Category Archives: Roads of Renown

Cabbie’s Curios: The Policemen’s Wall

Pictured below is Myddelton Passage, a quiet road which pops out behind Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

Myddelton Passage

Myddelton Passage, EC1

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.

Historic image looking across Inglebert Street towards Myddelton Square. Myddelton Passage leads off to the right, just before the church (image: British History.ac)

Historic image looking across Inglebert Street towards Myddelton Square. Myddelton Passage leads off to the right, just before the church (image: British History.ac)

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

Myddelton Passage today...

Myddelton Passage today…

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.

A scrap between two 19th century women

A 19th century scrap

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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.

A Victorian Police Officer

A Victorian Police Officer

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.

359 G... denoting an Officer of the Finsbury Division...

359 G… denoting an Officer of the Finsbury Division…

Quite why so many Victorian coppers chose to create this swathe of graffiti in this particular location remains something of a mystery

The policemen's numbers can be seen carved over much of the Myddelton Passage wall...

The policemen’s numbers can be seen carved across much of the Myddelton Passage wall…

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Leake Street: London’s Urban Gallery (Waterloo station Part 10)

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.

Leake Street tunnel

Leake Street SE1

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.

Poster for the 2008 'Cans Festival'

Poster for the 2008 ‘Cans Festival’

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.”

Leake Street

Today, Leake Street continues to provide street artists with a vast, urban canvas.

Leake Street sign

Due to the nature of the style, the artwork changes frequently so repeated visits are well rewarded.

Where to find the Leake Street graffiti tunnel...

Where to find the Leake Street graffiti tunnel…

Images from my own recent visit can be viewed below.

 

 

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.

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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