This is a cobbled passage just off Roman Road in East London that’s recently seen run down workshops being converted into loft-apartment style flats.
The area was still fields until the late 18th-century when housing started to appear along the Roman Road, and Peary Place appeared about the same time, as a gap between the emerging housing of the area.
At the time the road to the north of the alley was known as North Place, so the alley was known as North Passage. However during the early 19th-century rebuilding to the north of the alley, North Place was renamed Kirkwall Place, and the alley was renamed Peary Place, apparently after the American polar explorer Robert Peary. Renaming an obscure alley in East London after an American explorer who had no connection to the area at all does seem like a very odd thing to do when you think about it. And when you think about it, the odder it seems, even though many reports say that’s what happened. There’s a problem. Robert Peary allegedly reached the North Pole (it’s disputed) in 1909, but the decision to rename the alley was taken by the London County Council in February 1907.
I’m inclined, in the absence of other documents, to suggest that as there was another, and rather larger North Passage not far away, close to what is now the Young V&A Museum, the renaming was simply a tidying up exercise to prevent people being confused as to which one was which.
The alley and the surrounding houses were surprisingly unaffected by WW2, which gives the area its appearance of a mix of Victorian buildings interspersed with 1980s docklands regeneration style blocks of flats.
At the southern end of the alley is the former Black Horse pub, which seemed to close down in the middle of the 1990s, and while the upper floors have been rented out, the ground floor pub seems to have either been unoccupied for the past decade or at least if occupied, they’ve kept a very low profile.
Opposite the ex-pub is a building built in 1992 as a rather awkward-looking pastiche of the Victorian building that once stood there. It once housed a shop, then became an art gallery, which is when the fancy concrete pediment was added.
The buildings down the alley are predominantly 2 storey Victorian workshops that have since been converted to houses. The redevelopment of old workshops on the eastern side of the alley in 2015-17 also saw the cobbled (setts) road surface added, replacing conventional tarmac, to give the alley a heritage appearance similar to how it would have looked originally.
One of the more notable, from the inside at least, properties down here is 5 Peary Place, a workshop that closed in 2011 and was converted into a very modern home in 2013. At the northern end, the alley opens up and passes between the council flats and the 1980s block.