If you walk along the north side of The Strand you cannot help but notice a number of small alleys, some rather delightful and concealing local pubs, but this is Lumley Court, where you are exhorted to speak with hushed tones.
This silent alley is apart from the sign to keep voices low lest they disturb the theatre it runs alongside is frankly, rather unappealing.
It is however of ancient origin, dating to at least Elizabethan times, if not earlier, but it wasn’t popular back then either. Even John Stypre, writing in 1598 described it as “indifferent”
Today it is a modestly useful short cut if you want to avoid the nearby more pleasing Bull Inn Court, and has all the airs of being the neglected back of shops. A narrow corridor that is warm from the exhalations of a row of air conditioning vents, and the smells of an alley that seems to double as a latrine at times.
In fact, it runs along the side of the Vaudeville Theatre, with its side staircase and warning signs not to talk too loudly lest it disturbs the plays within.
It is also notable for being one of the few that doesn’t follow the slope of the land, and hence has a step of steps at the north end to get up to Maiden Lane behind.
The steps are, by London’s standards, modern. Until around the 1870s, Lumley Court was a dead end. It stopped roughly where the steps are today, but when Maiden Lane was widened in 1872, it seems that whatever building stood at the end blocking the alley was removed, and they decided to create a path to the Strand.
A more recent change is that the side opposite the theatre used to be offices, but was recently converted into residential flats. A resident possibly curious as to why I was photographing an old alley watched from a window.