Home » Hidden London » Hidden London: Goodwin’s Court in Central London

Hidden London: Goodwin’s Court in Central London

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

For all the modern development in Central London, there are small areas which can transport a visitor into the past.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of those areas is Goodwin’s Court which is an narrow alley that runs between St. Martin’s Lane and Bedfordbury, in an area, just north of Trafalgar Square.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court first appears in the records in 1690 and replaced Fishers Alley which had occupied a similar location in preceding years.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

What is really unusual about Goodwin’s Court is that since the late 18th century, it has changed very little and walking in the alley you feel that are transported into London of the past. The area was once full of these type of a small, murky courts. The row of shops in the court, that have typical Georgian bowed shop windows date back to the 18th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court has been hidden away for so long that information about these shops have been long forgotten and the shops are now small offices for a number of businesses. The doors to the offices have a number of decorative door knobs, knockers, and nameplates.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although Goodwin’s Court is generally off the main tourist trail, it does attract a number of photographers and rather strangely is often visited by Harry Potter fans. Although there is no obvious connection to Harry Potter, tours often describe the alley as the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Goodwin’s Court was not just a mystery to people in the present, 100 years ago Punch magazine writer E V Lucas found the alley and wrote about it in his book Adventures and Enthusiasms published in 1920.

My second little street—disregarded by Wheatley and Cunningham altogether—has only just come into my own consciousness: Goodwin’s Court, which runs from St. Martin lane to Bedfordbury. It is not a street at all, merely an alley, one side of which, the south, is the least Londonish row of dwellings you ever saw, and the other side is the back doors of the houses on the south of New Street—that busiest and cheerfullest of old-world shopping centres, where Hogarth’s ghost still walks. New Street is famous in literature by reason of the “Pine Apple” eating-house where Dr. Johnson in his penury dined regularly for eightpence: six-pennyworth of meat, one pennyworth of bread, and a penny for the waiter, receiving better attention than most of the clients because the penny for the waiter was omitted by them. Take it all round, New Street (which has not been new these many decades) is not so different now, the small tradesman being the last thing in the world to change.

But it was of Goodwin’s Court that I was going to write, and of its odd houses—for each one is like the last, not only architecturally but through the whim of the tenants too, each one having a vast bow window, and each window being decorated with a muslin curtain, in front of which is a row of pots containing a flowerless variety of large-leaved plant, created obviously for the garnishing of such unusual spaces. Where these strange plants have their indigenous homes I cannot say—I am the least of botanists—nor do I particularly care; but what I do want to know is when their beauty, or lack of it, first attracted a dweller in Goodwin’s Court and why his taste so imposed itself on his neighbours. But for this depressing foliage I should not mind living in Goodwin’s Court myself, for it is quiet and central—not more than a few yards both from the Westminster County Court and several theatres. But it would be necessary for peace of mind first to find out who Goodwin was.

If you would a taste of ‘old’ London that recreates the world of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes, take a trip down Goodwin’s Court.

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