In the 15th century, when the Earl of Northumberland had his mansion on the south side of Fenchurch Street and the monks of the Order of St Augustin had their priory just to the north of here, the Harts Horn was a flourishing tavern on this site. At that time, the passage at the side of the tavern was called Angel Alley but through close association with the tavern it was more often referred to as Harthorn Court. The official change to Hartshorn Alley occurred shortly after the house was demolished, about the mid-18th century.
Walking through Hartshorn Alley is an experience that can quite justly be described as modernly curious. It is covered throughout its length, its walls are clad with no-expense-spared modern granite blocks, and up-to-the-minute light fixtures illuminate the way. The narrow passage twists and turns between its two extremes through what can easily be mistaken for a fairyland grotto. Wrought iron gates at both ends preclude access in evening times and at weekends to this pleasant, contemporary Alley which only seems to serve the purpose of linking Fenchurch Street with Leadenhall Street. With wide open mouth and tingling neurons one wonders why they went to such expense when it is, after all, merely a cut-through.
Between the early 18th century and 1910 the Haunch of Venison Tavern stood at the Brook Street entrance to this Yard - it was possibly named from the speciality dish of the chef. The expanse of the place might suggest that the tavern itself was of some considerable dimensions.
All the buildings in the Yard are of commercial usage and those on the west side are the rear of shops fronting onto New Bond Street. Alexon Fashions are here and at the end of the Yard are Philips and Glendining. Number 3 is particularly attractive with window boxes and canopies.
Haunch of Venison Yard is directly opposite number 25 Brook Street where Handel lived for over 30 years. In this house he composed the Messiah and died there in 1759.
Leaving Fleet Street through a narrow covered opening, Hen and Chicken Court continues as a passage before opening out into an elongated yard lined with a number of a-little-the-worse-for-ware buildings. This is a quaint Court - but perhaps not, as might be imagined, so quaint as when the Hen and Chicken Inn stood on the spot. Documentation relating to the inn is extremely thin on the ground and although Boswell, in his Life of Samuel Johnson, makes mention of a fair selection of Fleet Street inns and taverns he conveys no reference to this one. Of course the name could have been an affectionate handle for one of the more familiar establishments.
Whatever... with the literary tavern-dwelling inhabitants of Fleet Street and its tributaries, the hostelry was doubtless a thriving one in its 18th century hey-day. There is now no great activity in Hen and Chicken Court. Funnelled away from the bustling main street and almost sealed off from its roar, the only audible sound is the rattle of odds and ends sliding down a rubbish shoot.
During the 17th and 18th centuries there was certainly an abundance of taverns in Fleet Street and it has been said that the 'Hind' was among them. It is quite true that the sign portraying a female red deer was a popular inn sign of past years but I can uncover no trace of such an inn sign in Fleet Street.
Beneath its covered access and beyond, Hind Court is a quiet place compared with its next door neighbour, Wine Office Court, where, on a summer evening the multitudes quaffing at the Old Cheshire Cheese can render its passage impassable. There are no taverns here and for that matter there is precious little else. With the gentle intervention of Bolt Court joining from the left, it slinks effortlessly into Gough Square and that is where it ends.
Hogarth Court, in name, is a relative newcomer to the London street scene; it used to be called Fishmonger Alley until 1936 when the authorities seized on a little piece of history connecting William Hogarth with the adjacent Elephant Tavern. Apparently, the famous painter took lodging at the Tavern at some point in his career and humorously portrayed it in Modern Midnight Conversation, painted to raise a fistful of the readies when he was in a spot of financial difficulty. Ever since that time the walls have been adorned with his works and devotees of the man have reverenced the place on bended knee.
Although all of the buildings around here were destroyed in the Great Fire, because of its stone structure the Elephant survived the tremendous heat, and provided refuge for a great many who had lost their homes. Due to deterioration the place was rebuilt in 1826, and in 1900 the frontage of the house was altered to conform with the line of buildings taken back by the widening of Fenchurch Street. The devastation of the Second World War almost saw the disappearance of the Elephant altogether but the brewers, in cooperation with the developers have resurrected the tavern, although somewhat differently styled, on the ground and basement floors of Victoria House. The tavern has an entrance on Hogarth Court.
