This is an annoying alley in Covent Garden that’s been here for centuries and left scarcely a mark in the history books.
It’s generally said that Langley Court was named after Sir Roger Langley, who owned land here in the early 18th century. However, it may have originally been called Angell Court, as that seems to be the name it has in the 1682 edition of William Morgan’s map of London, and while it is a little difficult to be absolutely certain what the name was — it certainly wasn’t Langley Court.
More certain though is that it was being called Leg Alley in John Rocque’s map from 1746, was still called Leg Alley in 1853, and likely became Langley Court the following year, as that’s its name in 1855.
According to Goad’s Insurance Maps of 1888, the alley was lined on the western side by basket makers — probably supplying the local market — and on the eastern side most of the alley was filled by St. Martin’s Chambers, and on the corners were a pub and a restaurant.
It’s likely that St. Martin’s Chambers was new, as that side of the alley was sold in 1891 as a development opportunity and listed as containing a row of tenement houses at the time.
Later adverts in newspapers showed various other occupants, such as a ladies’ underwear seller, an art gallery, a tyre pressure maker, and a signs painter.
Covent Garden was threatened with widespread demolition in the 1950s, and in 1956, Westminster Council issued compulsory purchase orders on several empty shops and warehouses in Langley Court to demolish them. Eventually, Covent Garden was saved although some of the empty stable yards around Langley Court did seem to get demolished and replaced with newer buildings.
These days, it’s lined with shops mostly upmarket, although Paul Smith seems to have recently been replaced with a warehouse sample sale outlet.