My local Chinese Takeaway
The first wave of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the second half of the 19th Century, came after China’s defeat in the Opium Wars and, as with the lascars, were mainly seamen. They jumped ship in Britain and settled in the port cities of Liverpool, Cardiff and London and as the new century dawned, the movement away from the docks to the cities into first laundries then catering began. The earliest arrivals were often associated with the East India Company and settled in the East End in general and Limehouse in particular by 1880’s.
By 1913 there were thirty shops and cafes for Chinese people in Pennyfield and Limehouse Causeway although this ‘mini boom’ was to decline rapidly by the 1930’s as shipping slumped.
By the 1950’s the Chinese community began to focus on Soho in London for the theatre trade and when diplomatic relations standardised in 1950, several Mandarin speaking former diplomats opened Peking-style restaurants.This movement continued and by the 1960’s Soho had become London’s Chinatown and the flow outward to the suburbs and elsewhere started where costs were much cheaper. The first Chinese restaurants in London were opened by Charlie Cheung in the East End but, more importantly, by Chung Koon, a former ship’s chef on the Red Funnel Line who had settled in London and married an English girl.