Nellie Dean

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London

Nellie Dean of Soho

The Nel­lie Dean is a pub­lic house at 89 Dean Street, on the cor­ner of Carlisle Street. There has been a pub on this cor­ner since at least 1748, when it was called the High­lander. (Some say there was a pub here before that, called the Dol­phin, but this author has yet to see reli­able evi­dence to sup­port that claim.)

The pub was rebuilt in its present form in 1900, retain­ing the High­lander name. In the 1950s and 60s it was a favoured haunt of the bohemi­an crowd who also patro­n­ised the French House, as well as those work­ing in the movie indus­try that used to be focused on War­dour Street.

In 1967 the pub became the Nel­lie Dean, a name inspired by the street on which it stands and hon­our­ing Gertrude Ast­bury, an ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry music hall singer whose sig­na­ture song was ‘Nel­lie Dean’, lat­er the title of a musi­cal in which she starred.

“There’s an old mill by the stream, Nel­lie Dean
Where we used to sit and dream, Nel­lie Dean
And the waters as they flow,
Seem to mur­mur sweet and low
You are my heart’s desire; I love you, Nel­lie Dean.”

Bil­ly Clarke & Har­ry Arm­strong (1916)

Ast­bury came from Long­port, now part of Stoke-on-Trent, and was nick­named the Stafford­shire Cin­derel­la. She took the stage name Ger­tie Gitana on account of her sup­posed Gyp­sy ori­gins and ‘Gitana’ was adopt­ed to mean ‘banana’ in cock­ney rhyming slang. When Ger­tie’s fame fad­ed, the 60s pop singer Wayne Fontana briefly took her place in the cock­ney fruiterer’s lex­i­con.
Upper floor and pub sign of the Nellie Dean of Soho