As once known as Half Moon Passage, its route used to continue round a curious dog-leg bend before emerging through a narrow covered passage into Aldersgate Street
, but the path was truncated earlier this century and is now only half its original length. Many of the neighbouring byways, tiny openings dotted here and there, have gone the same way as in other parts of London – sunken from view, forgotten and erased from the scene. There used to be an array of short connecting passages around here, some can still be found but most have either been sealed off or building developments have obliterated their very existence.
Here was the Half Moon Tavern. It stood on the corner of Aldersgate Street
, a place favoured in the 16th century by artists, writers, critics, or anyone feeling the need to engage in literary conversation. In 1866 one of these faithful clients wrote in a local paper that the Half Moon ‘is filled with carved woodwork of the most elaborate kind and the walls are curiously panelled’. The old tavern, with its projecting gables and quaint bow windows was certainly a striking feature in a street at that time largely deprived of character.
Taking time out from writing Bartholomew Fair
, Ben Jonson sauntered round the corner one morning for his daily tipple and found the door firmly locked. He rattled and banged for a while but unknown to him, the landlord had had a heavy night and was still in bed. With the occasional shake of the head and exaggerated tut he shuffled off to the Sun, another celebrated old haunt in Long Lane
Two hundred and fifty years after the death of Ben Jonson in 1637, the Half Moon was hanging on by the skin of its teeth. One by one the taverns around St Bartholomew’s were shutting up shop and the Half Moon echoed the call of ‘last orders’ for the final time in 1881. The Court is still here, much changed over the years, but it remains as a memorial to a dearly loved tavern.
There is still a good selection of pubs in the confines of St Bartholomew’s but reflecting on the area around the turn of the last century when literally every corner was a tavern door, it is now an ocean turned to desert.