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Not Avenues, but Alleyways

There’s nothing more exciting for me than discovering a new alleyway or court in London, so much so that I document each one on a Google Map with as much information as I can find on it.

It may look like there’s a lot of pins on the map, but the reality is that the number of alleyways has shrunk by around half since the early 1800 with at least 60% having disappeared since the 1930s, and the creeping tide of destruction hasn’t halted. I can think of at least five where the land owner has either gated or built over the top of the thoroughfare. Eventually access becomes more difficult and eventually is restricted totally.

I think there’s something more personal about these alleyways, as for the most part they were residential. It’s more difficult to imagine someones life in a major area, for example Fleet Street, which has the largest concentration of these surviving alleyways. However, step off the main street into an ill lit alley or small courtyard and you can be immediately transported back to a time when these backwaters were busselling with people going about their everyday lives, virtually every alley has a story to tell, however mundane it may be although sometimes you get a real pot boiler, death and scandal were no strangers.

After a while of collecting these locations and their stories I decided that I had enough material to turn it into a guided walking tour. This started off as something I would do for friends and relatives but over the years it became the cornerstone of the guided walking tour company that I now operate, and as the first it has always been my favourite. Not Avenues, but Alleyways is available as a guided walking tour, while Not Avenues, but Alleyways (A backstreet guide around Fleet Street) is a self guided audio tour that you download onto your mobile phone. Both are the same tour and take about 90 minutes to complete.

Here’s a small selection of some of my favourites.

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