Down Your Alley: Ave Maria Lane

Last month we explored Carter Lane from which it’s only a short walk across Ludgate Hill to two curiously named streets. Ava Maria Lane and Amen Corner. Their derivation comes from the feast day of Corpus Christi. Monks chanting the Lord’s Prayer in procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral setting off from Paternoster Row (Pater Noster being the Latin opening words of the Lord’s Prayer) would reach the final “Amen” as they turned into Ava Maria Lane – hence Amen Corner.

[A]t his point the Catholic Angelic Salutation, still recited by the faithful would begin “Hail Mary, Mother of Grace” or Ave Maria in the Latin.

The alleyways joining these ancient streets are seeped with history and tradition. From St Paul’s Cathedral walk down the north side of Ludgate Hill, turn right into Ave Maria Lane. Continue for about 30 yards where Stationers’ Hall Court is on the left.


Stationers’ Hall

Branching from Ludgate Hill, a short passageway soon opens out into a sizeable square where on the left is Stationers’ Hall, the home of the Stationers’ Company, founded in 1403. In 1556 they were incorporated with the Society of Textwriters, with their first hall established in Milk Street, off Cheapside and in 1563 they moved to St Peter’s College in Dean’s Court, on the west side of St Paul’s Cathedral. Their first purpose built hall materialised in 1606 when they purchased the London home of Lord Abergavenny, which stood on the site of the present Hall. The Stationers’ demolished his Lordship’s house and in its place erected a wooden structure which sixty years later was completely destroyed in the Great Fire. It is estimated that the value of the books lost in the burning of the Hall was in the region of £200,000. In 1670 Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design the replacement hall which still occupies the site, although the Portland stone facing was added by the Company’s architect, Robert Mylne in 1805. World War II left the roof of the Stationers’ Hall severely damaged and the decorative ceiling devastated, but skilful craftsmanship has since restored it to the original design.

The Stationers’ Company was originally established to oversee the stationery, printing and publishing and bookbinding trades and until quite recently it was the tradition for liverymen of the Company to carry on the business of publishing at Stationers’ Hall. A proportion of the profits realised were usually distributed annually between colleagues who had fallen on hard times, and sundry expenses incurred by the Company.

Copyright registration was established by the Company in 1557 and primarily concerned the printing of copies following the death of an author. It was not until 1662 that a committee of the House of Commons passed a bill requiring all works printed in Britain to be registered at Stationers’ Hall. This Act expired in 1681 and was superseded by a bill of 1710 stating that all works must be registered prior to their publication. An amendment to the bill in 1842 introduced the right of authors to protect their work from infringement by legal action. That Act remained in force until the passing of the Copyright Act of 1911 when it became unnecessary to register a work for protection against infringement.


Amen Court

Continue walking down Ave Maria Lane. Amen Court is a little way on the left. Many of the highways and byways around the precincts of St Paul’s Cathedral bear names which have ecclesiastical origins. It is very likely that Amen Court housed the scribes and letter writers employed in writing the great volumes of the Cathedral.

Reputedly built by Sir Christopher Wren, Amen Court is a secluded little solace hidden away behind Ave Maria Lane. This charming little Court contains the late 17th century houses of the residentiary cannons of St Paul’s Cathedral, some of which still retain the original torch-light extinguishers, positioned by their doors. One or two are further graced with old iron foot scrapers. Tucked away at the far end a pretty garden adds the finishing touches to this tranquil setting.

Before the Great Fire, the ground on which Amen Court is constructed was occupied by the Oxford Arms, one of the many galleried coaching inns of the City. All were built on a similar style where the galleried rooms, usually of two storeys, bordered three sides of the court and the fourth side was built up with stabling. In the Oxford Arms courtyard the stables lay on the west side, up against the Roman Wall. The old inn was burnt down in the Fire but as the cogs of commerce once again began to grind and as the construction of new St Paul’s Cathedral was taking shape, the Dean and Chapter rebuilt the inn on the same site. Adjoining the inn, on the site of part of the old courtyard, they built the cannons’ houses with a connecting door to the inn. In a later lease of the inn it was stipulated that on no account was this door to sealed up or barred.

The Oxford Arms inn is long gone; like the rest of the old coaching inns of London it rapidly lost trade when the railways claimed a foot-hold in the carriage business and the Oxford stage was forced off the road.

It is unfortunate that we mortals do not have the run of Amen Court; it is protected by a high gate and the only means of gaining access is by prior application to the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Pictures: Stationers’ Hall Court and Amen Court by John Salmon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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.

Is this square home to hidden value in Mayfair?

