London’s real Diagon Alley

In the world of Harry Potter is a place – a magical place full of Dickensian shops for the convenience of magicians and students – a place called Diagon Alley. Would it amaze you to learn that such a place actually exists in London?

There is an alley in London which I have known about for some years and wanted to take photos of to write about – but alas, whenever I am near and remember I invariably don’t have my camera, and logically, when I have my camera I tend to forget. Today, man and machine were as one – and I finally remembered to take some photos of this delightful, and historic little alley way.

Dear readers – welcome to the real Diagon Alley.

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To get here though does not need a magic wand, but just a set of sturdy shoes. Wander along to St Martins Lane, and on the Eastern side you may spy a small dirty alley entrance with a sign to Goodwin’s Court. Do not fret about the squalor, but venture inside with a brave heart and upon turning a slight corner – you shall come upon the delight which is straight out of a Dickens novel (or a Harry Potter book).

One side is frankly, not that impressive – but the other side is, to my amateur eyes a row of Georgian houses with wonderful wooden bay windows, and even more delightfully is still lit by gas lamps.

Gas Lamp close upSome of the doors have still the lions-head knockers you should expect of such heritage and despite being in the very heart of Theatre land is surprisingly devoid of pedestrians. This could be partly due to it frankly not being much use as a short cut so not something people are going to use.

According to the Survey of London, Goodwin’s Court first appears in the ratebooks in 1690, replacing Fishers Alley which had occupied a similar position in preceding years, and it seems probable that the houses in the court and those on either side of it, i.e. the present Nos. 55 and 56, St. Martin’s Lane, were erected in that year.

It is therefore a true relic of London history – but I have been unable to find out much more about it alas. However, this is an alley which is worth visiting, not for quaint historic reasons, but for a small dose of nostalgia.

A few photos on my usual Flickr account.

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17 Comments

  1. If you’re interested in London’s alleyways, may I recommend a site I stumbled upon some while ago. Ivor Hoole’s Guide to the Alleyways and Courts of Central London mentions Goodwin Court and many others. Fascinating snippets from history and well worth checking out.

    You can find it at http://www.geocities.com/TheTropics/Cabana/9424/

    Elaine Saunders
    Author – A Book About Pub Names
    http://www.completetext.com

  2. IanVisits

    The geocities site does turn up occasionally in my google searches when researching old alleyways.

    I also tend to trawl through old maps, the old baily archive and the national archives for information.

  3. Nice pics, Ian – whenever I’ve gone there to take pics, it’s been bin-day.

    What do you make of Giovannis, BTW?

  4. IanVisits

    I’ve not tried the restaurant yet.

  5. Susan Peters

    My Dad’s great great grandparents lived on Fisher’s Alley in 1841, would this be the same one as the one near Fleet Street? I know they were very poor, and ended up moving over to Greenwich

    • IanVisits

      This one is not really near Fleet Street.

      There were probably dozens of Fisher’s roads/alleys/yards in London in the past as it is such a generic name.

    • jamwalker1@msn.com

      Hi my ancestors lived in Fishers alley near fleet street about 1815 their surname was Parkins

  6. Alice

    Hello! How could I really get there?
    How do you know this is the real Diagon alley?

  7. IanVisits

    If you read the blog post – it explains exactly where the alley is.

  8. can you please help me get a magic wand there in diagon alley,london …ohhh…please i really really really need your help……..please reply as soon as possible…..cause i want to become a wizard since i was 4 years…..ohh…please

  9. E

    Is digon alley real? what street in London is it in?

    • IanVisits

      *facepalm*

  10. Rushelle Catte

    Is that Diagon Alley Is Real ? I want go to London . I Really really want to get the magic wand .

  11. I’ve got a friend who works in one of the offices along this alleyway. He’s become quite used to finding crowds of young girls in wizard hats peering through his window as he works!

  12. Karl, Dover

    (not the Karl above)
    Just trawling through your archives.
    Re Goodwin Court if you read the series of novels by John Lawton (the 1st being Black Out set in 1944), about a police detective who actually lives in Goodwin Court. Very good books they are too!

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