This is a surprisingly large open space right in the heart of the City that you would only discover by passing through covered arches.
It links Threadneedle Street with Old Broad Street, and Old Broad Street has had a very odd history. Originally known as Bradstrete, for it was indeed a broad street, the bottom end was renamed Threadneedle Steet when the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors bought a hall in the area.
The upper end remained a broad street, but was split into two, New and Old Broad Street, then the whole lot renamed in the 19th century as Old Broad Street.
The part of the road directly outside Adam’s Court though, for many years had a different name – Pig Street, after the habit of a local monastery, the Hospital Brothers of Saint Anthony to allow its pigs to wander around the area. The name stuck for several centuries until it was reclaimed as Broad Street again.
John Rocque’s Map 1746
Adam’s Court itself owes its existence to the building of a fine house with a courtyard sometime around the 1550s by William de Salesbury, who amongst many achievements was probably the first person to print a book in Welsh — an English to Welsh dictionary.
The house later passed into the property of the Abbots of St Albans, until King Henry V took action against foreign orders in England and in 1414 seized the Hospital and its lands, which included what is today Adam’s Court. The Hospital though was allowed to continue to function and came under the control of the College of St George in Windsor.
Until the turmoil of Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, when the estates were sold off by the King’s agents. The area occupied by Adam’s Court is seems was sold to Edward Catcher, a rich pewterer, and later inherited by his son John.
John had a difficult life as a pewterer, at times seemingly very rich, and at times, calling for help. He died rich though, and it seems that the estate passed down the family line for a few generations.
So far though, the land and the court seem to be unnamed.
So we come to Thomas Adams, Draper and Royalist, who notwithstanding the effects of the English Civil War was elected as a City of London Alderman in 1639, and in 1645 as Lord Mayor of London.
In 1666, the whole area we have been reading about was raised to the ground by the Great Fire of London When the area was rebuilt, it was decided to name the new passageway that was added after the by then much admired Sir Thomas Adams, who then promptly dies from afflictions of the kidney stones.
Oddly enough it seems to have been built of cheap tenements and left untouched for several decades, and it wasn’t until the South Sea Company bought up some of the land for their London headquarters in 1711 that Adams Court started to take on the appearance it has today.
Adam’s Court was given to Christ’s Hospital in 1724, who rented out the buildings on the site to raise money to pay a pension to poor people.
The area was still largely residential, but the arrival of the Bank of England nearby in 1733 changed the character of the area entirely, and houses were being converted into offices and warehouses for traders. Adam’s Court seemed to remain residential though until about a century later when in the 1830s commerce took over entirely creating space for newly formed banks.
A large chunk of the northern end of Adam’s Court was demolished in the 1830s to build the grand home of the City of London Club, the sort of club that requires new members to be nominated and seconded by existing members, and when it’s rooms were refurbished in 1980, the new furniture was described by Country Life as being in need of “a few years’ use by cigar smokers and newspaper readers to tone down the leather”.
Back to 1856 though, as that’s Adam’s Court, until then a dead-end of a passage had a blocking wall in the middle demolished, and became a passageway from end to end, linking Threadneedle Street and Old Broad Street as it still does today.
The ornate gates that lead into Adam’s Court on Threadneedle Street entrance are 19th-century, and were originally for the Oriental Bank. The grand building whose arch you pass through was also part of the Oriental Bank, but the building was later taken over by the neighbouring National Provincial Bank, and their monogram added – or overwritten.
The National Provincial Bank (now NatWest) is part of the story, for their impressive building around the side of the road has its back facing into Adam’s Court. Today that building is Gibson Hall, and since 1998 has been for hire rather than a bank. It opens into the court to provide more space for summer events.
NatWest tried to buy up most of Adam’s Court in 1970 to build a modern office block on it — but were blocked on heritage grounds, otherwise, the NatWest tower would doubtless stand here instead of just up the road.
Through the arch and into the main courtyard, which is a remarkably large open space for this part of London, and often open to the public when events aren’t taking place.
Two sides are lined with collonades, while the London Club’s technically private section is slightly lower down than the rest of the court. The fountain is likely from the original garden design, but I’ve not been able to find any details about it.
A modern addition under the colonnade at the northern side is part of Jamies, an upmarket wine bar.
Further up, it passes through a passage left by a modern office block, but as you leave do look to your right, for an old Police telephone box is still standing there.