This is a slightly winding passage that has been around for a few centuries and yet left little history in its wake.

It first starts to show up in the middle of the 17th-century as an unmarked passage through the built-up area. In 1746, John Roque’s map of London showed the alley as Nags Head Court, and as the main route linking up a number of smaller — since lost — alleys that clustered around it. This is clearer to see 50 years later in R Horwood’s map.

R Horwood’s map 1799

It remained known as Nags Head Court until the 19th-century, when it acquired its current name of Lombard Court, and very much its current layout as two paths linked in the middle.

The eastern half is wide and modern, and a bit boring. The western half though still retains the airs of a proper old London alley.

Entry is through a covered walkway with St Clements House to the south side, a good office block built in 1864-65 by Frederick and Horace Francis as an early speculative office building built to rent out to multiple tenants, It’s been richly decorated with yellow stock brick and stone finishes above an ornate marble-clad ground floor. Sculptures of bearded men, likely Old Father Thames are above every window and the entrance to the alley.

The alley itself starts pretty bland, as a whitewashed corridor through the offices, but you can see that it opens up further along, with more polychromatic brickwork luring you down here.

Further down, a blackened frontage is a former pub, the Red Lion that closed down a few years ago. Being on a narrow side street would not have helped with passing trade, although it managed to hang on longer than I would have expected, especially as a former landlord, Walter Wiggins was once arrested for running away leaving heavy debts behind. The pub managed to survive until a few years ago though. Since I visited to take photos, the old pub has since been taken over by Cyclebeat, a worryingly healthy sounding venue for a venue once devoted to alcoholic relaxation.

Another former resident of the alley was the newly formed London Metal Exchange, which in 1877 rented space above a hat shop in the alley, but had to move to a larger premises a few years later.

Where once this alley thronged with small offices, mainly serving the shipping trade, today it’s a very quiet back passage mainly a space between the larger offices that surround it.

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One comment
  1. Jim Woodley says:

    Used to work for Morgan Guaranty Trust in Plough Court and the Red Lion was our “go to” in troubled times. Good old days.

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