This is a short narrow passage on Strand that used to be somewhere else.

It originally shows up as Heathcot Court in William Morgan’s map of London in 1682. Quite when it gained a C to become Heathcock is unclear. The origins of the name of the court are also unclear, sometimes cited as coming from the name of a pub, the Heathcock Tavern that was on the site. As a pub name though, Heathcock is fairly commonplace, being named after a type of black grouse which would presumably have been served as an expensive meal to richer patrons.

However, the name of the alley seems to predate the pub, so who knows which came first.

The alley also used to be slightly further to the east, but when New Zealand Embassy was built on the site in 1913-16 replacing a cluster of tall narrow shops, the alley moved from what would have been the eastern side of the new building to the western side instead.

That shift enabled the building to be extended a bit into the space where the alley would have curved around the back.

Although the embassy moved out a long time ago, the upper floors still show signs of its original function, because if you look carefully at what seems to be a solidly Edwardian style British building, the stone cladding surrounding the upper windows is a traditional Maori design.

The ground floor is currently home to a branch of the Nationwide Bank (was formerly Barclays Bank), who take over half the ground floor. The back half, with an entrance into the alley, used to be the reception area for offices that occupied the rest of the upper floors of the building.

Recently though, the offices were converted into a branch of Z Hotels instead. As part of the conversion works to the building, the hotel owners cleaned up the alley a bit and also opened up the rear space with windows into the hotel cafe.

At the far end, the alley leads into another alley, Exchange Court.

Next to the alley is a narrow pub – the Port House, which used to be known as Yates Wine Lodge, one of the early branches of that now substantial chain of pubs. That closed in 1981 and was a restaurant for a while, but is now a bar again.

The alley was delisted as a public right of way in 1980 by the former office occupiers, and they added the gates at either end. Now that the office is a hotel, the gates are open once more for anyone to wander through.

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3 comments
  1. Gerardo says:

    This brings back nice memories. I worked in the building with the Nationwide B.S. on the ground floor for over ten years and that allowed me to explore the surroundings every morning, lunchtime and evening. It was always a great experience to hear Big Ben’s chimes whenever it ocurred to me to arrive at Westminster and walk all the way to the Strand. I think I spent half my life in St Martin in the Fields: having breakfast, attending concerts and the Thursday readings of the scriptures [sigh].

  2. DP says:

    “The alley was delisted as a public right of way in 1980 by the former office occupiers”

    How do occupiers of an office have the power to take away a public right of way?

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