This alley is structurally modern, but has the air of an old church undercroft in its design, and lies on the site of a much older alley.

Slightly confusingly called Coleman Street Buildings, the alley can be found on maps dating to the 19th century, and is probably much older as the street it leads to, Coleman Street is thought to have been the headquarters of the charcoal-burners or coalmen, at about the time of the Norman Conquest.

The building that the alley now penetrates was built in the late 1980s, to replace two existing modestly average buildings, one of which sat on top of the alley. However, that building, 49 Moorgate has some degree of notoriety.

It was for a while the headquarters of the All-Russian Co-operative Society (ARCOS), which was set up to promote trade between the UK and the newly formed Soviet Union. However, the building was raided by police in May 1927, following claims by Mi5 that it had been engaged in spying work.

In the basement, a secret cypher room was discovered, where workers were hurriedly engaged in burning papers containing information about British military secrets. The raid and subsequent diplomatic rows became known as the Arcos Affair, and some of the government documents on the matter were still classified right up to 2002.

The alley though, is a modest affair that if not built of modern materials would be suggestive of a church undercroft. A series of iron railings to one side, which were locked and seemed to be a storage area add to the ecclesiastical feel for the alley.

You can probably just about see through the iron railings that there’s an open space beyond, and if you walk around the corner, you can peer down into an open space for the local office workers.


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