Historic, charming and yet not quite on the average London property buyer’s radar, Shepherd Market could well turn out to be one of Mayfair’s hidden hotspots.

Located between Curzon and Piccadilly, this small area is home to pubs, boutiques, coffee shops and a smattering of apartments and houses. A new research report released by Pastor Real Estate has shown that this historic area is experiencing price growth that is nearly comparable to that of wider Mayfair, and that this expansion could be set to continue as the local area gentrifies. With prime residential apartments, mixed-used developments and refurbishments of listed buildings all in the pipeline, Mayfair’s “original village” could expect to see the benefit in terms of substantial price growth.

A look at Shepherd Market
Although the confines of the area itself prohibit any major further development within Shepherd Village, a look at the changes happening in wider Mayfair suggest this micro-market will still benefit substantially.

Simon Green, Sales Negotiator at Pastor Real Estate comments, “More investors should look at it and see the value and growth potential. The area has improved considerably over recent years, and there is a lot of residential development in the pipeline in the vicinity of the Market.” There are a number of nearby developments that could add value to an address in Shepherd Market. For example, a property fund has acquired real estate at 90-93 and 100 Piccadilly, as well as 95 Piccadilly, formerly home to The American Club. British Land is redeveloping a site on Clarges Street and Piccadilly, creating a mixed-use project that will create both jobs and residential accommodation.

With Mayfair already home to one of the most desirable property markets in the world, this further development will surely result in stronger price performance and higher rental rates, even in tiny pockets such as Shepherd Market.

A bright future for this historic village
Originally the site on which London’s annual May Fair was held, today, Shepherd Market is a small and bustling “village” in the heart of prime central London.

It’s popularity with buyers and tenants alike is already evidenced by growth rates that are not far behind Mayfair as a whole. Over the past 10 years, prices per square foot in Mayfair grew by 47.3 per cent; in Shepherd Market, this uptick was 41.4 per cent. Although it may not be on par yet, the fact that such a small area can produce such a strong rate of growth is surely an indicator of good things to come. Between 2013 and 2015, apartments in Mayfair let for an average of £1,257 per week. In Shepherd Market, the average rent was just £850 per week, making it a more affordable destination for renters who do not want to compromise on a central location. The average house in Mayfair was rented out for a rate of £3,674 per week, but again, tenants could make their money go further by opting for a house in Shepherd Market for just £3,206 per week.


Regent Street

Another factor that is sure to drive upwards the demand for housing here is the lack of supply. Of the estimated 1,685 properties available for rent in Mayfair, just 248 were located in Shepherd Market. There are some units set to be delivered here however – there are 44 schemes for which planning permission has already been granted, which combined will bring 82 new private residences to the area. A further two schemes are currently in the application process as well.

As the popularity of property in this sought-after area of London continues to grow, those that do become available for rent or sale in Shepherd Market will surely exchange hands quickly.


CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

Heading to the South Kensington Museums

In Kensington stands three of London’s finest museums: the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A. Each has a different focus, and can be incorporated into a single visit, or visited separately for an interesting, entertaining school trip.

If you’re travelling inside London, it’s easy enough to hop on the Piccadilly, Circle or District London Underground line to get to South Kensington.

[W]ith its underground tunnel connecting the tube station to the museums you’re assured of a rain free day whatever the weather holds. If you’re coming from outside London, you can either get a train or hire a coach to London. There are dedicated coach drop-off points around the museums, so your class can be dropped practically to the door of your chosen museum for easy, hassle-free travel.

Whether you’re looking for a trip in time, visiting the arts or finding out just how things work, there is something suitable for everyone. Read on for which sections and exhibits are recommended for a school trip and other helpful hints and tips, such as where to go for lunch afterwards!

The National Science Museum


The Science Museum contains a huge range of interactive science displays and artefacts relating to a vast variety of science topics. From the human body to outer space to the science of technology, the Science Museum is brimming with things to see and do. The IMAX 3D cinema is a hit with all children, and there are lots of games and ways to get involved with the displays to make learning more fun.

There is always a new and exciting exhibit on for the children and other visitors to learn more about themselves and the world around them. The current exhibit is based on the Apollo lunar landings of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. With 3D computer animation that ‘sends you to the moon’ and realistic sights and scents of the atmosphere, it is a trip to space not many are likely to forget for some time.

The Natural History Museum


The Natural History Museum is perfect for Geography and History trips. Learn about everything from the way rocks are formed to what the different dinosaurs look like and everything in between. There is an exciting earthquake simulator to shake everyone up, and there are often fascinating nature photography exhibitions. Your class will love the moving demonstrations of how natural processes work, such as how ripples appear in rock, and there is an amazing display of crystals and rock formations, including an exquisite amethyst geode.

