This is a slip of a passage near Holborn that provides little today other than back doors and rubbish bins, but once lead to a grand mansion house.
The alley is named after a mansion house that stood on the site – Weld House, which was the mansion house and gardens owned by the lawyer and public official, Humphrey Weld.
Humphrey Weld was a significant figure in the years around the English Civil Wars, and also a secret Catholic at a time when that was illegal. He was however a successful businessman and official, and in around 1639/40, bought a newly built mansion in Aldwych, which he named Weld House.
During the civil war, as a Royalist, he spent most of his time in Oxford, and was restored to favour when King Charles II returned to the throne. In 1671, his home at Weld House was attacked by a mob angered at his work as a Justice of the Peace.
In the late 1670s, a fictitious conspiracy invented by Titus Oates claimed there was a Catholic plot to overthrow the King, Weld was accused of taking Catholic Mass at his London home and was summoned to Parliament to defend himself. At the time, Weld House was being sublet to the Spanish Embassy, which wouldn’t have helped his cause. He was sacked, and lacking an income was taken to court for unpaid debts just a few years later and died in 1685.
The building was attacked again in December 1688 when James II fled the country during the Glorious Revolution. It’s known that the house was still standing, and now owned by the London lawyer, Isaac Foxcroft in 1694, and although it can’t have survived much longer after that, the exact date of its demolition is unknown.
As the area developed following the clearance of the mansion house, it gained a cluster of small streets lined with workshops and houses. One notable occupant of Wild Court was future US statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who worked as a pressman and compositor at the office of John Watts in Wild Court in 1726.
By the 1740s, there were a number of Wilds in the area, from Great Wild Street and Little Wild Street, and of course, Wild Court.
By the Victorian era, Wild Court had a school on the south side, and was still lined with small houses and shops on the north side.
The area was still dominated by small roads and slums, but a lot of this was cleared in the early 1900s when the Kingsway road was built running north-south through the area. It also cut the far end of Wild Court, which was rebuilt in the Edwardian style to match the rest of the Kingsway development.
The first of two major changes to the alley itself took place in the late 1920s, when most of the north side was rebuilt, with Freemasons’ Hall and the Connaught Rooms taking over most of the buildings that used to cluster in the area.
The school still exists, although it’s no longer a children’s school with a playground, but part of the adult education campus for City Lit. The current building is about 20 years old, replacing a cluster of smaller buildings.
At the eastern end, two large Edwardian buildings front onto Kingsway. The most significant is the southern building, Kodak House, designed by Thomas Tait working for Sir John Burnet and Partners. Unsurprisingly, it was for the London headquarters of the US camera company, Kodak, and is considered a particularly fine example of restrained Edwardian design with strong use of modestly decorated stone and richly decorated bronze work.