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…
Deep beneath Waterloo station and just 800ft from the London Eye runs Leake Street; a disused road tunnel which is now a designated legal graffiti area.
Last open to traffic when Waterloo was home to the Eurostar terminal (more of which in the next and final part of this history on the station), Leake Street’s status as a graffiti hotspot originated in May 2008 when renowned street artist, Banksy arranged the ‘Cans Festival’; an exhibition featuring murals and art installations.
In his own words, the secretive artist expressed his wish that the project would “transform a dark forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art… I’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men.”
Today, Leake Street continues to provide street artists with a vast, urban canvas.
Due to the nature of the style, the artwork changes frequently so repeated visits are well rewarded.
Images from my own recent visit can be viewed below.
Pictured below is the London Coliseum (home to the English National Opera), which is located on St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden.
Did you notice the hidden 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).
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Dr Samuel Mills, who was called to the scene, stated that “he was not aware that such a place in Bedfordbury existed”…
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).
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!