This tiny very well-hidden alley in Holborn has existed ever since the church it wraps around the back of was built in Norman times.

Originally dedicated to St Edmund and today known as Holy Sepulchre London, the church was given its current name during the Crusades, venerating its Jerusalem namesake. The Norman era church was demolished and rebuilt in the 15th century, and again largely rebuilt following the Great Fire of London, and baring some internal modifications in the 18th century, is pretty much as it was when rebuilt.

As for the alley though – that snakes around the back of the church along a route that was originally laid out when the first church was built. It shows up clearly on Tudor era maps as an unnamed passage between the church and the slowly developing fields and inns around the church.

It shows up in 1676 as being part of the churchyard, and lingered on unchanged until 1863-69, when the Holborn Viaduct was constructed. While the church and alley were untouched, the western side of the church was cleared to create the sloping road Snow Hill that curves down to Farringdon Street.

The alley itself became home to charity schools, one for boys and one for girls – St. Sepulchre’s School which opened in 1875 occupying part of the former burial ground.

When it closed, the boys’ school later became St Sepulchre’ Restaurant, and while the building is still there, on my visit, it was totally boarded up and empty. The former girls’ school still stands as well, was occupied by offices in the 1980s, and is today occupied by a therapy consulting service.

Today, the entry to the alley is on the west side of the church, and as you walk around the red railings, you’ll find the gate to the alley, and then inside, another gate with protective spikes along the top as protection from grave robbers of the past.

It’s a small but pleasant space, hidden away from the road noise, and with lots of space between the church and former school buildings for a bit of a garden and some trees.

You used to be able to walk all the way around the back of the church, but the far end of the alley has now been sealed off, so you’ll be turning around and coming back, remembering to duck under those scary looking spikes.


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