How “Of Alley” Got its Name

A thoroughly enjoyable chartered “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” walk today, with a party of eight, including repeat customers Dave and Judy – yay!

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As always, people were piqued by the curious tale of how “Of Alley” got its name.  The story may be said to have begun at least as long ago as 1237 or thereabouts, when a house was built on the banks of the Thames for the Bishops of Norwich.  The  house was later handed over by Henry VIII to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk,  during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, and then by Queen Mary to the Archbishop of York  in 1556, at which point it  came to be known as “York House”.  York House was then in turn owned or occupied by Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, from 1558; by his son Francis Bacon, from 1617;  by  George Villiers Senior, the First Duke of Buckingham, from 1621; by Villiers’s widow, from 1628;  by General Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, during the Civil War; and eventually by Villiers’s son, George Junior, the Second Duke of Buckingham, after the Restoration  (by which time he had married Fairfax’s daughter Mary).  The house  survived the Great Fire of 1666.  However, it was substantially demolished in the 1670s, whereupon Nicholas Barbon re-developed the site, and in deference to its former owner set out new streets named George, Villiers, Duke and Buckingham –  and an alley named Of!

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(Incidentally, of York House, only the Water Gate, believed to have been designed and built by the master-mason Nicholas Stone in 1626, survives to this day, in  Victoria  Embankment Gardens).

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Please note that this walk, or indeed any of our others, can be booked by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.co.uk) or phone (020-8998-3051).

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