This slightly posh-looking alley off Holborn is a recent redevelopment of a series of much older buildings, and the alley itself is ancient.
Little is known about early Holborn area in the Roman times, as it was outside the City, but the road was first mentioned as Holeburne Streete in 1249. At that time it was a major highway to the City.
There is however evidence that there was extensive Roman gravel quarrying in the area of Dyers’ Buildings in the 1st and 2nd centuries. There was also a Roman cemetery next door, where Barnard’s Inn is today.
Dyers’ Buildings itself as an alley dates from the mid 16th century, when, in 1551, almshouses were built by the Dyers’ Company under the benefaction of a Mr. Henry West, who provided for them in his will.
Known originally as White’s Alley, the alley was to become known as Dyers’ Buildings from the 17th century, after the City Livery Company that retained ownership of the property until 1966.
The present fabric of Dyers’ Buildings was constructed as one development by a John Wimble from 1871 to 1878. The development enclosed the alleyway to the south to form a secluded enclave off Holborn. The premises were built originally as workshops and offices but by the 1960s were more commonly used as offices.
In the past few years, the use of the entire alley has changed again, and is now upmarket residential flats. The frontages remained intact, but the rest of the offices behind were demolished to build the modern flats.
One improvement though was at the far end of the alley, where a one story building was replaced with a suitable four story house — thus helping to block off a view of a very inappropriate modern building behind.
The little gates at the front of the alley are new though, maybe trying to deter visitors. Another quirk of the design is that the metal gates at the end are now kept locked, so all the post boxes have had to be placed on a wall on the public side of the alley.
The real downside to the development is that the alley which was once busy with office workers is now exceptionally quiet considering its central London location.