Londonist's Back Passage

By M@ Last edited 142 months ago
Londonist's Back Passage

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


29. Angel Place

Where? SE1, close to Borough Tube and St George’s church.

What? ‘Dickensian’ is an adjective so steeped in cliché that we have a rule at Londonist: whenever the word slips into a post, we get the writer to pay a sovereign towards upkeep of the local orphanage. Here, however, we can wield the description with justified impunity. This alley (formerly Angel Court) really is Dickensian. Look, it appears in Little Dorrit:

Whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out of Angel Court, leading to Bermondsey, will find his feet on the very paving-stones of the extinct Marshalsea Goal; will see its narrow yard to the right and to the left, very little altered if at all, except that the walls were lowered when the place got free; will look upon the rooms in which the debtors lived; will stand among the crowded ghosts of many miserable years.

He’s right. That high wall you see on the right is the boundary of Marshalsea Prison – a debtor’s gaol which housed Dickens’ father in 1824. The prison was closed later in the century, but a few remains can be seen.

This one really, really does smell of piss.

Why use? The passage has an opening into St George’s Gardens – one of the few local areas of green. The park occupies the site of the Marshalsea, and attracts an apt community of down-and-outers. Be careful not to get locked in by the council workers who turn up with Marley-like chains at closing time.

See each and every one of our back passages mapped here.

Last Updated 28 March 2007