This is both a brand new road, and an ancient alley that can be traced back at least 800 years, and a ceremony that has taken place every year since then.
Tweezers Alley appears on maps from 1676, but there’s a reference to it in the City of London archived when they paid for a forge on the site in 1235, at which time it seems to have been associated with a riverside wharf.
Every October, the City of London pays rent on the land it once leased, even though it has long since ceased to rent it.
The “quits rent” ceremony takes place in the Court of Appeal when the Queen’s Remembrancer, the oldest judicial position in England arrives, in wig AND tricorn hat to accept the rent — of sixty-one nails and six horse-shoes.
Rather gentlemanly, once the rent is paid, the Remembrancer hands the objects back to the City of London, to be used once again the following year.
It’s suggested, if not proven, that the alley gained its name from the forge, as tweezers were used by smiths to hold the metals being forged.
The alley seems to have survived right up to modern times as a narrow path, probably as back routes into properties fronting onto wharfs and warehouses facing the river.
Although little damaged by WW2, the area between the alley and Strand was entirely redeveloped in the 1960s, with a typical building of the era. More recently that has been torn down and replaced with its 21st century equivalent – lots of tightly crammed “luxury” flats.
The alley had remained untouched, as a narrow and rather unlovely alley that ran between the 1960s block and a post-modern edifice that went up more recently, and has also since been torn down.
The result is an alley that is now officially a proper road, with fresh tree planting and new pavements.
It has however retained none of the charm that makes alleys so often a delight to wander down, and despite the name, is now just another bland road next to a new housing block.
At least they’ve retained the original street sign at the eastern end of the alley.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] Tweezers Alley
- 2] Essex Street Steps
- 3] Devereux Court
- 4] Hen and Chicken Court
- 5] Hare Place
- 6] Crane Court, EC4
- 7] Chichester Rents
- 10] Twinings Museum
- 11] Somerset House
- 12] Courtauld Institute of Art
- 13] London Transport Museum
- 14] Dr Johnson's House