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.

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5 comments
  1. D Pomphrey says:

    Hi, I have been researching my family tree and one of my relatives James Wood, used to own a printing works at 13-15 Bear Alley, I have found some information on it, but unable to find factual evidence that he was there. I was wondering if you would have any more luck than I have to find evidence of this. Any help would be gratefully received. Thank you

  2. Michael says:

    Read and Nicoll Printing was also located in Bear Alley. The photo I have is dated 6th September 1947. I haven’t found any pictures of the Building just the workers group photo with my Grandfather and his brothers (Nicoll family)

  3. Jake Nelson says:

    In 1964, Bear Alley became part of the empire of the ‘Lion’, boys’ picture-story paper. If you were a member of the ‘Lion’ Birthday club, it was the address to send your letters and photos to, and get your ‘Lion’ badge.

    Those were the days!

  4. Steve Postlethwaite says:

    I am going through my late brothers Stamp collection and have found several envelopes from all over the world, in the 1970’s, addressed to 1-2 Bear Alley, Farringdon. Some may have been competition entries such as ‘…ulous New Seekers’ and others addressed to ‘The Tammy Club’. Another envelope fragment has IPC written on it. Maybe they had an office there.

  5. Michael says:

    Williams, Crowe & Nicoll, electrotypers, 16 Bear Alley. The company later changed to Read and Nicoll.

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