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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > Faith > Communities > A - G > Greek London

Paros Island in Greece

Paros Island in Greece

Greek London

Read about London's Greek community and how their presence goes back thousands of years. The first Greek to come to our shores in 4th century BC but the first real Greek immigrants arrived in London around 1670.

Greek Flag

Greek Flag

Historically, the presence of Greeks on British soil goes back thousands of years. The first Greek to come to our shores (and to write about it) was Phyteas in the 4th century BC. He didn’t stay for long, but he was the first one in a long line of Greek visitors to Britain over the centuries.

The first real Greek immigrants arrived in London around 1670. There were only about 100 of them. They were fleeing the Ottoman Empire and its persecution of the Greek Orthodox Church. Upon their arrival, they asked permission to set up a church in London and subsequently founded the first Greek Church in Britain in what is now Soho. If ever you asked yourself how Greek Street got its name, well, there’s your answer.

Did You Know

Greek presence in the UK goes back thousands of years.
There are approximately around 150 to 180,000 Greek speakers in London.
Greeks and Greek-Cypriots are united by their devotion to the Greek Orthodox Church.  Greek-Cypriots are also responsible for the most important influx of Greek people in London for centuries.

Over the next 250 years, the immigration of Greeks to Britain was slow and steady. Most of them were rather well-off people from the Greek mainland, sometimes even nobles, trying to escape the Ottoman rule which oppressed the Christians in the region.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Greek Cypriots left their homeland to find work in Soho where some opened cafes and restaurants. However, as rents increased, they moved on to areas like Camden.

Religion was, and still is a very important influence in Greek life and can be experienced in the cathedral of St Sophia (the Church of the Wisdom of God). Founded in 1877, it still stands in all its glory in Moscow Road, Bayswater. And today, most Greek immigrants from the mainland try to settle in West London, as close as possible to their favourite place of worship.

Prince Philip - born in Greece

Prince Philip - born in Greece

Nowadays, there are more than 100 Greek communities in Britain, with around 150 to 180,000 Greek speakers in London, 85% of those come not from the mainland but from Cyprus. Greek-Cypriots are responsible for the most important influx of Greek people in London for centuries. Most of them came in the 1950s and 60s for economical reasons. Many leaving their country behind to find a better life in Britain with some also fleeing Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of 1974.

More Greek Facts

In general, Greek-Cypriot immigrants are poorer than their mainland counterparts.
Many settled down in more financially accessible parts of London: Hackney, Haringey, Enfield Southgate.
They moved to more upmarket areas such as Palmers Green and Wood Green in North London when they were better off.

Greeks and Greek-Cypriots are united by their devotion to the Greek Orthodox Church and their common Christian culture. The Greek-Cypriot community in the capital is, in many ways, very close to the Turkish-Cypriot community despite the tensions in their homeland caused by "the Cyprus Problem". They have been living together in Cyprus despite their differences (religious or otherwise) and they keep on doing so in London.

Some Cypriot community centres provide services for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. The English section editor of the London Cypriot newspaper "Parikiaki" pointed out that "The English section we publish is less for English people than for the Turkish-Cypriots who want news of the Cypriot community."

Money is pinned to newly weds at Greek weddings

Money is pinned to newly weds at Greek Weddings

Mainland Greeks and Greek-Cypriots bring to London their varied and incredibly vibrant culture.  Weddings are a big event in Greek culture and guests do not give boxed gifts and all the family and friends take it in turn to pin money on them.   The money dance is a symbol of future prosperity and wealth.

last updated: 02/07/2008 at 11:39
created: 27/05/2005

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