This is the story of an alley called Bull Inn Court which is today most famous for containing a pub, which is not called the Bull Inn.

What you do have is a surprisingly large alley that offers a convenient bypass from Strand to avoid the rushing crowds, except during the pub’s own rush hour in the evening, when the court fills with people holding pints.

There used to be an inn on the site known as the Black Bull Inn until around 1680, when the north side of Strand was mostly stables and tenement flats. The Inn was demolished, and the court was constructed as the area was chopped up from old tudor estates into smaller plots of land.

Althought he court is still named after the former Bull Inn, today it’s much more famous successor is the Nell Gwynne Tavern, named after the famous mistress of King Charles II.

The pub itself dates from around 1680, although the rich red frontage, sadly is an early 19th century rebuild.

The passageway through from Strand has an Edwardian lining, to walls and ceiling, of polychrome tilework in Art Nouveau style and arched street entrance.

At one time, the court also housed an early electricity generator, the noise from which so infuriated the proprietor of the theatre, that he sold up, to the owner of the generator plant, Stefano Gatti.

The Gatti family were to later also acquire the lease of the Nell Gwynne tavern. They later sold the entire site to Woolworths to be turned into one of their stores. Fortunately, planning officers were less impressed with the idea, and vetoed it.

Although the pub claims that the well known actor, William Terris was murdered nearby, it was actually on Maiden Lane, a bit further along the road. It’s claimed his ghost haunts Covent Garden tube station, which is even further away, and not at all related to the theatre he worked in.

If you look up at the wall of the theatre, there are some bronze cogs up there, salvaged from the original power house that was on the site.

Apart from the pub and the Adelphi Theatre, the alley is home to a number of residential flats, which are not particularly cheap to rent.

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7 comments
  1. P M says:

    Thanks for this insight to Bull Inn Court my maternal Great Grand Mother lived in Bull Inn Court in 1861.
    A bit of London History. I have never found the dates that the power house was operational.

  2. Mike Abbott says:

    I worked at 13 Bull Inn Court from 1960 to 1965. Then the address was occupied by the British Lighting Council (their HQ was in nearby Brettenham House, Waterloo Bridge). The building was the property of the London Electricity Board and we were sub-tenants. As a result of the LEB’s heavy power generation machines, the floors at 13 were massively thick concrete, metal stairs taking occupants from ground to upper floors. My manager and I occupied the top floor with a door that opened out onto a flat roof providing views of the nearby church and top of the Civil Service Stores.

  3. Gillian cairns says:

    My mother was born at no.15 bull in court ad were her siblings. She led an unhappy childhood often being sent out to fetch beer for her stepfather at the mentioned public house.

  4. Andria Cole says:

    My mum and her family lived at Bull InnCourt 1934 til 1947. Her parents were Vera and Stefano Bellini. My mum is Mafalda. Her Nonna and Nonna lived upstairs. Eddie and Lena and son Temp Bellini also lived in the flats. My sister and I love hearing the stories.

  5. Steve Ellerbeck says:

    I restored those terracotta tiles from the old court building so that they could incorporated into a new building so now there are six hand painted plaques which I have repainted . Restored the old broken tiles . That was in 1992

  6. Tony Steven says:

    Following a “ who do you think you are “ episode a name came up on a land tax assessment form with the name John STEVEN as being in the book trade, this being about 1815 in Bulls Inn Court, my family, to my knowledge came down from Scotland a few years after that, so this is an intriguing line of research, they were all in the book trade.

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