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Cabbie’s Curios : Covent Garden’s Cramped Alley

Pictured below is the London Coliseum (home to the English National Opera), which is located on St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden.

Colesium Theatre

Did you notice the hidden alleyway?…

Location of the diminutive  alleyway...

Location of the diminutive alleyway…

Running for approximately 250 ft. this secretive passageway is called ‘Brydges Place’ and provides pedestrians in the know with a quick link between St Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury (just behind Charing Cross Police Station).

Brydges Place - St Martin's Lane entrance.

Brydges Place – St Martin’s Lane entrance.

At its tightest point, Brydges Place is just 15 inches wide, making it London’s narrowest alley- so is best avoided if you suffer from claustrophobia.

Brydges Narrow

Brydges Place is named after Catherine Brydges of Chandos who married the fourth earl of the Bedford Family in 1608 (the Bedford family being the original owners of the land occupied by Covent Garden).

Brydges Lamp

The Bedford dynasty gave their name to a number of streets in Covent Garden and, at one time, part of Catherine Street (home to the Duchess Theatre and the Theatre Royal) was known as Brydges Street.

Brydges Street (now entirely named Catherine Street) on a map from 1868 (image: mapco.net)

Brydges Street (now entirely named Catherine Street) on a map from 1868 (image: mapco.net)

Brydges Place as it stands today was created at the turn of the 20th century when the London Coliseum- which provides much of the alley’s northern wall- opened on Christmas Eve 1904.

Brydges Narrow

However, a passageway covering this ground is nothing new- an alley had existed on the site long before its present incarnation and was known as ‘Turners Court’ before morphing into Brydges Place.

Turners Court

Turners Court…. note; the area labelled ‘Royal Mews’ in the bottom left hand corner of the map is now covered by the National Gallery.

On 15th August 1885, The Times carried a sad report on Mr Dennis O’Malley, a 73 year old sandwich-board man who lived and died in a tiny home on Turners Court.

A narrow window looking out on Brydges Place.

A narrow window looking out on Brydges Place.

The flat- which Dennis O’Malley shared with his son- was described as a “front room in the basement” of a house into which another 14 people were crammed.

Mr O’Malley was “found lying dead on a kind of bed on the floor. The stench of the room was abominable.”

Brydges Stain

Dr Samuel Mills, who was called to the scene, stated that “he was not aware that such a place in Bedfordbury existed”…

Brydges Place Bedfordbury exit.

Brydges Place Bedfordbury exit.

*

Today, the only active premise to be found tucked away on Brydges Place is the aptly named ‘Two Brydges Place’; a discreetly private club popular with those who work in the theatre and media (Simon Callow is a noted member).

A group of drinkers gather outside Two Brydges Place.

A group of drinkers gather outside Two Brydges Place.

Two Brydges Place was established in the early 1980s by Rod Lane, an entrepreneur who founded the club on “the basis that I didn’t like going to places where people clicked their fingers at the waiters.”

Sounds like my kind of place!

Bedfordbury End Sign

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8 responses

  1. Great post – enjoyed the read.

  2. Hey Robert, nice to read about this. My flatmate used to work at 2 Brydges, I’ve been many times. It’s a great club. Really rickety old place, bags of character, and quite anarchic at times. Have a lovely memory of leaving one night when the streetlights were out and seeing a guy bringing the rubbish out from one of the pubs that back onto the alley, carrying an old-fashioned lamp, shadows creeping up the walls, it was a wonderfully evocative moment, I really felt I was in olde London towne

    1. Thanks Ian, great comments and memories 🙂

  3. PS I was always surprised 2 Brydges wasn’t a point on the Knowlegde, it’d be a classic impossible to find/access point! If I was an examiner it would be my signature point

  4. Oof! Certainly not for claustrophobics. Panic attack on the way. 🙂 Most interesting post, thank you.

  5. […] is a photo of Brydges Place, a narrow alley in London. At its tightest point, Brydges Place is just 15 inches wide, making it London’s narrowest […]

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