This is a very short alley just to the south of Mansion House tube station that was recently refurbished but also sealed off. Fortunately, it’s also so very short that you can see the whole length just by standing by the gate.

The alley first appears as a defined space in the Ogilby and Morgan map of 1676, as a short passage leading to a courtyard behind the houses.

R Horwood map 1799

According to Gillian Bebbington’s London Street Names, Miniver Place is named after the type of white fur often used for lining ceremonial robes. Originally taken from the winter coat of red squirrels, it’s now a term for any general white fur. However, until the 1880s, the alley was known as St James Place, and was likely renamed after the fur at the turn of the century after the fur as the area at the time was becoming a centre for the fur trade, and its proximity to the nearby Skinners’ Hall, at the time, the home of fur traders.

Name changes aside, from its origins in the 1600s to modern times, Miniver Place changed little, although the courtyard shifted around a bit and shrank slightly following the rebuilding in 1913 of the corner building at 19/20 Garlick Hill, which surrounded the courtyard.

The alley saw its first significant change in centuries in just the past decade, when the former warehouse building on the corner of the street, next to the alley was demolished and rebuilt as a hotel. While the courtyard still exists, it’s sealed off behind a wall now.

That left just the small spur of the alley remaining.

As part of the planning application for the new hotel, they were allowed to erect a gate at the front of the alley, citing problems with antisocial behaviour in the past. The formal application to seal off the passage was granted in May 2017.

So today, all you can do is look at the alley through the gates. However, on the upside, the developer has given us a much more pleasing view than the plain, unadorned passage that used to be here. The previously simple brick walls are now painted a very dark blue, which leads to fire doors for the hotel. A rather nice backlit clock sits above the doors and frames the repainted arch.

Although it’s a shame you can’t walk down the passage, a journey to the end would take but seconds, so it’s not a practical loss of amenity, and at least it looks nice, if only from the outside.

Opposite the alley is something surprisingly interesting for a modern office block. That’s because the office block replaced the former headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), founded in 1668 to trade furs from Canada. What was called Beaver House was built in 1925, initially as admin offices for the fur traders, but in 1940, it became their headquarters as well.

Beaver House remained the official headquarters of HBC until its relocation to Canada in 1970, and the current building was erected on the site in the mid-1980s, originally for the Royal Bank of Canada, and is now occupied by Virgin Active.


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  1. Reaper says:

    Interesting. I always thought that the Hudsons Bay Company headquarters were further north, closer to Liverpool Street Station. I recall going through a gateway into a private street with its own gatekeepers box. There were all sorts of sculptures high on the walls of elk, beavers and similar. At the very end next to a set of doors into the building was a scuplture at ground level of a man dressing/scraping a pelt. If it wasnt the HBC headquarters I dont know what it was? Any ideas anyone?

  2. Reaper says:

    I have been doing some further reasearch which is, unusually, at odds with your article. It shows that, rather than being headquartered opposite Miniver Place prior to their move to Canada, the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) their headquarters were in St Helens Place which runs back from 60 – 64 Bishops Gate. An elegant development which was completed in 1926 and designed by Mewes and Davis, who also designed the Ritz. The Leather sellers Company is still based there. The best description of the building and its history can be found in that excelent book “Cruichshank’s London”.

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