This is both delightful, in a 1980s sort of way, and yet somewhat perplexing alley in the City of London.

The puzzle is why it’s still here – being barely a moment from the end of the road, so anyone using it as a short cut to get to the next road saves a mere 10-15 seconds on their journey. The building it sits beneath is a late 1980s affair, but the alley is, as many are in the City, considerably older.

It may have been called Angel Alley, as that shows up on Richard Blome’s map of 1754, and Noorthwick’s of 1772, but by the late 18th century it was known as either Hartshorn Court or Alley, probably after a tavern on the site, known as the Harts Horn.

The buildings on the site were demolished in the late 1980s and the current office block erected, with the alley preserved.

And what an odd alley it is.

In a way, it’s quite lovely, with a curious mix of a curved corner in the middle that hints of hidden depths and prevents you from seeing a simple straight path, but open entrances and street signs that indicate a public passageway.

The stonework is reminiscent of the era, being exceptionally expensive granite blocks, yet most of the alley is given over to crude fire escape exits and in one case, a totally sealed off doorway.

It’s almost as if a street underpass has been tarted up, but no one bothered to deal with the derelict shops that had long since closed. Except one though — as in the middle of this narrow alley, is a bookmaker.

There is a main entrance on the road, but they chose to spend a fair bit on an extra doorway hidden away in this alleyway, maybe as a convenient escape route for gamblers caught by their bosses, or wives when they should be at work.

It’s just a bit odd that a narrow alley that need not exist was not just preserved, but had quite a lot of money spent on the wall coverings.


Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with: ,

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

  1. Sarah Crofts says:

    I think I remember the previous version of this alleyway before the current building was built. I seem to recall that it was more like a corridor running through a building and it was even carpeted! In the late 1970s, I worked in an insurance company which had entrances on Leadenhall St and Fenchurch St and I think this alleyway was nearby.

  2. Geoff Michel says:

    That’s how I remember it from 1982 ish. The carpet was in pretty good condition.

    • Lisa says:

      My cousin works early hours and goes througb nearly every night there is the great escape being wistlex but no one thete – any one ever heard about this ??

  3. Mark says:

    I have heard exactly the same thing today and every time I walk through there.. someone whistling the great escape them and nobody is around. Sometimes in the day and late at night.. I’ve just taken a video and you can hear it..weird..

  4. Mark says:

    Just discovered the whistling is”sound art”…

Home >> News >> London's Alleys and Passages