Walking along Cheapside and having to divert slightly because of building work going on, I noticed an interesting keystone above a little alleyway. As the builders’ hoarding was blocking the entrance, I could not go through to see what lay behind, but the name of the alley and the design of the stone said it all. This was Honey Lane, once leading to Honey Lane Market – or so I thought.
But when I did some research on the old market, I noticed that the Ordnance Survey map of 1893 had the alley further to the west. The blue arrow is roughly where I saw the alley, the red arrow is where the OS-map situates Honey Lane. Although there appears to be a walkway, possible covered, on the OS-map marked by the blue arrow, it would be unlikely that both lanes were called Honey Lane. More research was obviously necessary. Let’s first look at the old market. The OS-map mentions Honey Lane Market, but just as part of a street. If you compare it with Horwood’s 1799 map, you will see that the market used to cover a far larger area. What the OS-map calls Honey Lane Market is just the southern side of the market in Horwood’s map and the whole area between Russia Row and Honey Lane Market appears to have been built upon sometime in the century that lies between the two maps, obliterating the original market.
And that is exactly what happened. Honey Lane Market had been established after the 1666 Fire on the site of some private houses and the churches of All Hallows Honey Lane and the adjoining St. Mary Magdalen Milk Street. Although the name suggests that the market was primarily for selling honey, much in demand as sugar was still an expensive commodity and also used in large quantities by the apothecaries, it had a far more varied range of produce on offer. There was a market house in the centre with warehouse space in the cellar and on the first floor, and there were over a hundred butchers’ stalls in the square, besides those for the sale of fruit, vegetables and herbs. The area would also accommodate sellers who brought their wares in baskets.(1)
In 1834, an Act of Parliament established the City of London School which set its sights on the Honey Lane Market area. The neo-Gothic building was designed by the City architect James Bunstone Bunning (1802-1863). The first stone for the school was laid on 21 October 1835 by Henry Lord Brougham and Vaux and it opened its doors in 1837. The grand doorway and porch were on the western side of the building in Milk Street.
According to the British Almanac for the Diffusion of Knowledge of 1836, the school was to be “divided into seven or eight classes, and there [would] be a spacious lecture room, twenty-seven feet high, capable of containing from 400 to 500 pupils”. There would also be “a large writing room, a library, &c.” Hmmm, wonder what the &c. was. Spacious as this may all sound, the number of students soon outgrew the space available and a further Act of Parliament in 1879 allowed the school to seek larger premises which they found on the Victoria Embankment. The school moved hence in 1883.(2).
The Honey Lane site was redeveloped after the Second World War and nothing now remains of the market or the school building. A birds-eye view of the area will show one large building reaching from Cheapside to Russia Row. According to Keene and Harding, Honey Lane was moved during the reconstruction and “now lies some 140 ft. (42.67 m.) to the E. of the original lane”.3 Alright, that explains the discrepancy between my observation and the Ordnance Survey map. Mystery solved. In the Google Earth View below, Honey Lane lies between the large building fronting Cheapside and the construction site (red arrow).
(1) Susan R. Henderson, The Public Markets of London before and after the Great Fire of 1666 (1977), p. 74-75.
(2) More on the history of the school can be found here.
(3) D.J. Keene and V. Harding, Historical Gazetteer of London before the Great Fire: Cheapside; parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane (1987), p. 3.