This narrow right angled alley runs behind blocks of offices and shops, today offering a convenient place for fire exits and windows. Although lined with modern buildings, it does however follow ancient alignments.
The north-south length sits just outside the old Roman Wall that surrounded London. Not that you would have wanted to walk along this path, as the outside of the wall was a deep, and often water logged ditch, so you’d have been wading through foul water had you been here a millennium ago.
That alignment was lost by the 1500s though as the Roman Wall here was dismantled and the stone reused for the wall surrounding the Blackfriars monastery. It seems that the whole area where the alley is today became a cemetery.
Following the suppression of the monasteries by King Henrry VIII, the land was sold off, and swiftly built upon.
The alley appeared around the same time, as a gap behind warehouse buildings, and right up to Victorian times, the alley ran behind these narrow buildings. Over time the smaller buildings were merged into larger offices, notably the publishers G. Routledge & Sons, who still operate, although long since moved away, and also Egleton’s, who don’t.
Although much of the area was gutted by WW2 bombs, this little corner was completely untouched. What we see today then is the result of the gradual rebuilding of the area, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s in a relatively sympathetic manner.
The alley still remains though, a very narrow slip of a line that runs behind the buildings, open to the air along most of the length, but at its very narrowest, it’s also covered over which gives it a delightfully claustrophobic atmosphere.
The name of the alley is possibly a reference to the Mayor of Bedford, Paul Cobb, who had some dubious dealings with post fire of London developer Nicholas Barbon, although that’s not certain.