Staying with the special theme alongside the National Science Museum, currently, the Natural History Museum is showing Michael Benson’s ‘Otherworlds’. Hailed as a realistic flyby tour of the universe, it is a journey through space designed to highlight and explore the beauty of our solar system. For kids and classes of any age, it is not to be missed.

The Victoria & Albert Museum


The Victoria & Albert Museum (otherwise known as the V&A Museum) is a museum focused on art and design, with exhibitions ranging from fashion to furniture design. With art from around the world and one of the biggest ranges of artistic design products. This isn’t a conventional art gallery; your class can expect to find mesmerising pieces of jewellery, jaw-dropping architectural plans and some intriguing physical art pieces, such as dances and plays. This would make the perfect trip for an art or design class, either to learn more about the history of art or to make some sketches for a project.

For secondary school kids and college classes, why not put a bit of fun into your trip by visiting the exhibit; A Brief History of Underwear? Designed to highlight the relationships between underwear and fashion and what part it plays in defining sex, gender, and even morality, it is a controversial exhibit guaranteed to make you think. A little risky but perhaps very educational for the older students.

Plus there are a wide range of shops and restaurants nearby, although if you are really stuck for options you can always hop on the tube to nearby Earls Court or Shepherd’s Bush, where there are a huge selection of shops and restaurants where you can buy food. A lunch box is often recommended for school outings, but you never know when you might need to get to a restaurant.

Whatever topic you’re looking to cover on your school trip, the Kensington Museums are your best bet for something the children will be talking about for the rest of the year. They’ll learn and be entertained; what more can you ask for?

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with Best London Coach Hire; the transport group’s specialist coach service covering London and the whole of the UK.

Deep Blue Cafe in the Science Museum by Heather Cowper (CC BY 2.0)
Entrance Hall Natural History Museum by Heather Cowper (CC BY 2.0)
Sculpture Gallery Victoria and Albert Museum by Heather Cowper (CC BY 2.0)


CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

The London Grill: Jack Cooke

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.


[J]ack Cooke was born in 1985. A sometime bookseller, copywriter and Japanophile, his first book The Tree Climber’s Guide was published in 2016.

What’s your secret London tip?
Go beachcombing on the Thames at low tide. You’ll find a thousand pieces of worthless junk and priceless history.

What’s your secret London place?
The top of pine tree in Regent’s Park.

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
The traffic, over and underground.

Tree-Climbers-GuideWhat’s your favourite building?
Senate House. It’s got a single stairwell running through the tower and you can hear the wind howling through it.

What’s your most hated building?
All the generic boxes that keep popping up on the river.

What’s the best view in London?
The Horniman Museum gardens in Forest Hill.

What’s your personal London landmark?
The Hardy Tree in Old St Pancras Churchyard. It’s an ash with hundreds of gravestones growing through the roots.

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
The Long Good Friday with Bob Hoskins, showing the docks before they were torn down.

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Seven Stars on Carey St. Serves my home brew, Adnams, and it’s full of strange black cats in Elizabethan collars.

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
A fry up in The Regency Café, a long walk along a canal, browsing in Ray’s Jazz and a swim in the pond on Hampstead Heath.

Not me Gov’nor

I wouldn’t mind betting that when you ordered your copy of Wisden so that you were armed to the teeth with statistics to bore them down at the pub, or you just had to have some jalapeño peppers to complete the latest recipe shown on television, that you were contributing to London’s severe congestion.

[B]ut according to research commissioned by Uber said gridlock in the capital has nothing to do with private hire vehicles flooding the streets, but is being caused by Ocado.

This report has come about after findings from an unbiased report by INRIX which found London to be Europe’s most congested city, with the slowest of travel times.

Uber’s research showed that demand for road use remained flat over the study period, and the number of cars on the road had fallen, cars includes private vehicles, taxis and private hire vehicles, while e-commerce vehicles had risen substantially.

Uber’s findings may be true during daylight hours but I think you would have to look more closely at Uber’s evidence during nighttimes.

Mayfair is not lined nose-to-tail with Amazon deliveries, but is inundated with empty private-hire vehicles, their drivers mostly busy on their smart phones waiting for the elusive call from the global giant.

It makes sense, of course, if you want to be electronically hailed to remain in London’s busiest and lucrative areas: Covent Garden, Theatreland and Mayfair and with 700 licences issued a week the congestion is only going to be worse.

Video: Traffic Time lapse – London At Night by i have been hakkered