This is a cluster of alleys just off Bond Street that all share the same name, but were once totally separate alleys entirely.
This part of London is known as the Conduit Mead Estate, after an old water conduit that ran through the area, and although once owned by The Crown, in 1628/9, the lands were granted to the City of London who also bought the freehold. The sale allowed The Crown to pay back some of the debt King Charles I owed to the City’s Livery Companies at the time, while the City was interested in the land to secure the freshwater supply.
The City started subleasing the land to developers, and by the 1730s, most of the area was developed into a mix of housing, shops and warehouses.
The block of buildings that Lancashire Court is in today was originally three separate alleys.
One t-shaped block, originally known as Lancaster Court, a small courtyard known as Horse Shoe Yard, and a nearby White Lion Yard. baring a name change from Lancaster Court to Lancashire Court in the 1800s, this layout remained intact up to the 20th century.
The area was not the posh enclave it is today though, as Goad’s Insurance Map show the area still dominated by warehouses, builders yards and workrooms, although the earliest glimmers of art galleries were just starting to appear in some side buildings.
Even up to the 1970s, these back alleys were not lined with the posh shops and cafes they are today. And the alleys nearly didn’t survive much longer. In 1987, plans were shown off by Frederick Gibberd, Coombes and Partners to flatten the whole area and redevelop it into a two-level shopping arcade behind faux-Victorian facades.
Fortunately, that never happened, although the dismissal of the planning request did leave open the options to gut the buildings and rebuild behind the preserved facades. The whole area was largely untouched and sealed off due to dangerous empty buildings in the 1990s.
The biggest change to the area though was in 1997, when the new landlords, the Co-operative Insurance Society, completed an £11 million revamping of the area, retaining most of the appearance and layout of the alleys, but poshed-up for the locals. This was also the time that old offices backing onto the alleys were converted into the Handel & Hendrix museum, which opened in 2001.
It’s also when the three separate alleys were joined up for the first time into a single cluster of passages.
Today the area, once warehouses and the derelict, is filled with posh shops and restaurants that overflow into the alleys. The main courtyard area is filled with tables for outdoor dining by Hush Mayfair.
Do seek out the northwest corner of the alleys though where there are fewer shops and more backdoors, for there’s a wonderful mural of London by Michael Czerwinski and Ray Howell, with a text about the time that Handel lived in the building next door.
It’s not just fancy shops, or restaurants, or murals, there are also residential flats above them. Although a modest 1-bed flat will set you back an eye-watering £1.4 million.