This is probably the grandest entrance that has ever been constructed to what is just a short set of steps between two roads.

These are the Essex Street steps which link Essex Street to Milford Lane.

When Essex Street was originally laid out in around 1676, the end of the street terminated in a large “triumphal gateway” that was there to screen the polite street from the rough workers in the docks fronting onto the Thames.

Damaged during World War II, the gateway was repaired and incorporated into the 1953 building across the end of the street. Pseudo-Roman pomp and circumstance. Giant order of fluted Corinthian pilasters on pedestals supporting archivolt arch. A typical piece of Barbon bravura “pour epater les bourgeois”.

As impressive as the entrance is from Essex Street, the lower level from Milford Lane is drab and unassuming. A simple brick doorway that is in total contrast to the grand facade above.

Milford Lane is on the other side, and runs up from the Thames to the Strand, probably taking its name from a ford that once crossed a small stream in the area. It also once marked the boundary between two great estates, owned by Lord Essex and the Earl of Arundel.

The lane is notable for the death in 1722 of a local cook, who had black skin, and who funeral was attended by around 60 other people with the same skin complexion. Immigration isn’t a new thing.

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