The street has a rich history. In 1764 a young Mozart gave a recital at 21 Dean Street. The French House in Dean Street is a public house that was the unofficial headquarters of Charles de Gaulle and the French resistance during World War II. Karl Marx lived on this street between 1851 and 1856, above what is now the Marco Pierre White restaurant Quo Vadis. The Marxes shared their house in Dean Street with Italian teachers and a cook and were very poor while living in the street. Their rooms were described by one visitor as One of the worst, therefore one of the cheapest, quarters of London... Three of their five children died while living here, all in infancy. Karl Marx's collaborator, Friedrich Engels lived in an apartment at 28 Dean Street.
Charles Dickens was also a regular on Dean Street, though before his writing time, when he was a young actor enthusiastically participating in amateur productions at Fanny Kelly's Royalty Theatre at number 73-74. In 1845 he starred in an adaptation of Ben Johnson's 'Every Man in his Humour', which met mixed reviews, Dickens' acting was said to be of debatable merit. Dickens's artistic contemporary George Cruikshank was also a resident of Dean Street and it was here that he drew the illustration for Dickens's early works. Cruikshank is perhaps more widely known as a cutting caricaturist with scant regard for his targets. He was once bribed £100 for his pledge not to caricature His Majesty (George III) in any immoral situation. He obliged and instead created a humorous caricature of England which came to be known as John Bull.
Also, notably, Admiral Nelson stayed in Dean Street the day before setting sail for the Battle of Trafalgar. He spent the night drawing up his final battleplans, including the masterstroke of painting identifiable gold and black checks on the ships. He is said to have spent the early part of the evening at a nearby undertakers selecting the coffin he would like to be buried in, had the battle not gone according to plan, which proved useful planning, as he died in the battle, despite leading the British fleet to victory.
The street has a tradition in healthcare, over the years there have been various hospitals on the street, pioneering establishments for prevention and cure of diseases. The Royal Ear Hospital occupied number 10, an early maternity hospital was also located here and the Lock Hospital too had its base in Dean Street, Lock being a euphemism for venereal disease.
Dean Street is a centre of the creative and advertising industries including film and video editing facilities, especially during the 1960s-1990s.
There have been many music and theatre venues on the street. New Romanticism, a youth fashion movement, began largely through the nightclub Billy's in Dean Street in the late 1970s. The Groucho Club, a private club frequented by people in the arts, is located here, as is the Soho Theatre, presenting new plays and stand up comedy.
On 10 July 2009 a fire broke out on Dean Street. Two fire-fighters suffered minor injuries, nobody else was hurt. The building that caught fire was gutted.
The start of a dramatic change to Dean Street began in March 2010 with the commencement of demolition of an entire block (Great Chapel Street / Dean Street) in preparation for a western entrance to the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road which will have major impact on the area.
From north to south:
- Oxford Street – terminates
- Carlisle Street
- St Anne's Court
- Richmond Buildings (leading to Richmond Mews)
- Chapone Place
- Bateman Street
- Meard Street
- Bourchier Street
- Old Compton Street
- Romilly Street
- Shaftesbury Avenue – terminates