House names

In Victorian days addresses often comprised of just the individual’s name, the terrace where they resided or house name and the town. The New View of London reported in 1708 that ‘at Prescott Street, Goodman’s Fields, instead of signs, the houses are distinguished by numbers’. As London’s population grew the necessity of having house numbers became apparent. No more could one’s income or status in society be denoted by whether you resided in a terrace, villa, cottage or lodge.

[L]ook up when travelling down a Victorian street in London and you could come across these gems of names: Foo Choo Villas, Cambridge Road, Turnham Green; Nutty Hag, Clapham Road, Wandsworth; or Wee Nest, Ensley Road, Ealing.

Dr. Laura Wright of Cambridge University, herself hailing from Barnet has written a research paper about these wonderfully evocative house names and has classified them according to their derivation.

Victorian house builders would give their developments appealing names adding villa cottage or lodge according to the size and quality of the development.

Transferred place names, these might be places that people would aspire to visit:
Merock, a Norwegen beauty spot
Aberdeen Villas

Nostalgic rural with the burgeoning industrialisation of Britain some would look back fondly to the rural past, forgetting the grind that arable work entailed:

Commemorative usually named after a recent victory and certainly not one of Britain’s defeats:

Literary figures many from Sir Walter Scott notels:

Upwardly mobile:

Latest fads often again from popular novels:

Pick and mix names jumbled up, a bit like the later Dunromin:

Britain’s towns and cities still contain hundreds of thousands of Victorian houses, ranging from grand town houses to terraces of workers’ cottages, from Italianate villas to Gothic Revival extravaganzas.

Black Cab Sessions

Of the many uses of ‘retired’ cabs featured on CabbieBlog, probably the most famous conversion is Black Cab Sessions which started in 2007 and has toured London and America recording music from the inside of a London black cab.

With the banner ‘One Cab. One Song’ they wanted to see music differently, to provide audiences with an alternative to glossy promos.

[I]t is something that has brought them closer to what they found exciting about music – the magic and intimacy of a live performance. A mobile recording studio on wheels they film artists performing on the back seat of a London black cab, in one take as the cab tours around mostly London giving a constantly surprising and shifting vista.

It’s a journey that has seen them take the black cab over the Atlantic exploring the sounds of America’s cities, and with over 200 sessions and 40+ million views.

As they say: The meter is still running.

Down Your Alley: Carter Lane -2

Continuing looking at the alleys which lead off Carter Lane just around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral. This maze of small roads and alleys give you a sense as to how the City was laid out before the Great Fire of London. 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.

[O]ne 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 topping the bill.

Ireland-YardIreland Yard

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 dormer 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.’


Wardrobe Place

‘Brooding quietness; remote and intimate; the City in slumbers’. These are the terms that have been used to describe Wardrobe Place, one of the most exquisitely calm spots in London’s square mile. The courtyard marks the exact site of Sir John Beauchamp’s house, acquired by Edward III in 1359 to store the royal finery on its removal from the Tower. (See Wardrobe Terrace). This is a delightful place, in essence, little changed since rebuilding after the Great Fire destroyed much of the surroundings on the 4th September 1666. In fact almost the entire length of Carter Lane and its byways have so far luckily escaped the developers hammer, but perhaps to mention this is tempting fate. Meanwhile, until the 20th, and soon the 21st, century catches up we can gaze on the surviving post fire houses of about 1710 at numbers 3-5 Wardrobe Place.

From the south east corner a covered passage leads alongside the now defunct Bell public house and joins with Wardrobe Terrace. Wardrobe Terrace and Wardrobe Place are memorials to the Royal Wardrobe, which used to be situated between St Andrew’s Church and Carter Lane.

In 1359 King Edward III acquired the town house of Sir John Beauchamp which stood in the courtyard just to the north of St Andrew’s Church. To here he transferred the collection of ceremonial robes and dresses previously housed in the Tower. During the mid-17th century the collection was in the charge of Sir Edward Montague, Master of the Wardrobe, and wealthy cousin of Samuel Pepys. When the house was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 the Royal Wardrobe was temporarily moved to the Savoy where some 400 years previous, Peter, Earl of Savoy had built his mansion. It was subsequently relocated in Buckingham Street, to the south of the Strand.

