Londonist’s Back Passage

By M@ Last edited 148 months ago
Londonist’s Back Passage

A tribute to the capital’s alleys, ginnels and snickleways.

9. French Ordinary Court

Where? In an area of the City where unlikely street names are two-a-penny (Seething Lane, Mincing Lane, Savage Gardens), French Ordinary Court is perhaps the wackiest of all. It links Fenchurch Street to Crutched Friars (there’s another one) via some fancy brickwork vaulting.

What? Two passages in one - a veritable ginnel glut. The northern, open-air end is known as St Katherine’s Row, as it runs through the churchyard of the long-demolished St Katherine Coleman. Further down, the alley passes under railway tracks, and is named French Ordinary Court. (This is the dark, creepy section shown in the photo.) The southernmost part unexpectedly widens into a car park. The unusual name, so it’s reckoned, derives from a Gallic eatery once located near the site. An ‘ordinary’ was a fixed-price meal purveyed in such restaurants. The eating place was destroyed during the Great Fire and never replaced.

Why use? Good views of the Lloyds Registry of Shipping extension, designed by Lord Rogers. A kind of update on his more famous Lloyds Building. Also, the cavernous stretches to the southern end of the passage are worth a visit for their sheer atmospheric pleasure.

Also good for? 1. An as-yet undiscovered goldmine for carjackers, druggies, graffiti artists and other ne’er-do-wells. 2. Ideal location for Vincent Price impersonations.

Last Updated 14 September 2006