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The Alleys, Byways & Courts Of Old London

October 16, 2019
by the gentle author

In the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute, I had the good fortune to come across a copy of Alan Stapleton’s London’s Alleys, Byways & Courts, 1923. A title guaranteed to send anyone as susceptible as myself meandering through the capital’s forgotten thoroughfares, yet the great discovery is how many of these have survived in recognisable form today. Clearly a kindred spirit, Stapleton prefaces his work with the following quote from Dr Johnson (who lived in a square at the end of an alley) – ‘If you wish to have a notion of the magnitude of this great city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but survey its innumerable little lanes and courts.’

St John’s Passage, EC1

Passing Alley, EC1

St John’s Gate from Jerusalem Passage, EC1

Stewart’s Place, Clerkenwell Green, EC1

Clerkenwell Close, EC1

Savoy Steps, Strand, WC2

Red Lion Passage, Red Lion Sq, WC1

Corner of Kingley St & Foubert’s Place, W1

Market St, Shepherd Market, W1

Crown Court, Pall Mall, SW1

Rupert Court, W1

Meard’s St, W1

Conduit Court, Long Acre, WC2

Devereaux Court, Strand, WC2

Greystoke Place, Chancery Lane, EC4

Huggin Lane, Cannon St, EC4

Mitre Court, EC1

Faulkner’s Alley, Cow Cross St, EC1

Last of Snatcher’s Island, Drury Lane, WC2

Brick Lane looking north

Brick Lane looking south

‘Hatton in 1708 called Brick Lane the longest lane in London, being nearly three quarters of a mile long. But Park Lane by Hyde Park was then six furlongs thirteen poles in length, so it had the advantage of Brick Lane, the length of which was five furlongs four poles. Today, Brick Lane by taking in its length its old continuations, Tyssen St and Turk’s St now beats it by thirteen poles. Tyssen St measuring one furlong fourteen poles and Turk’s St eight poles, thus bringing the length of the current Brick Lane to six furlongs twenty-six poles. Yet White HorseLane was undoubtedly the longest in London when it existed’ – Alan Stapelton 1923

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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The Lost World of the Alleys

5 Responses leave one →
  1. October 26, 2019

    Fabulous drawings, and every passageway just begging to be explored.

  2. Jim Woodley permalink
    December 31, 2020

    Lovely illustrations of an interesting aspect of our city

  3. January 15, 2021

    Wonderful….beautiful etchings.

    I work in The City of London occasionally, love walking in and around the old Alleys and down them. A pint in a quaint old pub tucked away from sight….browsing in local bookshops ….absorbing London’s olde History and the whispering tales she has to tell.

    Thank you.

  4. February 6, 2021

    as a London black cab driver for 51years
    Now retired I know these places
    Nice to read your description of them
    great work!
    Kind regards Brian ?

  5. April 27, 2021

    A real treat. Thank you so much!!

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