Until the Fleet River was covered over this was a little lane that ran from Old Bailey down to the river bank. There being no bridge crossing at this point, it was impossible to proceed any further and the only option was to return to Old Bailey - or a John Stow inscribed, 'it turneth down to Turnemill brook, and from thence back again, for there is no way over.' In other words it was a cul-de-sac stopped by the river. In the 13th century it was known as Wendageyneslane and in the 15th century as Turneagayne Lane. The Lane now is more reminiscent of a triangular shaped yard with the white glazed brick building of Meridian House on the south side. Turnagain Lane is still a cul-de-sac but now you must 'wendagain' to Farringdon Street.
A passage of little visual interest. It is bounded on the south side with high buildings faced with white glazed tiles. The origin of its curious name is unknown.
Prior to the 19th century it was quite common to hear people talking of a 'union' when referring to what now is more usually called a passage; a footpath linking two thoroughfares together, or to put it another way - a short cut. Pathways such as Lamb's Passage, Lime Street Passage and Marylebone Passage were most probably identified in every day conversation as 'unions' and Union Court may very well have been either Broad Street Union or Wormwood Street Union.
Before recent redevelopments changed the face of this quarter, Union Court used to turn through 90° and emerge by way of a covered passage into Wormwood Street but now it terminates in a dead end and is in danger of total extinction. Even at the time of writing, the Court and its surroundings are undergoing further change and through the existence of high boarding, access is denied and the noise of pneumatic drills is an awakening sound.
It was on the site adjacent to this Passage that Cornelius Van Dun, a Dutchman and Yeoman of the Guard to Henry VIII, built a row of almshouses in 1575 for the well being of eight deprived women of the district. Not content with this singular generous deed, he provided the cash for the building of twelve more at St Ermin's Hill, round the back of St James's Park Station.
At the time the almshouses were built, Petty France had already been in existence for about 100 years as a continuation of Tothill Street, the main west road from the Abbey. For those living in the alleys to the south of here, Vandon Passage was a vital link with civilisation, long before the roadway of Buckingham Gate was constructed and when the line of Victoria Street was still a dusty track. Vandon Street, still almost as narrow as it was 400 years ago, is a survivor of one of these alleys and marks the southern limit of the plot purchased by Van Dun.
Tucked away from the scurrying rat race, Vandon Passage has little to show for its long years of existence. Surfaced in Tarmac, its only hint of attention-worthy artefacts are the two gas-style standard lamps, long since converted to electricity. For much of the day this Passage reclines in an almost hushed withdrawal from existence, but rises during the lunchtime and early evening hours as an indispensable cut-through for those mortals eager to take refreshment in the Buckingham Arms at 62 Petty France. The Buckingham is a superb pub, which on weekday lunchtimes always seems to give the impression of being filled with the entire workforce of Victoria. Just how close this notion is to absolute accuracy I have no idea but it is certainly very busy. Try it - but go early.
Just below the Rosebery Avenue flyover is the dismal yard that once belonged to Robert Warner. In the early 18th century this plot of land formed part of a group of fields known as Coldbath Fields, along the western bank of the Fleet River. They were purchased in 1697 by Walter Baynes, a lawyer of the Inner Temple, as an investment for the future, but his investment started to reap profits much sooner than he had imagined. Taking a stroll one day, he noticed a spring emerging from the ground and quickly realised that with a little originality this could be his chance to make a small fortune. That night he had very little sleep and emerged the next day with his polished plan; over the spring he erected a bath-house and conned the public into believing that the water held superior medicinal qualities. We have no record of Baynes's subsequent financial position but in 1720 he thought it sufficiently profitable to take on a partner and was joined by John Warner as joint owner of the fields and the hoodwinking enterprise. Warner died the following year leaving the partnership with his son, Robert who succeeded in persuading Baynes that the land was an unproductive burden. In a speculative venture they leased the plot for development to builder Richard Baker who laid out Warner Street and the adjoining tributaries in 1725. The land lease remained with the descendants of Robert Warner until the beginning of the 19th century.
There is an air of originality about this place; it started out in the mid-18th century as a workmen's yard and after all those years it is still a workmen's yard. Not very much has changed apart from the men and the signs indicating their businesses. Presently, the signs on the wall declare that these are now the premises of Colyer Graphics, 'Goods entrance down yard', and Corbett's Warehouse. The Yard is private property and, out of business hours, enclosed by a gate.
See also Bath Court.
Warwick Court occupies part of the site of Warwick House, the 17th century London residence of Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick. He was a notable lawyer of Gray's Inn and presumably built his mansion here for convenience of being close to his chambers. The house passed through the family to his grandson, Robert, Earl of Holland and Fifth Earl of Warwick who had no connections with Gray's Inn and neither, it seems, did he have any affection for High Holborn. Shortly after inheriting the property he arranged for its demolition and took off for recently built Holland House in Kensington.