William Hogarth was born in 1697 in Bartholomew Close, West Smithfield. His schoolmaster father was an easy going man who enforced nothing on young William but encouraged him in the development of his natural talents. Very early in his life the lad showed a flare for sketching and painting, so that when he left school it seemed quite natural that he would follow an artistic career. It was while working as an apprentice engraver at Gamble's silversmith's shop in Cranbourne Alley, near to Leicester Square, that he acquired perfection in a skill that was to pay off multifold in the years to come.
In 1727 his great potential was recognised by Sir James Thornhill who favoured him by agreeing to take him on as a student at his art school in James Street, Covent Garden. But Hogarth was dizzily attracted to Thornhill's daughter and spent as much time attending to her as he did to his studies, eventually eloping with her to distant Paddington where the two were secretly married in 1729.
The taverns around St Martin's Lane were the openings to Hogarth's success and fortune; here he found the wealthy punters in the way of actors and other stage performers who were willing to pay the price of a portrait. He was a master of exaggeration; his scenes of every-day events depict the theme with great accuracy yet in a style which is uncannily burlesque. His painting of the central archway of Horse Guards illustrates in typical caricature a coach with headless driver emerging from the low tunnel. One of Hogarth's most sought after works at the time were the prints made from an engraving of Sarah Malcolm, a destitute washer woman who viciously murdered Mrs Duncumbe and her maid, Anne Price in Church Court (The Temple) in 1733. The Duke of Roxburghe was desperate enough to secure a copy that he paid £8.5s (£8.25p) for a single print.
Receipts from sales like this enabled Hogarth to purchase a house near to Leicester Square where he added a studio and workshops for a team of engravers. After his death his widow remained at the house until her final day in 1789; it was then sold to a Mr Pagliano who transformed it into the Sablonnier Hotel and it became popular with his native Italians until the site was required for development in 1870. About the same time of his Leicester Square purchase Hogarth invested his resources in some of the worldly comforts that one would expect of a successful artist and bought a country house in Chiswick. At first the house was used as an occasional retreat in the summer months but in later years he increasingly spent more time away from the noise of inner city and died in 'the little country box by the Thames' on the 25th October 1764, aged 67. The red-brick house in Hogarth Lane was opened as the Hogarth Museum in 1902 and was renovated in 1951 after a narrowly escaping total destruction in World War II.
William Hogarth is buried in Chiswick churchyard.
Hood Court leaves Fleet Street by way of a quaint narrow covered passage and leads up two shallow steps into a secluded little courtyard to the south, where a mixture of modern and older buildings surround. A connecting path in the southeast corner links with Salisbury Square. In the passageway is the entrance to the Presscala Club Restaurant. The name of the Court is probably taken from a previous inhabitant although it has been suggested that there may have been a connection with Thomas Hood who founded a paper called 'Hood's Magazine'.
Here, throughout the span of almost 300 years, stood the Horse and Dolphin tavern. It was built around the beginning of the 17th century and survived many changes of environment as the West End evolved around it until its days ended in 1890. This traumatic occasion was brought about through work surrounding the widening of former Dudley Street and King Street to form the eastern end of the newly constructed Shaftsbury Avenue. Included in the plans was the redevelopment of Macclesfield Street, an old road built to provide access to the mansion of Charles Gerard, Earl of Macclesfield. The planned remodelling of this street which led to the fall of the Horse and Dolphin left many a broken man sheading tears in what they assumed was their final vessel at the tavern. But this all changed to joyful celebration when the locals heard that it was to be rebuilt.
