That rather unpromising looking alley may be today a facilities route for offices, but its heritage is ancient.
The alley leads off from Farringdon Street, which follows the line of the old Fleet River, now buried under its tarmac into a brick sewer. The area was probably first settled by the Romans, and following their departure, the area was unused until around the 11th century, when developments along the River Fleet built up along its banks, for cutlers and tanners.
The river was cleaned in 1502 and 1606, and the river turned into the New Canal by 1676, and finally covered over in 1764 to be used for the Fleet Market, which itself moved away in 1826.
The alley itself seems to have come into existence sometime in the 17th century, probably providing access to the river for buildings further back on Seacole Lane. The earliest reference can be found in Leake’s Survey of the City After the Great Fire of 1666.
The removal of the market opened up the road as Farringdon Street, named after William de Farringdone, a 13th century goldsmith and city worthy.
The alley used to link the Fleet River to Seacole Lane, but that was torn down by the arrival of the railways and the alley used to end at the back of the since-closed Holborn Viaduct Station, and which is now the City Thameslink station.
Standing at the opening of Bear Alley, you can see the Thameslink station at the far end, with a couple of old City of London bollards, which curiously one has been repainted, and the other not.
To one side is just access doors to the office facilities, occupied on my visit by a chap out for a smoke, and the other is parking access for the office.
There’s not a lot to say for the alley to make it sound interesting, it’s a fairly bland end for an alley with such ancient heritage.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] Bear Alley
- 2] Warwick Passage
- 3] Church Entry, EC4
- 4] Crane Court, EC4
- 5] Hen and Chicken Court
- 6] St Paul's Alley
- 7] Wardrobe Place
- 8] Ireland Yard, EC4
- 9] New Bell Yard, EC4
- 10] Greenhill Rents
- 11] White Horse Alley
- 15] Stationers' Hall