Great Windmill Street has had a long association with music and entertainment, most notably the
The street took its name from a windmill on the site which was recorded 1585 and demolished during the 1690s. In a parliamentary survey of 1658 the mill was described as "well fitted with Staves and other materials".
The area was developed around 1665 but the building was speculative and of poor quality; this led to a royal proclamation in 1671 that prohibited unlicensed development in "Windmill Fields, Dog Fields and Soho". Later that year, Thomas Panton, one of the original speculators, was granted a licence to continue his scheme with the condition that it was supervised and directed by Sir Christopher Wren who was the Surveyor General of the King’s Works. By 1682, maps show that both sides of the street were developed along their whole length.
In 1767 the Scottish anatomist and physician William Hunter FRS built a large house at number 16 after demolishing an earlier large dwelling. Hunter’s house incorporated a large library, a museum and an anatomical theatre. He gave lectures and anatomical demonstrations from the new house, the first taking place on 1 October 1776. After his death, in 1783 he bequeathed the school and his house to his nephew, Dr Matthew Baillie, who taught there from 1783 to 1803. The house was used for medical demonstrations until 1831. It now forms part of the dressing rooms and stage of the Lyric Theatre.
In the 1940s, the first regular paid modern jazz club for London musicians, Club Eleven, was run from a basement in Great Windmill Street
featuring musicians such as Ronnie Scott, Hank Shaw, Johnny Rogers, Lennie Bush, Tony Crombie and Laurie Morgan. In the 1960s, the Scene Club in Ham Yard
at Number 41 was associated with the mod youth culture and bands that appeared there included the Rolling Stones and The Who.