True to the planners' word the tavern was replaced, but by some quirk of which we shall never come to understand, it was renamed the Macclesfield Arms, - with the yard of the Horse and Dolphin along side. Today the Yard is accessed through a square covered opening and leads through to a wide area of generous proportions. Somewhat spoiling the aspect are the numerous commercial receptacles for the disposal waste. I suppose they have to be sited somewhere but it seems out of order that they need to be so conspicuous in what could be classed as a rather presentable district. The necessity for these grim waste-bins quickly becomes apparent in the realisation that this is China Town and the array of menus of true cuisine Chinese decorate almost every door in this vicinity. Gerrard Street, to the south of here, is the real centre where, amid the restaurants, supermarkets and bake-shops, the Council has constructed an authentic atmosphere by the addition of Chinese furnishings.
On an informative note, lest some should be confused by the extraordinary combination of a horse and a dolphin. In this instance the dolphin was a bollard or stump, often seen outside inns in those days, for securing a horse while the owner secured himself to the bar.
For years this has been a private Yard and the fading old sign telling you so is still to be seen on the wall. Horseshoe Yard once formed the stage loading bays to one of the many inns which sprung up along this end of Brook Street during the late 18th century. It was reported at the turn of the century that 'The demand for hotels is every year increasing' although the aristocratic class of the neighbourhood was maintained as the report goes on to point out, that those leasing the rooms were 'very respectable'.
It is a long time since coaches rattled over the cobble stones in this Yard, in fact it is a good many years since the cobble stones were removed, but the memory of the old inn lives on - at least for the time being. However, Laing's Construction has been working on this site for many months and the status quo may not be preserved for very much longer.
Huggin Hill is one of those centuries old byways, of which London is so well endowed. It has been here since at least the 13th century and was recorded in 1281 as Hoggenlane, a notable resort of pig keepers. By the 19th century the name had been corrupted to Huggin Lane and consisted of tiny houses and shops with a proliferation of hanging signboards almost extending across to the opposite buildings. The walkway was surfaced with cobbles sloping inwards towards a central drainage channel. On the west side of the Hill is Cleary Gardens built on war damaged property in memory of Frederick Cleary, a member of the Court of Common Council between 1959 and 1984. Near to this site, in 1964, the remains of a Roman bath dating from about 80 AD was uncovered. It is thought that this bath originally covered the area to the east and west of Huggin Hill, constructed on terraces built into the rising Thames-side ground where a constant flow of water from underground channels fed the bath.
On the east corner at the junction with Upper Thames Street stood the church of St Michael Queenhithe, built about 1150. The church was totally destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and the site remained derelict until eleven years later when its replacement was built by Wren. It was pulled down in 1876 and some of the fittings were donated to other churches; the font was transferred to St Paul's Cathedral.
Huggin Court is an inconspicuous place, found about half way down the Lane on the east side. Its slender way through to Little Trinity Lane serves the same purpose today as it has for many years, - to pass between the two lanes.
What, you might ask, has Hunt's Court got to offer the adventurous London tourist on a day out looking for spectacular entertaining sights? To be quite honest and to-the-point, not a lot. One can scarcely see into its now diminished confines; you cannot protrude beyond its iron 'grill', and if you could a hasty retreat would most surely ensue. It started out as a privately owned court and has remained so almost throughout the entire duration of its long existence; the present owners use it as a store area.
During the late 17th century it was the workshop of Samuel Hunt, one of the renowned carpenters operating in this area at the time. His dedicated skill and a constant demand for his lovingly prepared work ensured a constant flow of orders envied by many of his fellow craftsmen.
When the Black Friars monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538, most of the buildings were left to decay, whilst some of those occupying the outer fringes of the grounds were given to people who happened to be in the King's favour at the time. One such beneficiary was Sir Thomas Carwardine who on a nod and a wink came away from the royal chamber clutching the title deeds to the priory church and east gatehouse.
Having little regard for ancient buildings he promptly pulled down the church and was on the verge of doing the same with the gatehouse, but on seconds thoughts decided to make it his home. Later in the century the refurbished 'house' was sold to William Ireland, a City haberdasher, who stepped out of his door one day only to be frightened out of his wits by a bearded gentleman cuddling a skull and spouting forth about ghosts. He was not aware of it at the time but this petrifying fellow was none other than William Shakespeare who, to Ireland's dismay, was about to become his next door neighbour. Because buses were not too frequent in those days, Shakespeare moved into Ireland Yard in 1612 so as to be conveniently near to Richard Burbage's new theatre where the great man regularly featured at the top of the bill.
