Londonist's Back Passage: St John's Passage

By M@ Last edited 7 months ago
Londonist's Back Passage: St John's Passage

In which we delve into London's back passages...

42. St John's Path


Where? Deeply atmospheric jitty linking Britton Street with St John's Square, Clerkenwell.

What? Someone requested this one. Surely some mistake, thought we. St John's Path is the Platonic ideal of backpassagery. We couldn't have missed such an instantiation, could we? Well, by Thackerey's scruttocks we did. So we decided to stop titting about with silly long words that we don't fully understand and go do some probing.

It's oh so quiet, is St John's Path. The area mixes residential and small business with a languid nod to tourism (viz the late-medieval gateway, built by the Knights of St John, at the eastern end of the passage). But this is not the vibrant end of Clerkenwell, and you are unlikely to meet many others coming along St John's Path.

The first plan of the area in enough detail to show the passage is John Rocque's celebrated map of 1746. Here, the alley is shown as St John's Passage, while Britton Street is marked as Red Lyon Street. Sadly, Badger's Row and Coach and Horses Yard are no longer with us.


Ivor Hoole's site about London's alleys has a couple of entertaining tales about the Red Lyon and Coach and Horses pubs. Those seeking liquid sustenance today are commended to the Jerusalem Tavern, on the corner of Britton Street. It's an imaginatively stocked boozer (gooseberry beer, anyone?) but suffers from a poor size:popularity ratio. If you can get a table, you'll note the Jerusalem's contrarian stance to all the St John name dropping in these environs. It serves ales from St Peter's brewery.

Why use? Long enough to be notable; quiet enough to be creepy; and an A-list pub on the corner. If we gave passages a star rating, this would get 4.81.

See a map of all our back passages.

Last Updated 14 November 2017

Tom Williams

Wonderful! So glad this feature is back.

As chance would have it, I was very recently down this way myself. Also of note nearby is Passing Alley, linking St John Street and St John's Court. which takes some beating when it comes to creepiness.


It looks like this map is showing Passing Alley by it's original name ;-)


I also had occasion to cut down Passing Alley (or, as goldenlad notes, "Pissing Alley") just a few days ago. Its current name does seem to be a misnomer, as there are some spots where the narrowness of the thoroughfare combine with some dodgy vegetation to make it distinctly inconvenient to pass someone coming from the other direction.