This is today a wide-open alley covered at both ends leading off the banking heart of Lombard Street.
This used to be a short dead-end of an alley leading to a large courtyard in an area that was rich in them, but while most of the other alleys have vanished, this one grew longer and now links two sides of the modern office block. In the mid 17th century, the alley lead to a large courtyard that doubtless gave access and light to the offices and warehouses that surrounded it.
It was also here that in 1688, Alexander Pope was born – and he was to go on to become one of the greatest of English poets, and certainly the leading poet of his lifetime.
A century later the courtyard remained, but much shrunken in size and it looked as if the alley would soon vanish, but substantial rebuilding in the mid 18th century saw a lot of local alleys vanish, and this one made longer.
No longer a short stump leading to a small courtyard, it had become a long alley lined exclusively with banks.
Goad’s insurance maps shows the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Russian Bank, the Ionian Bank, and the London & Leeds Bank all taking offices in the alley.
Today though, from Lombard Street, the alley slips in between two offices, one being a very modern officer block only recently completed to replace a 1960s office that was described by Pevsner as “an ugly building with mush sheet marble facing which has replaced the very early Waterhouse building on 1864-6”.
The current office was supposed to have the space above the alley clad in a glass artwork and poetry on the side of the building, but the plans changed, the art was dropped, and now it’s just a row of meeting rooms.
The building on the other side of the alley is a 1990s office, but behind a late 19th-century facade. The original 19th-century building was gutted in the 1990s to provide modern office space.
Down here is an old City of London plaque marking the birth of Alexander Pope, and also high up on the wall a small coat of arms.
These are for the Merchant Taylors company, showing the lamb for St John the Baptist above a crest containing a lion and a royal tent between two parliament robes. The presence of their crest on a building signifies that the land is owned by the Livery Company.
Further down, the alley passes over two open spaces for basements, giving it a slight effect of a bridge passing over a moat, and then through another covered walkway.
Article last updated on July 20th, 2021 at 09:07 am