This alley off Chancery Lane is a mix of Victorian and 1990s offices, and a modern pub curving around a large office block.
It sits on the site of the Rolls House Inn, and within the former Liberty of the Rolls, which was given to the Keeper of the Rolls of Chancery after the previous occupants, Jews, were expelled from England by King Edward III in 1291
Known as White Alley in the 18th century, then at some point changed the name to Church Passage, probably after St Thomas’ Church, which occupied the eastern end of the passage where the Rolls Chapel had once stood. It was renamed as Rolls Passage in the early 20th century.
From the south-eastern entrance, it’s an ally that is lined with white glazed tiles on a Victorian building on one side facing a rather dreary 1970s office block.
Curling around a corner, you come to the main length of the passage, dominated by older buildings on the south side, and the modern office on the north, and a pub.
About half the buildings lining the alley at the western end were badly damaged during WW2, which explains the sudden transition from old to modern buildings along the north passage.
The ruins and remaining buildings were torn down in the 1960s and replaced with a single large office block, Thonock House, which itself was torn down and replaced with the current post-modern office block, now called Halsbury House in the early 1990s.
There used to be two pubs on the corners of Rolls Passage. One survives in the modern office block, and was originally the Appletree and Mitre pub, but the Blue Anchor pub on the Chancery Lane corner was lost when the office was rebuilt. Slightly confusingly, the surviving pub was for a while renamed as the Blue Anchor before its current occupant took over.
The southern side, is the back of Bream’s Buildings, a large office block built in 1874 for the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, and after the war, the interior was gutted to create modern offices while retaining most of the exterior facade. The Inn still has an entrance into the building from within Rolls Passage, but the main entrance is now for a large law firm instead. The Inn’s coat of arms can still be seen on the main entrance though.
The corner block was recently converted into small, and quite expensive flats.