This is a wide and tall alley that passes through a modern building, and while the alley looks new, it follows a path that’s nearly 600 years old.
The site had one main occupant for most of its life, when the Ironmongers’ Company bought a plot of land some 570 years ago for their livery hall. The first hall was built in 1457, it was rebuilt in 1587 and rebuilt again in 1745 on the same site.
A passage was left to the western side of the Hall, and unsurprisingly called Ironmonger Alley.
The hall was destroyed in WW1 when a bomb was dropped on the building on 7th July 1917. The Ironmongers’ Company then decided to move to Aldersgate Street, where they have remained to this day.
The site of the old hall was cleared, and an office block built on the site, Cory Buildings, and at the same time, Ironmonger Alley was renamed as Hogarth Court.
The name of the court comes from a dubious claim to history for a pub a couple of doors along from the alley, The Elephant Tavern, where it’s claimed that William Hogarth stayed at and later sketched as Modern Midnight Conversation. There’s no proof of this though, but heck, it’s a nice story to tell.
Cory Buildings, built for The Cory Lighterage Company was a very grand building of the sort popular at the time, lots of heavy rusticated decorative stone at street level with richly decorated bronze decorations, rising up to several floors of Portland stone-clad unremittingly plain wall.
The design of Cory Buildings was radically different from the old Ironmongers’ Hall that had been there before WW1 demolished it.
WW2 saw more damage, destroying all the buildings on the other side of the alley, but leaving Cory Buildings untouched this time.
So between them, two wars separately destroyed all the buildings surrounding the area.
The WW2 damaged buildings were replaced with some rather bland 1950s and later 1970s offices.
Before the current development cleared the whole block, Hogarth Court was a very narrow dark modern alley lined with plain tiles and a concrete ceiling. Functional, but pretty bland, and leading to a loading bay behind, known as Billiter Square.
The current massive building on the site today was actually approved for development in 2008, but never carried out and a slightly amended design was approved in 2012, finally opening in February 2019.
The building is notable not just for the huge new alley that punches right through the middle, but also for the rooftop garden at 120 Fenchurch Street, which’s open to the public.
The alley itself is a vast space within the building, offering shelter to those who in other times would be queuing up to go to the roof garden, and has a big roof video screen with sometimes some form of video art mixed in with adverts for the restaurant and garden far above.
It’s actually quite a bland space, very polished, but quite plain, and more notable for the — by alley standards — the huge size of the space within.