A short flight of steps on the north side of Ireland Yard lead up to the churchyard of St Ann Blackfriars where a Corporation of London notice board by the steps records that, 'on this plot of land stood, in the middle ages, part of the provincials hall of the Dominican Priors of Blackfriars with the dorter over. When the priory was dissolved in 1538 the parish church of St Anne Blackfriars was built on this site. The church was destroyed in the great fire of 1666 and not rebuilt. The parish was united with the parish of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. The site was thereafter used as a churchyard alternately with the one in Church Entry. It was closed in 1849.'
(See also Church Entry)
Ironmonger Passage is left to us by courtesy of Thomas Mitchell, man about town and ironmonger, who in his final days made a noble gesture to his beloved company. In 1527 he left his ten-acre site consisting of farmlands and outbuildings to the use of the Company of Ironmongers'. At that time the Company was in its primary years having been incorporated by a charter granted in 1463, however this charter only fully came into effect when it was confirmed by Philip and Mary in 1558.
It is many years since this area was graced with anything resembling farmlands but the local authority has made a token gesture and preserved a small plot of fenced-in greenery, which has the prospect of being quite pleasant if only they would attend to the aesthetics. The Passage too is now in a sorry state, being inaccessible from the Ironmonger Row end through the erection of sturdy iron gates, and severely truncated at the east end resulting from a school being built there some years ago. High rise flats dominate the district, including the prominent Grayson House, a sixteen-storey block of tiny boxes. However, setting aside the overpowering panorama, Mr Mitchell's old quarter has its merits - although you need to search most diligently to find them.
At the pruned east end of the Passage is Lizard Street, a narrow way about as slender as the Passage itself. It too was named from the Ironmongers' Company, reflecting two of the emblems that appear in its coat of arms; they are actually salamanders, lizard-like creatures that are supposed to exist in fire. Helmet Row, to the west of St Luke's churchyard, also reflects the helmets that appear in the coat of arms. The street commemorating Thomas Mitchell himself lies to the south of the Passage where the Lewen almshouses once stood. These houses were built at the expense of Thomas Lewen, one time Master of the Company of Ironmongers' who, until lately, was remembered in Lewen's Court, now almost completely obliterated from the scene. You can still detect its location, where Mitchell Street becomes Bartholomew Square.
In the 16th century, and probably before, a number of small streams ran down from the higher ground north of the Strand to the Thames. These streams were all bridged where the main road (Strand) crossed and the bridges were identified by either their location or character. Some of these narrow lanes that were originally formed out of the beds of the streams are still in existence today; two such example are at Strand Lane and Milford Lane. However, whilst Ivybridge Lane gets its name from a similar source it lies only approximately on the site of the old stream which ran under the foliage clad bridge. John Stow tells us: 'Ivy bridge, in the high street, which had a way under it leadiang down to the Thames, the like as sometimes had the Strand bridge, is now taken down, but the lane remaineth as afore, or better'. About 1600 William Cecil, Lord Burghley, decided to build 'a large and stately house of brick and timber' on the Strand, and in doing so diverted the line of the stream some forty yards to the west. It seems that the stream never accepted its diversion so that most of the water soaked away in the newly dug earth. In an agreement between the churchwardens of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Cecil the remainder of the flow was channelled through conduit and by the time Stow came down here in 1598 the bridge had been taken down. So, although the Lane is not actually formed from the bed of the stream, it was the intended course.
Lying to the western side of Shell Mex House, Ivybridge Lane is no longer accessible. From its southern end the steep up-hill climb can still be seen to where the way becomes very narrow before entering the Strand. Although the Lane is unsigned it is very easily discernible by the iron gates labelled with a red PRIVATE sign; the northern opening, however, is more difficult to trace, being sealed with a dirty board-covered gate. It lies at the side of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant and by peering through a small gap at the side of the gate it is possible to view the full length of this one time watercourse.
ã No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without the written permission of the author