In the 18th century Warwick Court was the home of prosperous antique book dealer Thomas Osborn. He was a little plump man with the most appalling manners, shouting at his customers and scolding them if they failed to purchase one of his own publications. One such customer referred to him as 'the most ignorant bookseller in London'. His shop was in Gray's Inn Lane where Dr Johnson and Pope, among other celebrated personalities, were frequent callers. When Osborn purchased the library of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, in 1742 for £13,000 he employed Johnson to catalogue the entire collection. As time went on, Osborn became increasingly irritated over the time Johnson was taking to complete the task and so visited him to inspect the progress. There he found Johnson sitting at a table amid piles of dusty volumes, engrossed in some magnum opus. Without further ado and purple with rage Osborn accused the great man of spending too much time reading the books instead of writing down their titles. At this, Johnson became angry and said he could only do the job properly if he had first of all gained some knowledge of their contents. Osborn called him a liar, on which remark Johnson seized the heaviest volume he could lay his hands on and threw it at Osborn knocking him to the floor. Johnson later relayed the incident to Boswell in these summary words, 'Sir, he was impertinent to me, and I beat him.'
There is now nothing spectacular about Warwick Court, its paving is plain and there are no outstanding monuments here, but the house at number 5, with its ornamental doorway is perhaps worth more than a cursory glance. Electronics specialists, Berrys of Holborn are on the corner of the Court and opposite their shop, just inside the Court, are three telephone kiosks.
This strangely curved passageway probably encircled the Vine tavern, which stood on the corner of Lant Street and Sanctuary Street in the early 19th century. It was known locally as the Grapes.
In 1824 Charles Dickens took lodgings around the corner in Lant Street to be near his father who was then serving time in the Marshalsea Prison. During that time, while still only twelve years old, he was employed in the local shoe polish factory as a means of raising funds to pay his way. Anyone who has read The Old Curiosity Shop will already have met the Garland family of Abel Cottage, Finchley, where Kit observed, on the occasion of meeting the family, that old Mr Garland kept a garden which 'seemed to be the perfection of neatness and order.' This was the family who in Dickens mind represented the image of the family in Lant Street who looked after him in desperate times. The Garland family may also have inspired the characters of Mrs Raddle and her husband, of Lant Street, who offered lodgings to Bob Sawyer of Pickwick Papers.
In our day there are perhaps not many couples who would associate their progression from love to marriage with the maturing process of vinegar; but Lord Byron was talking of a different time.
In France they make it from wine, reflecting the precise definition - vin aigre, but in England we have traditionally favoured beer. Because of the convenience of transporting hops from Kent, the brewing industry has had a home in Southwark for centuries, and as a by-product, barrels of the soured beverage have been hauled by the cart load from the breweries south of the Thames. We can well imagine the brewers jumping with glee when the first fish and chip shop opened its doors.
The method of producing vinegar is not a difficult one - it produces itself - a perfectly natural bacteriological process of exposing the fermented liquor to the atmosphere. In the days of rather less meticulous cellar management it was not uncommon to be served with a pint of vinegar in the local pub; the landlord had gone to bed the previous night a little the worse for ware and forgotten to knock the spile home.
Vinegar Yard is a strange place, it is not really a yard at all, but a narrow road forming the access to a National Car Park. Along its twisting route between St Thomas's Street and Melior Place there is an old four-storey warehouse with red painted doors on each level, at one time used for storing vinegar.
In the midst of the bustling Berwick Market, Walker's Court links Berwick Street with Rupert Street - both of them a hive of activity. This is one of the many passageways which in years gone by was known as 'Paved Alley'. The state of the walkway in these narrow thoroughfares was so primitive, usually nothing more than the potholed earth, that when any-one took on the task to 'make a good way' by laying solid flag stones, irrespective of name, became known as 'Paved Alley'.
A notable feature of Walker's Court is that it houses one of the few council licensed sex establishments in London, going under the name of Raymond's Review Bar. The red lights are not so noticeable today, showing only a glimmer of their colour faintly reflected in the shiny black brick paving. It attracts customers of all ages and is open most hours, if that is your want. About opposite Raymond's is the 'Live Show', another 'palace of male entertainment' where gentlemen are lured in by the soft tones of 'Hello sir, very sexy ladies inside'. Someone lately remarked of Walker's Court, 'if you get what you want, nothing matters' - I have no notion of what facility was being referenced, but it doesn't take a scholastic highbrow to come up with a fair guess.
There are however other reasons to visit Walker's Court. On either side there are a variety of shops including a welcoming cafe, and the Mona Lisa Book Shop on the corner of Brewer Street.
The best time to visit this area all depends on your interest. Berwick Market, which takes up the entire length of the street is in full swing Monday to Saturday 9-00am until 5-00pm. It is at its busiest around lunchtime.
