With the ever increasingly acrimonious race for the White House I thought we could look at Trump Street which fortuitously is approached via Russia Row, and if that not serendipitous you get to Russia Row from Milk Street, as both candidates are milking the other’s indiscretions for all there’re worth. The other end of Trump Street lays King Street; it would appear that our City Fathers when deciding names for the Square Mile had our Donald in their thoughts in this little quarter.
[W]alking north up Milk Street in about 45 yards turn right into Russia Row. Russia Court is about 20 yards on the left. Situated in an area rich in age old alleys and narrow streets which have remained unchanged for centuries, Russia Court is a relative new-comer. It first appeared on the scene in about 1815 when the overflowing traders of the ancient Honey Lane Market were still setting up their stalls in every available crevice. A century earlier, the milk sellers around the corner tethered their cattle to posts driven into the ground, but only the name – Milk Street – survives to recall those smelly old days. In this street was the church of St Mary Magdalen, built in the early 12th century and burnt down on the 4th September 1666, never to be rebuilt.
An air of ambiguity lingers over the naming of Russia Court, for it apparently had no connection with that country, and neither did its traders or residents. Very little now remains of the court and recent restructuring of this area has caused the Court to submit to modern times. Severely truncated, it exists as a short paved inlet merely providing access to the ‘Udder Place’, a pub and wine bar where the younger set are amply catered for.
Return to Russia Row turn left and after a few yards the road becomes Trump Street Honey Lane is to be found on the right. Many of the streets, alleys and courts in London still bear the names of commodities once made or sold there. You only need to walk the length of Cheapside to see a fair selection: Wood Street, Bread Street, Milk Street, Ironmonger Lane, and Honey Lane. This was the passageway leading to a market established in the 12th century where, along with other provision traders, honey producers congregated to sell their wares. It was a substantial and spacious market stretching from Milk Street in the west, where there was a supply of running water, to Ironmonger Lane on the east side. There were no fewer than 135 covered stalls for butchers alone, and presumably a similar number divided between the other traders. In the centre was a large square building raised from the ground on pillars and housing permanent facilities for those who could afford the higher rents. The market, however, was not free of its problems; there were complaints of butchers slaughtering sheep and pigs, and of farmers leaving the place in a filthy state. Fires were often lit there, causing damage to the stalls and destroying produce.
Honey Lane Market survived until 1835 when it was replaced by the City of London School. Early in the 20th century the school moved to Victoria Embankment and the site was built over with offices. The Lane has changed little during the intervening years, – covered at both ends and dominated by a seven storey stone faced building.
John Stow seems to disregard any association with sweet tasting substances and suggests that the Lane is so called on account ‘of often washing and sweeping, to keep it clean.’ Truly, with the constant procession of farmers and sheep, it must have been a street cleaner’s nightmare, but it is also true that honey was sold there.
Retrace your steps and turn right into Trump Street at the junction with King Street turn left and after 60 yards Prudent Passage is on your right. This is quite literally a passage; it leads to nothing and nothing leads to it. By its narrow covered way we merely pass between Ironmonger Lane and King Street. However, for this narrow alley of such apparent insignificance someone saw fit to line its walls from end to end in white glazed bricks, a seemingly unusual and extravagant embellishment for what is effectively a short cut. But perhaps there is more to this humble path than meets the eye – an occluded history lurking, or even lost, in the depths of time. Or could it be that the evidential facts are there lying mistily beneath the surface and I, through ineffective means, have totally missed the bate.
Whatever we make of it, Prudent Passage, in name, has only been with us for little over 100 years. During the mid 18th century it was known as Sun Alley, possibly from a sign above a shop, and it retained that name until 1875 when it first appeared as Prudent Passage . . . an over cautious resident?
View along Prudent Passage from King Street ©Robert Lamb (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Honey Lane, off Cheapside: The bee carved into the keystone of the arch is a nice nod to the name of this little street (now a pedestrian passage), one of many around Cheapside that indicate its previous role as the market for medieval London. © Copyright Christopher Hilton (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Much 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.