Named after an inn and a dark period of history, this rather posh passage and charming steps can be found just around the corner from Parliament.
While most tourists use a main gate just down the road, the Cockpit Steps are used by local workers heading to the posh offices that surround St James.
It is however named after the Royal Cockpit which used to be next door, which was an inn that also carried out the barbaric — if at the time very popular — sport of cock fighting. Despite it’s regal name, the venue was open to anyone, and a drawing by Hogarth shows how the nobles mixed with the ordinary folk.
The alley can first be seen on Horwood’s map of 1799, while the cockpit itself was demolished in 1810.
The building on the West side of the alley, 2 Queen Anne’s Gate looks old, but is actually a modern replica. The building was built in 1825 as a private home, later chopped up as so many are around here, into offices.
In 1978 the building was served with a dangerous structures notice and deemed necessary for demolition. Consequently, the building that stands today is a modern replica, rebuilt in 1979.
Another recent addition to this old passageway is a bollard in the middle of the alley just in front of the steps.
Added just a couple of years ago, they are apparently there as a security upgrade, even if it would be not only almost impossible, but also utterly pointless to try and drive a vehicle up the alley — as there’s the curving set of steps at the end.
The alley is also reputedly haunted, if you believe in such things.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] Cockpit Steps
- 2] Lewisham Street
- 3] Pickering Place, SW1
- 4] Crown Passage, SW1
- 5] Blue Ball Yard, SW1
- 8] Churchill War Rooms
- 9] Jewel Tower
- 10] Guards Museum
- 11] Household Cavalry Museum
- 12] Banqueting House
- 13] Mall Galleries
- 14] Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
- 15] British Council London
- 16] Spencer House
- 17] Canada House Gallery
- 18] The Queen's Gallery