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Alan Stapleton’s Alleys, Byways & Courts

July 17, 2023
by the gentle author

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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

You may also like to take a look at

The Lost World of the Alleys

4 Responses leave one →
  1. July 17, 2023

    I have not yet been able to take the GA tour. But I could imagine that my assessment would be exactly like that of Mrs Robinson. Because all the knowledge and loving commitment of our blogger cannot be perceived in any other way on the tour!

    Love & Peace

  2. Cherub permalink
    July 17, 2023

    I used to love cutting through old passageways in the City when I worked there. We have many interesting medieval ones dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries in Basel.

  3. July 17, 2023

    In my constant quest to research my family history, I discovered many lived in little courts and alleys that have long disappeared. So, instead I visit intact areas and use my vivid imagination and old maps to mentally reconstruct the area. These are fascinating drawings that make me want to go exploring again, which I shall do as soon as I finish this pile of marking and the academic year finally draws to a close.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    July 17, 2023

    I love courtyards and alleys as well, especially when they are unexpected. I came across one in St James Street, near Piccadilly recently which was a lovely surprise in an area with so many large imposing buildings and palaces.

    Also I worked on a job in a typical City street last week which had some classical buildings with lovely architectural details, some horrendously ugly modern blocks, and with a view through to a Wren church at the end. And the get-in to our event was through an alley, past by a tiny courtyard with a huge tree growing in it and then round the corner to the actual rear of the building. The rest of the team hated the convoluted route to our job but I loved it…

    I’m looking forward to the GA’s tour of the City when I hope to discover more of the same!

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