This alley near the Guildhall seems to have been in existence since the 11th century. It was originally, if unsurprisingly known simply as Church Alley, running alongside St Olave Jewry church. Behind the old church is a former churchyard, but not for the church next door.
It was originally St Martin’s Churchyard. The two different religious sites are side by side, as a parish boundary runs right down the middle of the alley.
The old church, St Olave Old Jewry was dedicated to the 11th-century patron saint of Norway, St Olaf, and the area was noted for its Jewish population prior to their expulsion in 1290. The Great Synagogue was just over the road from the church.
The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, then largely demolished in 1887 as parishes were merged due to the declining population. Today just the tower remains, fronting to the churchyard next door, which is itself now a garden space.
The garden helps to open up the space, which would otherwise be a rather nondescript alley running between modern offices.
Just to the south of the alley is Mercer’s Hall, the richest of the City of London livery companies. If you look around the buildings on the south side of the alley, you’ll see a lot of Mercers Maidens on the walls.
The south-western corner is a rather pleasing 1910 red brick office building, Dauntsey House that’s supposed to be “neo-wrenaissance” in style, a reminder that it’s not just modern architects who dabble in gibberish.
At the far end, where it fronts onto the very narrow Ironmonger Lane, there is a plan to widen the path by adding a colonnade under the building so that there’s more space to walk along here.
Location map and local interesting places
- 1] St Olave's Court
- 2] Prudent Passage
- 3] Crown Court
- 4] Honey Lane, EC2
- 5] Mason's Avenue
- 6] Tokenhouse Yard
- 7] Great Bell Alley, EC2
- 8] St Stephen's Row
- 9] Groveland Court, EC4
- 10] Pope's Head Alley