This narrow alley off Cornhill lined with a mix of old bricks opens to a court space, and was once home to the offices of Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge
In the novel, Scrooge’s counting-house was set in a courtyard in the vicinity of Cornhill, facing “the ancient tower of a church, whose gruffold bell was always peeping down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall.” That almost certainly means the church of St Michael Cornhill – and opposite is Newman’s Court.
Scrooge is also said to have taken “his usual melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern,” and while various possible pubs have been suggested, it’s notable that there used to be a pub in the courtyard itself.
Although difficult to be absolutely certain, the alley does line up with the old Parish boundaries, and that may be a cause of its origin.
There is an indication of an alley on William Morgan’s map of 1682, leading to a rear property that overlooked the gardens of Merchant Taylor’s Hall. John Rocque’s map of 1746 is also the first time it is named, as Newman’s Yard, then later as Newman’s Court — seemly named after a family name who developed the area.
In the 1830’s the rear of the court was home to the Virginia and Maryland Coffee House (described as offering good dinner and beds), later the Virginia Tavern. The rear of the alley is now the back of a large development that took over the whole block facing onto Threadneedle Street at the turn of the century and is now a posh hotel.
Although the alley is rather nondescript, it has had other notable occupants – such as the master clockmakers, Brockbank & Atkins who were there between 1840 and 1918.
Today the alley is a narrow covered passage under the front buildings that opens out to, well, not a particularly interesting space. More a back of office hole to let light and air into the surrounding buildings, and offer a fire escape when needed.
It houses motorbikes though, so not entirely devoid of use.
The two buildings to the left as you enter the alley look very different, one old brick and the other of classic stone, but in fact, they are one building. If you look carefully at the first row of windows on the brick building, you’ll see they’re blacked out as they are lower down than the 1st floor of the more ornate facade next to it.
They used to be separate, but in the 1990s the entire site was gutted to build a modern office, retaining just the facades.