's history, a small favour:

    Don't buy me a coffee. Give a few quid to Bradleys instead and share this thread

    Then after all this is over pop in some time. You'll find me downstairs. I'll buy you a shot gofundme.com/f/keep-bradley…

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    garius

    John Bull

  2. Top work. The first pic is slightly out of date, as the shutter now features the logo, hand painted last year by my own bad self.

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    Endless_PaulyT

    Manticore Art - I paint things