Pictured below is Myddelton Passage, a quiet road which pops out behind Sadler’s Wells Theatre.
Initially a narrow footpath, the street was widened in the early 19th century as an estate of homes developed around nearby Myddelton Square, Claremont Square and Amwell Street.
Despite the expansion Myddelton Passage was considered to be a dark and dangerous alley throughout the Victorian era; a reputation making it notorious enough to feature in George Gissing’s 1889 novel, The Nether World as the setting for a violent assault on a character named Pennyloaf Candy:
“Pennyloaf…turned into Myddelton Passage. It is a narrow paved walk between brick walls seven feet high…the branches of a few trees hang over; there are doors seemingly never opened, belonging one to each garden; a couple of gas-lamps shed feeble light…
“There came running from the other end of the Passage a girl whom Pennyloaf at once recognised. It was Clem Peckover…who was now springing out of ambush. She rushed upon Pennyloaf who for very alarm could not flee, and attacked her with clenched fists.
Pennyloaf could not even ward off the blows that descended upon her head; she was pinned against the wall, her hat was torn away, her hair began to fly in disorder…Pennyloaf’s hysterical cries and the frantic invectives of her assailant made the Passage ring.”
Today, Myddelton Passage has cleaned up its act; you can certainly walk along it of an evening without fear of attack.
However, look closely at the wall running along its southern perimeter and you’ll discover a secretive hint of its shadier Victorian past…
This large collection of seemingly random numbers were mostly carved around the mid to late 19th century by an array of police officers– with each set of digits representing the respective bobby’s collar number.
Most of the numbers feature a ‘G’ linking them to ‘Finsbury Division’; the team who operated out of the former King’s Cross police station.
Quite why so many Victorian coppers chose to create this swathe of graffiti in this particular location remains something of a mystery…