This is an alley near Bank in the City of London with two very different appearances because until recently, it was two separate alleys.
The older looking half on the western side is in fact the younger half, but only by about a century or so. The eastern half, first appears in Tudor times as Nederslane. However, by the 1670s, the area behind the houses had filled in, and the first hints of the second alley on the western side has appeared – called George Yard.
In 1885, the two separate alleys were merged into the single Well Court. However, it’s unlikely that many of the traders in the former George Yard got used to the new name as a destructive fire in October 1888 destroyed most of the shops and warehouses in the alley.
Goad’s Insurance Map from 1904 shows the alley was now filled with light industry supporting the printing trades, with several printers and sign writers, and a packing case manufacturer. One of the traders, G Sheridan advertised itself as specialists in “the reproduction of facsimile typewritten letters” — a company that would be killed off by the intention of the photocopier. On the corner is the pub that’s still there today, the Golden Fleece — and with the cost of a pint these days, fleeced is how you might feel sometimes.
The more modern half of the alley was lined with warehouses, and along one side, those buildings largely still surive.
Approaching Well Court from the historic shopping street of Bow Lane, and it’s a covered arch passing through a narrow gap between two shops. This leads to a still very narrow, but open air corridor slipping behind the shops, and still filled with with shops, although more of the sort you’re seeking out than browsing and popping into.
A case in point is the tailor’s Graham Browne, who have expanded over the past 50 years years to take over much of the northern side of the alley. Above the tailors, an old office block was recently converted into residential flats, for the super rich.
There’s a modern corner on the alley to pass through, with Merchant House wine bar in the basement.
You might think as you walk out into a wide road that the alley has ended, but in fact, this road is the oldest part of the alley, even though nothing particularly old remains now to remind you of its heritage.
The only notable feature is the ramp leading down to a subterranean car park for Aldermary House, the office block next door.