When the stall holders have gone home and the gutters are cleared of bruised apples, cabbage leaves and fragments of vegetables the area is transformed into one of Soho's evening delights. Restaurants of many nationalities and entertainment to suit a variety of requirements. Exactly the image that Soho conjures up - although the over 30's may find more acceptable entertainment in the area of St Martin's Lane.
Clinging to the rear of Borough Station, Wallis Alley is situated between high buildings and has a single stump at either end. It is a bland, characterless passage totally devoid of inspiring qualities. Wallis, whoever he was, left no clues to his identity so it can only be assumed that he either originally built the place or he lived here - poor man.
The Court connects with Vine Yard - not exactly a revelation, but by comparison...
'Brooding quietness; remote and intimate; the City in slumbers'. These are the terms that have been used to describe one of the most exquisitely calm spots in London's square mile. The courtyard marks the exact site of Sir John Beauchamp's house, acquired by Edward III in 1359 to store the royal finery on its removal from the Tower. (See Wardrobe Terrace). This is a delightful place, in essence, little changed since rebuilding after the Great Fire destroyed much of the surroundings on the 4th September 1666. In fact almost the entire length of Carter Lane and its byways have so far luckily escaped the developers hammer, but perhaps to mention this is tempting fate. Meanwhile, until the 20th, and soon the 21st, century catches up we can gaze on the surviving post fire houses of about 1710 at numbers 3-5 Wardrobe Place.
From the south east corner a covered passage leads alongside the now
defunct Bell public house and joins with Wardrobe Terrace.
Wardrobe Terrace and Wardrobe Place are memorials to the Royal Wardrobe, which used to be situated between St Andrew's Church and Carter Lane.
In 1359 King Edward III acquired the town house of Sir John Beauchamp which stood in the courtyard just to the north of St Andrew's Church. To here he transferred the collection of ceremonial robes and dresses previously housed in the Tower. During the mid-17th century the collection was in the charge of Sir Edward Montague, Master of the Wardrobe, and wealthy cousin of Samuel Pepys. When the house was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 the Royal Wardrobe was temporarily moved to the Savoy where some 400 years previous, Peter, Earl of Savoy had built his mansion. It was subsequently relocated in Buckingham Street, to the south of the Strand.
The first Church dedicated to St Andrew was built here about the beginning of the 13th century and known as St Andrew next Baynard's Castle. This stronghold was constructed by Ralph Baynard in the time of William the Conqueror and destroyed, together with the Church, by the Fire of 1666. The Church was rebuilt by Wren in 1693 when the parish of St Anne Blackfriars was incorporated within its boundary (see Ireland Yard). It was the last in Wren's list of 51 City church scheduled for rebuilding after the Fire. St Andrew's suffered further devastation in the Second World War and was restored in 1961. Compared with the grandeur of most of Wren's other churches, St Andrew's is somewhat plain. Stow sums it up in a few words: 'a proper church, but few monuments hath it'.
A passage at the end of Wardrobe Terrace leads along the north wall of the church, where there are steps into St Andrew's Hill, and continues around the west side leading to a flight of steps and a wrought iron gate onto Queen Victoria Street. On the east side of the church a long fright of steps links Wardrobe Terrace with Queen Victoria Street.
The Old Bell Hotel on the corner of Wardrobe Terrace and Addle Hill has long since closed its doors but it there remains boarded up and pad-locked. At the time of writing there was still a notice pasted to the wall bearing the heading, 'Shelter in Underground Stations'. It was placed there many years ago by London Transport and outlines the restrictions for those resorting to below ground refuge.
Warwick Yard is a strange old place although not so strange as to appear out of place, in fact it fits with absolute comfort into the neighbouring and equally strange Whitecross Street market. Here can be found stalls stocked high with articles, secondhand and new, ranging from fruit and vegetables to old gramophone records and electrical parts, but the place does not seem to have the same appeal as, for instance, the market of Petticoat Lane and other notable street venues. No doubt its failure to secure a place on the tourist route is that few writers on London's markets seem to consider it worthy of mention. As far as the popular guides are concerned, Whitecross Street is out of bounds. There are not many other attributes concerning Whitecross Street unless we turn to the early years of the 19th century and the illumination of selected London streets by those new-fangled gaslights. In August 1807 nearby Beech Street and Whitecross Street were the first to be lit up.
But what of Warwick Yard? Well, there is little to tell; it has been here for a good many years but no one seems to have the faintest idea of its original purpose or who, or what, inspired its naming. All of the western end of the Yard is now taken over by the Peabody Estate with the vast blocks of flats filling the panorama. The adjoining walkway has, I suppose quite appropriately but regretfully, been renamed Peabody Court. The modern paving which has replaced the cobbles of the old Yard only enhance the distinct lack of character now abounding here, but there is one minuscule feature which, accompanied by a giants helping of imagination, could perhaps reflect a vision of the opening which once occupied this ground - Peabody Court is wide and (possibly) yard-like.
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