The alleyways and courtyards of London: V

Vandon Passage SW1
UG: St James’s Park
Bus: 11 24 211 507
Turn left out of St James’s Park Station and walk west along Petty France. Cross Palmer Street. Vandon Passage is about 75 yds on the left.
It was on the site adjacent to this Passage that Cornelius Van Dun, a Dutchman and Yeoman of the Guard to Henry VIII, built a row of almshouses in 1575 for the well being of eight deprived women of the district. Not content with this singular generous deed, he provided the cash for the building of twelve more at St Ermin’s Hill, round the back of St James’s Park Station.

At the time the almshouses were built, Petty France had already been in existence for about 100 years as a continuation of Tothill Street, the main west road from the Abbey. For those living in the alleys to the south of here, Vandon Passage was a vital link with civilisation, long before the roadway of Buckingham Gate was constructed and when the line of Victoria Street was still a dusty track. Vandon Street, still almost as narrow as it was 400 years ago, is a survivor of one of these alleys and marks the southern limit of the plot purchased by Van Dun.

Tucked away from the scurrying rat race, Vandon Passage has little to show for its long years of existence. Surfaced in Tarmac, its only hint of attention-worthy artefacts are the two gas-style standard lamps, long since converted to electricity. For much of the day this Passage reclines in an almost hushed withdrawal from existence, but rises during the lunchtime and early evening hours as an indispensable cut-through for those mortals eager to take refreshment in the Buckingham Arms at 62 Petty France. The Buckingham is a superb pub, which on weekday lunchtimes always seems to give the impression of being filled with the entire workforce of Victoria. Just how close this notion is to absolute accuracy I have no idea but it is certainly very busy. Try it – but go early.

Vine Hill EC1
UG: Farringdon
Bus: 55 63 243 259 505
From Farringdon Station walk north along Farringdon Road for about 300 yds and turn left into Clerkenwell Road. On the right pass Herbal Hill, Back Hill, Eyre Street Hill. Vine Hill is then about 25 yds on the right.
As will probably be your expectation, Vine Hill now displays not the faintest shred of evidence that vines once flourished in the grounds on which it stands. When we stand outside the Duke of York public house, on the corner, it seems beyond our wildest fantasies to conceive that even a blade of grass would have dared to poke through the surface. It was, of course, over 400 years ago when the gardens of the Bishops of Ely covered the land between here and their town house east of Hatton Garden. By the late 16th century the Diocese of Ely had temporarily abandoned the house, during which time Sir Christopher Hatton, with the help of Queen Elizabeth, had seized most of the estate. The Hatton estate passed down through three generations of the family to Baron Hatton of Kirby in 1640. Financial difficulties caused him to dispose of the entire holding and by 1660 Hatton Garden and a series of smaller roads had replaced the house and grounds. The northern extent of the Hatton estate lay barren for a few years longer and the vineyard was swept away in about 1710 when this area was developed.
Vine Hill is effectively a cul-de-sac although a steep flight of steps leads up to busy Rosebery Avenue. All has changed greatly over the years and where the grapes once grew, an uninviting block of flats frown sourfully on the lacklustre below.

The alleyways and courtyards of London

This page is taken from Ivor Hoole’s defunct GeoCities site listing the alleys and courtyards in Central London, last updated in 2004 and now taken offline.
The Underground Map blog lists this information as is, with no claim of copyright.

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