The first Church dedicated to St Andrew was built here about the beginning of the 13th century and known as St Andrew next Baynard’s Castle. This stronghold was constructed by Ralph Baynard in the time of William the Conqueror and destroyed, together with the Church, by the Fire of 1666. The Church was rebuilt by Wren in 1693 when the parish of St Anne Blackfriars was incorporated within its boundary. It was the last in Wren’s list of 51 City church scheduled for rebuilding after the Fire. St Andrew’s suffered further devastation in the Second World War and was restored in 1961. Compared with the grandeur of most of Wren’s other churches, St Andrew’s is somewhat plain. Stow sums it up in a few words: ‘a proper church, but few monuments hath it’.

CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no more. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

Down Your Alley: Carter Lane -1

Without any shadow of a doubt, Carter Lane is very old and probably dates from the 12th century, at that time being known as Shoemakers’ Row.

Its present name did not appear until the beginning of the 13th century when the Lane was divided into Great and Little Carter Lane.

This name probably originated from an old bypass route used by the carriers of the day.

[W]ith the parallel Ludgate Hill being so congested with cattle and traders, the carters moving their consignments between Fleet Street and the City found it easier to use the more convenient parallel route to the south (Carter Lane). Thus, the name evolved. It is a satisfying place, narrow and not unlike a typical village street with the occasional corner shop. As though isolated and far from the City hustle and bustle, Carter Lane has a tranquil air – just a gentle but purposeful movement to and fro.

More curious than Carter Lane itself are the many adjoining byways of Church Entry, Cobb’s Court, Friar Street, Burgon Street, Wardrobe Place, Addle Hill, and Dean’s Court. On the corner of Dean’s Court is the old St Paul’s Choir School dating from 1875, with its playground on the roof, now in the hands of the Youth Hostel Association. Still almost as fresh as the day it was stencilled is the Latin inscription on the frontage to the building.


Carter Lane

In the clean up, after the Great Fire had taken its toll and left Carter Lane and its tributaries a pathetic ruin, Cobbs Court rose from the ashes like a phoenix, built up of tall red brick houses. It was not here before that devastating day in September 1666; the site was occupied by the vestry and rectory adjoining the church of St Anne, Blackfriars (see Church Entry).

The only Cobb of any notable prominence around at that time was Paul Cobb, Mayor of Bedford, who, during a prolonged visit to London, came into the confidence of speculative builder, Nicholas Barbon. His wheeling and dealing with Barbon aroused public suspicion and it was later revealed that he had spent the outrageous sum of twenty pounds of Corporation money in entertaining his guests. After the Fire, Nicholas Barbon presented his plans for rebuilding the City and although his scheme was not adopted, his unorthodox style was seen springing up all over the place, including a plot to the south of Ludgate Hill. The association between Paul Cobb and Cobb’s Court remains a possibility.

Today it is a modernised Court with ornamental gates at both ends. It leaves Ludgate Broadway through a narrow covered passage, which widens as it opens to daylight. Here there is a secluded paved courtyard with a central fountain and seating. All the buildings are of recent construction. Turning to the right through almost 90° it emerges into Carter Lane opposite to Church Entry. Everything in this quiet corner is very pleasant indeed.


Carter Court

Carter Court is of such quaint appearance that one would not be unduly taken aback if the bulky figure of Dr Johnson were to suddenly emerge from a doorway, followed hot on his heels by his long suffering biographer, James Boswell. Surrounding the square covered entrance to this ancient alley is an encasement of worn old English oak, painted in black, having the appearance of being in situ when Johnson was a lad. Inside the narrow passage one side is panelled with oak whilst the other is plain, both sides being coated with white wash. Towards the end of the short passage the Court opens out and terminates in a cul-de-sac. The current purpose of the Court is mysterious, for it appears to have not a single access.

Church Entry

The little passage known as Church Entry follows the approximate line of the north-south between the nave and the chancel of the Dominican Friary. After dissolution it was used as a churchyard for the parish of St. Ann Blackfriar

Two churches are remembered in the name of Church Entry: they are the Priory church of the Dominican Friars, commonly known as the Black Friars, and the church of St Anne, Blackfriars.

