An alley that can be traced all the way back to Tudor London, with a famously enigmatic stone plaque on one wall.
It doesn’t look like an ancient alley today, being very wide and modern, thanks to the deprivations of WW2, but until the bombs fell, this had been a narrow alley ever since it was laid out, surrounded by buildings.
The name, Panyer Alley comes from the trade locally for boys to sell bread from baskets they carried. Pannier being a basket, bag, box, or similar container, carried in pairs. The term derives from a Middle English borrowing of the Old French panier, meaning ‘bread basket’.
To the south-eastern end was a famous pub, The Pannier, which was burnt down in the Great Fire of London.
Much of the area was then badly damaged in WW2, leaving the area ripe to be opened up, with the corner block of buildings replaced with the modern freestanding office block, and of course, the tube station entrance.
Pannier Alley is also notable for sitting on what is said to be the highest spot in the City of London, just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s not the highest spot, but maybe it once was before London built up.
Set into a wall on the eastern side of it is to be seen the figure of a naked child seated on a pannier.
When ye have sought the citty round yet still this is the high ground
August the 27 l688
His original location was different from the current one, and he seems to have been mounted on a house in the alley, on the floor, at least according to the Penny Illustrated Paper (May 1892). The building the plaque originally stood was torn down for a bank, but Mr Farrow, of Farrow’s Bank reportedly liked the Panyer Boy so much that he had it inserted into the wall of his bank, behind glass and guarded.
It was to go on to become the bank’s mascot.
The plaque was removed when the bank went bust in 1921 and the building was sold and torn down for the new St Paul’s tube station entrance.
Handed to the Vintner’s Company for safekeeping it was restored to the alley in 1939 by Lord Ashfield, but removed shortly afterwards due to WW2. It was then restored in 1964 to its current location and cleaned up a couple of decades ago when the current building was built.