Down Your Alley: Orange Yard
After recently highlighting Orange Street, today we go all oranges and lemons. First off is Orange Yard: from Tottenham Court Road Station walk along the west side of Charing Cross Road. Cross Falconberg Court, Sutton Row, Goslett Yard and then turn right into Manett Street. Orange Yard is about 20 yards on the right.
WILLIAM OF ORANGE could have had associations with Orange Yard. Nell Gwyn may have trudged down here on one of her excursions, although I can hardly think why; there might have been an orange warehouse here or perhaps a fruit merchant held his stall in the vicinity. On the other hand its name could even reflect the predominant colour in a coat of arms; in fact, the Yard could have been named after any one of these, or a combination maybe. More than likely we have all been led up the garden path and the place has never had any connections with oranges, lemons, fruit and vegetables, colours of the rainbow or anything else of that ilk.
One fine detail we can call up in relation to Orange Yard is that there is nothing here to attract the revelling tourist in search of London’s most exhilarate attractions. Foyles bookshop, claiming to be the largest in the world, is nearby. It was set up by the two Foyle brothers who, having failed an examination to enter the civil service, made a decision to sell their textbooks for the highest price they could get for them. The speedy sale and acceptable profit gleaned from the exercise prompted them to purchase a job lot of second-hand book and repeat the process. They soon realised that the foundation of their business was in place. Foyles moved from number 121 Charing Cross Road in 1966 to 113-119 Charing Cross Road, now as a result of CrossRail they have moved again to their present building at 107 Charing Cross Road.
For a late hour splurge, the Borderline Nightclub is on the corner of the Yard.
Down Your Alley: Church Court
For our lemons, we go to Church Court. From Monument Station continue north along the east side of King William Street and turn right into Clement’s Lane. The Court is just past the church on the right.
Tucked away from view, as though hiding from the thousands who daily tramp the pavements of King William Street and Gracechurch Street, only feet away, is narrow Church Court. It gracefully rises from Clement’s Lane up three steps. In the midst of these great streets, rarely resting from the scramble of City traffic, it lies in tranquil obedience like a dog at the feet of his master. It is one of the City courts responsible for a great deal of confusion in years gone by, resulting from the multiple church-side paths simply called ‘church court’. For clearer identification it was more frequently referred to as St Clement’s Court, leading to St Clement’s churchyard – now almost completely disappeared, and subsequently, the name was officially changed to reflect its public pseudonym. Now that all, with the exception of Church Court in the Temple, have been renamed and the case of mis-identity no longer exists, the path around St Clement’s has very recently reverted to its original title.
This was not always the throttled down backwater of today; prior to 1831, when King William Street was built, Clement’s Lane was a bustling thoroughfare. In those days it was the main connecting road between Candlewick Street (Cannon Street) and Lombard Street with tradesmen’ houses lining the route. As far back as 1370 the residents of Clement’s Lane joined with those of Candlewick Street in a protest against an assemblage of plumbers who had set up a lead smelting plant nearby. They claimed that the chimney of the furnace was not high enough and that the noxious fumes emitted forth were causing untold ill-health. In consequence, the Mayor declared that the plumbers would be allowed to continue with their work providing the height of the chimney was raised.
The church of St Clement’s, Eastcheap, after which the Lane (and previously the Court) are named, was built by Wren in 1687 to replace an earlier building destroyed in the Great Fire. By comparison with many of Wren’s creations, it is a plain structure of almost entirely stuccoed brickwork. It has undergone many internal changes since Wren left the scene; firstly by Butterfield in 1870 and again in 1933 when some of the woodwork was embellished by Ninian Comper. The fine Harris organ of 1695, originally installed in the gallery, was relocated in one of the aisles by Butterfield but in 1936 it was returned to the gallery. Among the memorials is one to Brian Walton, compiler of the Polyglot Bible who later became Bishop of Chester and died in 1661.
There are some who claim that the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons rightly belongs to St Clement’s Eastcheap and not to St Clement Danes. But the truth we shall never know since the author died some five centuries ago and the ditty would have gone the same way had Wynkyn de Worde not included it in his Demaundes Joyous children’s book in 1510. I include the rhyme here to sway on the side of the Eastcheap church, not merely to be contradictory to popular belief, but because all of the other churches mentioned are within ‘cockney’ London; St Clement Danes is not:
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St Clement’s.
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St Martin’s.
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.
I’m sure I don’t know,
Says the great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
Chop, chop, chop, chop!
The ringing of the bells might be a most pleasant experience but the chopper remains as doubtful as the rhyme’s origin.
On the wall of St Clement’s House, by the side of the church, is a small plaque telling us that Dositey Obradovich, a scholarly writer of his time, lived in a house on this site. We may never have heard of him but someone thought him worthy of recognition.
Signs at the entrance to St Margaret’s Close, City of London. St Margaret’s Close, formerly Church Court, is closed off by a wrought-iron gate from the street; it squeezes between the east end of St Margaret Lothbury and an adjacent Victorian office building. By 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.