This alley just around the corner from Farringdon Station is the famous one with the weird double yellow lines.
Crawford Passage is today effectively two wide alleys, linked by this photo-famous junction. Although it today looks fairly insignificant, it follows an exceptionally old path that predates pretty much all the other roads in the area. It formed the boundary between fields owned by the Bricett family sometime in the 1400s, and the path has followed roughly the same route ever since.
When the area started to be developed for housing and warehouses, the path became known as Hockley Hole after the nearby main road, Hockley in the Hole, but by 1799 it had gained its current name of Crawford Passage. I think I preferred the original name.
Although mostly warehouses and workshops, the passage once housed a modestly famous pub, the Cock and Pickled Egg which was noted for performing plays as early as the middle of the 18th century.
The passage is today made up largely of former warehouses that have been converted into offices and homes running up the fairly steep slope that leads from the hidden Fleet River. A very modern block of flats completes the northern end of the passage.
The biggest change that’s occurred in recent years is at the bottom of the passage, where The Guardian newspaper used to be based, in a rather bland old 1970s office block fronting onto Farringdon Road, which was torn down to be replaced with a modern office development.
That site is however quite significant, as it was where the UK’s first council housing was built. In 1851 the City of London was given permission to build homes for the poor and they developed what was to be known as the Corporation Buildings. Built by Browne & Robinson to designs by Alfred Allen and Horace Jones, they included housing for 168 families, shops and basement warehouses.
These were eventually torn down in the 1970s for a warehouse which was converted into offices, and more recently for the offices that occupy the site today.
However, it’s the bit in the middle that makes the alley famous among those who delight in such things — for the alley is technically a road all the way from top to bottom, so, thanks to red tape, requires double yellow lines even in a space that’s barely wide enough to push a bike through.
You’ve probably seen photos of that junction elsewhere, but now you know where it is.