This alley is a lingering remnant of a much longer passage that used to run all the way up to Fleet Street. It was originally called Salisbury Court, after the long-since demolished Bishop of Salisbury’s Inn, which was the Bishop’s residence when visiting London.

It ran up the hill to the open square, Salisbury Square, which it crossed, then ran up a road to Fleet Street. While the road is still called Salisbury Court, the bottom half, that we’re looking at was renamed  Primrose Hill some point in the late 18th century.

Probably because frankly, the old layout with two roads in slightly different locations separated by a courtyard meant it had a bit of a confusing layout.

Apart from being the former home of a bishop, the area is also well known for being home to a relatively long-lasting theatre, the Salisbury Court Theatre which was set up in 1629 and lasted until the Great Fire of London, although for much of its life it was closed because of the puritan prohibition on plays.

Following the restoration of the monarchy, the area became well known as a residence for actors and poets, and a replacement theatre was built nearby after the Great Fire.

It’s other great claim to fame is being the site of the birth of a diary keeper – one Samuel Pepys.

The bottom half, which is today Primrose Hill was in shape not much changed since it was first laid out sometime in the 16th century, although naturally, all the buildings are newer.

A small spur quickly curves around a corner, and heads up the hill, with modern offices on either side. It’s not that exciting a spot, to be frank. Notable here though is the back entrance to The Harrow pub, a charming old pub with several small nooks to hide away in corners.

Further down, the passage looks to be a modern dead end, and there’s a turntable to help vehicle reverse their way back out again, but for pedestrians, there’s another escape, a narrow staircase leads up to Salisbury Square.

Originally the staircase would not have been needed as Primrose Hill was on a slope, but that was somewhat smoothed out when the current offices were built, necessitating the stairs we have today. Other than its history, the alley today is candidly, of use for locals, but not of much interest otherwise.

That said, a visit sooner than later is wise if you want to see it, as the whole area is set to be redeveloped soon.


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  1. John Ward says:

    Thanks Ian for this great post about Primrose Hill. Many people are not aware that this, and other similar laneways rising uphill from the Thames are among the oldest streets in London, some dating back to late Anglo Saxon times, though sadly today so many are just used as service lanes to loading bays of large 20thC buildings.

  2. Keith Howard says:

    I love London’s hidden streets. Don’t go to the City much now. Did visit a couple of weeks back to see the “Ghost Town”. I walked up Cornhill, on the white line, and not a car or taxi in sight. I spend more time in SW London. (SW3,7,1 and W1) I organized getting the plaque installed to commemorate Mary Quant’s first boutique BAZAAR on the King’s Road. (Google Mary Quant plaque and select IMAGES.)The mews roads in SW land are charming… and tres expensive. I love roaming all the same.

  3. Chris Rogers says:

    I’m glad they’ve reopened the stairs. The Fleetbank House building complex is not a great example of its time but it is a n interesting one for the many alleys and ways through that it includes – it it NOT the blocade that the planning info for the court complex claims.

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