After the dissolution of the monasteries the Black Friars church and domestic quarters were left to deteriorate and by 1596 the stones of its vast walls were strewn about the site like rubble. At this time the grounds were sold off as individual plots and the actor Richard Burbage took possession of a small part lying to the south-west of Church Entry, on which he built his Blackfriars Theatre. While Burbage was preparing his plans, the adjacent plot was donated by the crown for the building of a new church, to be dedicated to St Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin. It was consecrated in 1597 and sixteen years later it was enlarged by having a chapel added to the south side.

No other London church has had so short a life as St Anne’s. On Tuesday 4th September 1666 the raging furnace took it while still in its prime. Although the Great Fire left this area a devastated ruin, there was one tiny row of houses that remained almost untouched. To the west of the church, separated by Church Entry, was Fleur-de-Lys Court, and whilst the hungry flames roared about the walls of St Anne’s they were prevented from leaping across to the Court by the intervening open space.

The church of St Anne was never rebuilt; its parish was amalgamated with that of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. Its graveyard, however, remains to this day; protected behind iron railings with a central gateway it is laid out with shrubbery and seating.

A notice on the sturdy iron railings proclaims that ‘On this plot of land stood, in the middle ages, part of the preaching nave of the church of the great Dominican Priory of Blackfriars. The choir lay the other side of the church entry and the name Church Entry indicates the usual passage between the nave and the chancel, passing north and south between the steeple in the planning of the priors church. The nave had seven bays and measured 114 feet by 60 feet. The priory, founded in 1278, was dissolved in 1538 and subsequently this plot was used as a churchyard for the parish of St Ann Blackfriars. It was closed for burials in 1848.’

Pictures: Carter Lane Metro Centric (CC-BY-2.0)
Church Entry Inspiring City

CabbieBlog-cabMuch of the original source material for Down Your Alley has been derived from Ivor Hoole’s GeoCities website. The site is now defunct and it is believed Ivor is no longer with us. Thankfully much of Ivor’s work has been archived by Ian Visits and Phil Gyford.

The London Grill: Katie Wignall

We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.


[K]atie is the founder of Look Up London, an award-winning blog about the London secrets hidden above your eyeline. A born and bred Londoner, she recently left her full time job to become a walking tour guide and currently runs walks along Fleet Street and in Spitalfields (with more in the pipeline!)

Small-business-awards_thumb.gifWhat’s your secret London tip?
I guess I’m going to have to say; Look Up! I promise that you’ll spot something new as you’re walking through The City.

What’s your secret London place?
I don’t even want to tell you because it’s so good, but as you’re twisting my arm… Townhouse, Spitalfields. It’s a glorious coffee shop, gallery and antique dealer which houses the fascinating ‘Huguenot Map’.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
As a born and bred Londoner my biggest gripe are the stereotypes of London, we’re not all angry and unfriendly, honest!

What’s your favourite building?
I love the V&A for it’s sheer vastness and grandeur but other smaller galleries are fantastic. My favourite is probably Leighton House, if you want a fancy interior, go no further.

What’s your most hated building?
The Barbican. (BUT!) Only from the inside, it’s impossible to navigate. From the outside on a sunny day though it’s glorious, I have a soft spot for Brutalism.

What’s the best view in London?
I used to work at the National Theatre so the walk across Waterloo Bridge, both to the East and West cannot be beaten.

What’s your personal London landmark?
It’s so hard to choose but I’ll have to say Crossbones Graveyard. It’s a place that many people have walked by and not noticed, but once you delve into its history it’s a fascinating and desperately sad story. I think it’s a great example of the layers of London history, right up to the current work of activists battling to protect it.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
I’m going rogue here but I love the Londonist podcast, it’s a chance to hear real Londoners who are all doing unusual things in the capital.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
I love the Morgan Arms in Mile End, cracking food and a great atmosphere. If you’re lucky the head chef might also come out and sing an aria.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
I have a huge list of places I want to visit (the best thing about London is that there’s always more to discover) so I’d check off something on the list, next up is Ilford Hospital Chapel or Eltham Palace. Got any other suggestions? Let me know on