Alleys, Passages, Courts and Yards

EC3, like every other area of the City, has numerous narrow alleys, passages, hidden courts and yards which twist and turn and interconnect.

Some connect principle streets and others lay hidden out of sight behind the main thoroughfares.

Many date from the medieval street plan and have survived the redevelopment of recent years. Some even travel under buildings.

Each of these alleys, passages, courts and yards has a history. As you walk through them you discover all manner of hidden treasures. Which of these do you know?

  • St Helen’s Place
  • St James’s Passage
  • St Michael’s Alley
  • St Peter’s Alley
  • Saracen’s Head Yard
  • Shafts Court
  • Ship Tavern Passage
  • Star Alley
  • Sugar Baker’s Court
  • Sun Court
  • Talbot Court
  • White Lion Court

Bengal Court

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Bengal Court is an alley between Lombard Street and Cornhill.

The George and Vulture, a Dickensian chop house, looks out onto Bengal Court but its entrance in Castle Court.

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George and Vulture

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The George and Vulture was built in 1746 as a public house and there has been an inn on the site since 1268.

The current building dates from 1869 and is frequently mentioned in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, who frequently drank there himself.

It has been the headquarters of the City Pickwick Club since its foundation.

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Castle Court

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This little alley lies north of Change Alley off Birchin Lane and is home to the City institution the George and Vulture.

Today it’s a restaurant but its origins were as a hostelry for travellers in the medieval period.

In the 18th century it was a meeting place for the notorious Hell Fire Club.

In the 19th century it was a favourite of Charles Dickens and is much mentioned in Pickwick Papers.

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Post Office Court

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This was the site of the General Post Office from 1678 until it was relocated to St Martin Le Grand in 1829.

This predates Sir Rowland Hill, who simplified what had been a complex and expensive system and introduced stamps.

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The Jamaica Wine House

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The Jamaica Wine House is descended from London’s first coffee house, set up by Pasqua Rosée in 1852.

The current building dates from 1869 and is a listed structure.

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Change Alley

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This back alley, running between Lombard Street and Cornhill, takes its name from the Royal Exchange and from the late 17th century was home to Garraway’s and Jonathan’s coffee houses.

Auctions of many different goods, including sugar, rice and coffee, took place at Garraway’s and it was here that tea was first sold in England. Garraway’s, which finally closed in 1866, was mentioned by writers Defoe, Swift and Dickens.

A 1930’s stone panel with a grasshopper marks the site. The grasshopper is an emblem associated with the Gresham family and it was Thomas Gresham who founded the Royal Exchange.

The London Stock Exchange trace their history back to Jonathan’s coffee house.

Share traders, who’d been kicked out of the Royal Exchange for being too rowdy, met here and it was where trading in marketable securities in London first began.

At the time of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 it was at Jonathan’s that speculators met. The coffee house finally closed in 1778.

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St Michael’s Alley

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A narrow alley between Lombard Street and Cornhill.

The site of London’s first coffee house which was opened in 1652 by Pasqua Rosee, who was a servant of Cornhill based trader Daniel Edwards.

It was used by merchants trading with Jamaica and it was here that they could learn news about the island and despatch or collect mail.

On the site today stands the The Jamaica Wine House.

Further down, the George and Vulture can be seen in Castle Court.

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Pope’s Head Alley

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This short alley runs between Lombard Street and Cornhill.

It was named after the Pope's Head Tavern which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

The 1891 census shows there were houses in the alley at that time, housing Wine Merchant’s Assistants, a Police Officer and housekeepers.

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George Yard

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This alleyway is situation off Lombard Street and in the sixteenth century there was a wine merchant’s shop in one corner of the yard. The proprietor tethered a live vulture outside instead of the conventional shop sign.

When the premises were burnt down in the fire of London in 1666 the business moved to the nearby George Tavern.

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