This is the most popular of all the alleys to be found in Covent Garden, thanks to a recent addition – an “infinity chamber” of mirrors that lines half the passage.
Conduit Court is one of several alleys that link Long Acre with Floral Street behind. The history is a bit complicated.
It seems to have originally been a dead-end alley and shows up on William Morgan’s map of 1676 as a rather wobbly passage leading to back gardens. A lot of building work must have been taking place though, as by the 1740s it has been straightened out, and adopted pretty much the alignment it has to this day.
The southern roar, today Floral Street used to be called Hart Street (after a local pub) and was a dead-end, but was extended in the 1860s. The area was light industrial until fairly recent times, with the famous market nearby and most of the buildings in the surrounding streets either warehouses or small factories.
In the mid-19th century, the buildings around Conduit Court were a mix of carriage builders for old horse carriages, paint shops, tailors and a large warehouse, Conduit Buildings that occupied both sides of the alley, linked with a footbridge.
The warehouse is interesting, as it was occupied by the Civil Service Supply Association, which was founded in 1864 as a co-operative to supply goods to post office workers, and later expanded to all civil servants. In 1927 it became a conventional department store on Strand, and closed in 1982. There’s a large blue plaque on the site of the department store.
Back to the alley, and a pub used to stand on the northern corner of the alley at number 17 Long Acre, but all the buildings there were demolished in the 1960s, and what is there today is a modern office development over a shop, dating from 1998.
The recent change is the addition of the “infinity chamber“, a series of mirror-clad arches within the covered half of the walkway that’s lit up with ever-changing coloured lights.
It’s technically a temporary “festive” installation to last for 5-years, authorised for the lights to be on between October and January, but they recently secured permission to leave them on all the time until April 2021, to see if the increased visitor numbers don’t overly annoy the residents who live around it.
So that’s why it was possible for me to take some photos of “Christmas lights” in April.