Sometimes you come across an alley that looks interesting, but is probably new, but turns out to be ancient. Argyle Walk looks like it was laid out with the construction of the social housing blocks, and indeed, the current appearance dates from that era. However, the alignment of the path follows a route trod for hundreds of years, when all around was more fields than roads.
It first shows up roughly on John Rocque’s map of 1746, and more distinctly on Horwood’s map of 1799, as a diagonal path between fields leading from a small settlement known as Bowling Green to an unnamed village nearby.
The land around the walk was known as a dumping grounds in later years, and home to the notorious Dust Heap which piled up on modern day Argyle Square.
Developers took over the site in 1824 to develop the Battle Bridge Estate (named after Bradford Bridge), and the current layout of roads and passages dates from their work. It’s likely that they retained the ancient pathway as it separated two legally distinct properties and would be easier to retain the right of way as it existed at the time.
Split in two by a road, the western end used to be called Argyle Place, but was later merged with it’s eastern counterpart so the entire alley is now Argyle Walk.
It’s a wide alley, but hemmed in by tall blocks of flats to give it a narrow canyon feel, accentuated by the line of trees that run through the middle of the passage.
It’s cut in places by roads that look as if they’ve themselves been truncated by later developments, but it seems that if that’s the case then the later developments occurred only just after the road was built as the buildings are all relatively old themselves.
A curiosity of the alley though is the shallow valley that cuts through the passage, with a few steps down. It would have been exceptionally easy to fill this in and create a level path, but the shallow dip was retained.
The dip and its steps appear on all relatively detailed maps, so seems original to the housing developments, and could potentially be related to the tendency for housing developers to dig out soil for construction, so there was little “hard core” left over to fill the space back in again.
Whatever the origins, little quirks like these are what often turn a reasonably ordinary path into one with a little bit of character.
Location map and local interesting places
- 6] The British Library
- 7] Foundling Museum
- 8] The Francis Crick Institute
- 9] Canal Museum
- 10] Wellcome Collection
- 11] Brunei Gallery, SOAS
- 12] Charles Dickens Museum
- 13] Wiener Library
- 14] Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology