Londonist's Back Passage

By M@ Last edited 187 months ago

Last Updated 11 November 2008

Londonist's Back Passage

47. Passing Alley


Where? We're back in Clerkenwell to probe this connector of St John Street and St John's Lane.

What? Oh what japery the denizens of Clerkenwell must have enjoyed around this one over the centuries. Passing Alley is only one vowel shift from accuracy, as attested by a number of fruity puddles on our visit. Alternatively, as shown in the picture, a little obfuscation of the sign re-enforces our back passage innuendo. Ooo, matron.

This smelly dog-leg really was called Pissing Alley back in the day. Look, here it is on John Rocque's map of 1746. Right between the brewers and the bakers. Everything a drinking man needs in one convenient location, up against the Tudor gatehouse of St John.


The prissy renaming might be less vulgar, but it is also inaccurate. A pair of fasting weasels might have trouble passing one another along this thinnest of byways. Indeed, the shortcut has changed little in 250 years with its high brick walls and narrow course, and evokes a vanished London that can also be glimpsed in nearby St John's Path.

Why Use? Perfect for scandalising friends and relatives of a delicate nature. Remember to pack the smelling salts.

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