This seemingly fairly modern looking alley is actually one of the oldest in London, and potentially dates from pre-Saxon London.
It’s difficult to see it today, surrounded by offices and shops, but on the corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street is a.. church. In fact it’s St Peter upon Cornhill, and reputed to be the seat of an archbishop until the coming of the Saxons in the 5th century, after which London was abandoned and Canterbury became the seat for the 6th-century Gregorian mission to the Kingdom of Kent.[
Certainly the church would have been of some importance as it sits on the highest spot within old London, but whether it had an archbishop is now uncertain.
The alley of which I talk though, runs around the outside of the old church, so it can itself also be reliably dated to at least the 5th century, if not older. It shows up on maps from Tudor times onwards, as a clearly marked alley, although not named until the 17th century.
The alley still follows the same ancient path, wrapping around the back of the church, which while being a shorter post-fire rebuild by Sir Chris of St Pauls, it managed to retain its graveyard and since the 1850s, now a garden.
That at least means the alley isn’t as hemmed in as many of the others in the vicinity, and gives the modern offices something to look out over.
Talking of offices, while most are so-so, do take a look at 53 Cornhill, which fronts the alley at one end. A fairly ordinary building above the ground floor, but the black marble and granite detailing at street level is exquisite.
Back in the alley, it has a fine view of another nearby church, and the back of a pub, to keep the fat friar happy. It’s a nice little cut if using this corner of London as it avoids the worst of the crowds on the main roads.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] St Peter's Alley
- 2] Castle Court
- 3] Bengal Court
- 4] Post Office Court
- 5] Pope's Head Alley
- 6] Nicholas Passage
- 7] Talbot Court
- 8] Lovat Lane
- 9] Star Alley
- 10] St Stephen's Row
- 11] Great Bell Alley, EC2