This is a short covered passage that can be found next to The Charterhouse, a relatively hidden cluster of Tudor buildings that only recently opened to the public with a new museum.
Where today there are a set of ornate gates that used to be a much larger gatehouse leading to the Charterhouse estate. As the alley is within the estate while the lands outside were being built up, the alley remained fields for some considerable time.
By the 1670s, most of the land around this part of London was fully developed, but still, the site of the alley remained a field. It took until the 1740s before the first buildings appeared creating the gap between them which is today the alley.
Originally known as Stable Yard, and possibly to be used by the local homeowners and the Charterhouse next door.
Although the mews is largely unchanged in layout since then, the back two-thirds are now blocked off as private land, with a small gate across the passageway.
The most distinctive feature as you approach the alley is the Georgian townhouse, built in 1786 that sits astride the passage. First occupied by the artist Thomas Stowers, who is thought to have decorated the interior ceilings with art that is still conserved within. The building is now rented out as offices.
It doesn’t look it but under the brown pollution grime is bright yellow bricks, which are then decorated with coade stone dressings.
The grand building to the other side of the alley is a hotel. In the 1850s Elizabeth Cocker held a lease on a house there and slowly took over three other houses in the row turning them into Cockers Hotel. The current building dates from 1899 and opened as the Charterhouse Hotel, but was turned into offices after WW1, and later as nurses homes for the nearby St Barts Hospital. It was sold in 1997 and redeveloped behind the preserved facade into a hotel, the Malmaison.
The alley starts with the covered passage, and notice the stone setts on the ground with solid lines for carriage wheels to run over more comfortably for their occupants.
Down here is a modern addition, a urine deflector, also known as a wazzbaffle, which ensured any men seeking to relieve themselves in the recess will get very wet feet as a reward.
Further down the alley is the French restaurant, Le Cafe du Marche, which was founded in 1986 by Charlie Graham-Wood in what is a converted bookbinders warehouse. Opposite the restaurant is the hotel building, with the walls lined with classic Edwardian white tiles to bring light down into the alley and curved window recesses.
Then you reach the far gates which we shall not pass.