This could be considered one of London’s newest, and widest alleys, as there’s never been an alley on this location, but in fact, there was a small alley of the same name nearby, underneath the very new large office block that destroyed it.
Just around the corner from Liverpool Street station, and although within the boundaries of the Roman city, following their departure the area wasn’t significantly reoccupied until the 11th century, by which time much of the area was given to religious sites.
The name, Clerk’s Place is in memory of a long lost occupant of the area, the Fraternity of St Nicholas, later known as the Fraternity of Parish Clerks, who were known to be here from at least 1274 in their own hall facing onto Bishopsgate Street. It was confiscated during the Reformation under the Act of 1547 for the suppression of chantries.
Although they no longer have a Hall, they still exist and are one of London’s oldest guilds. It’s not a Livery Company though, arguing that its surplice clothing predates Livery clothing, and so, although it behaves like a Livery Company and joins in the City’s livery traditions, along with the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, it isn’t one.
Its full name is… deep breath… The Master, Wardens, Assistants and Brethren of the Parish Clerks of the Parish Churches of the City and Suburbs of London and the Liberties thereof, the City of Westminster, the borough of Southwark and the fifteen Out-Parishes adjacent.
The area was later given over to the Earl’s of Oxford who occupied it until the middle of the 16th century.
The post Great Fire of London rebuilding saw most of the area developed into small houses and workshops with a few alleys behind to give access to more houses. It was around this time that Clerk’s Place was laid out, which was a very short alley that linked up with Wrestler’s Court.
Wrestler’s Court is nothing to do with men in leotards, but is an early form of wrestling, which is said to have taken place in an inn on the site – and was mentioned in Pepys diaries.
There was also another unconnected road to the west, Bishopsgate Avenue.
Bomb damage in WW2 destroyed most of the eastern half of the block, leaving the area empty for a couple of decades until it was redeveloped with a conventional office block of the time – Eleman House.
The latest redevelopment of the area has seen a continuation of a long line of smaller buildings being consumed into much larger offices. And what was once a street of small houses turned into three large blocks, and is now effectively just one huge development – albeit split into three sites.
One advantage is that there is now a proper east-west connection behind the new building, linking up what would have been the old Bishopsgate Avenue and Wrestler’s Court with the new location slightly to the south for Clerk’s Place.
The alley opened up during the lockdown, which is timely as it offers a bypass for the busy road on the other side of the buildings.
What we have now is three short alleys linking up to a central courtyard space. Apart from the fairly bland openness – which may charitably be put down to not finished off yet — or worse, as it will always appear, the dominant decorative feature are the green walls, which are also side lit to make them a bit more interesting.
One thing though, the old alley was Clark’s Place, then after the war, it became Clerk’s Place, but the new one is Clerks Place – after many centuries, they’ve finally dropped the apostrophe.