This covered passage near Aldgate leads to a courtyard that was once a garden for the neighbouring church, St Katherine Cree.

What is now the Guild Church of St Katharine Cree was founded as a parish church in 1280 by the nearby Augustinian Holy Trinity Priory for reasons which might seem uncharitable, as the priory was getting irritated with local people using its church. To stop the locals from disturbing the monks, they built another church next door and told the parishioners to use that instead.

The church was to outlive the priory though, as it fell to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

The first church was probably quite small, and John Stow wrote in the 1590s that “this church seemeth to be very old; since the building whereof the high street hath been so often raised by pavements that now men are fain to descend into the said church by divers steps, seven in number”

The old church was demolished shortly afterwards, though, and the current building is pretty much the one that was built in 1628-30, and is now London’s only surviving Jacobean church.

Around the side of the church is the alleyway entry leading to a concealed courtyard.

What is the courtyard space today was originally the garden at the back of the church, and unusually, the garden wasn’t a former graveyard, as that is next door — and is still accessible via Mitre Street. The garden became a courtyard by the 1740s, with buildings facing onto the main road and a covered passage linking the two. The courtyard seems to have shrunk though, as 18th-century maps show a larger space than 19th-century maps.

As an aside, the name of the road it leads off seems to have swapped over the centuries and is either Cree Church Lane or Creechurch Lane – currently the latter.

The row of buildings that straddles the courtyard entrance, Cree Church Buildings, dates to around the late 1880s, as they show up as “under construction” in Goad’s insurance maps of 1887. The building nearly didn’t last long as a bad fire broke out next door in 1891 and spread rapidly, and firefighters had to work hard to prevent the buildings from being destroyed.

Inside, a solitary occupant is a pub with the very unalcoholic name of the Old Tea Warehouse, taking its name from the East India Tea Company Warehouse it occupies.

The old warehouse was converted into the pub on the ground floor and flats above in 1996, and rumour has it that old tea leaves were found packed into the floorboards, having been used as insulation.


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