Hockley-in-the-Hole

I was around Mount Pleasant and Farringdon this pm, and passed this building site (the former Guardian newspaper offices stood here.) Lots of little peep through windows for people to see how the works are progressing.

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View across the former Guardian site to what was once Hockley.

What impressed me was the rather impressive view (temporary of course) towards **Hockley-in-the-Hole.

I passed the area on a 55 bus a week ago and noticed the Coach and Horses,which can be seen from Theobalds Road, had closed. I made a mental note to visit it, and so here I was once again, on foot this time. Hence some pictures and a brief history of what was once one of London’s most notorious places.

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General view of Hockley-in-the-Hole, or Ray Street as it is known today.

Hockley-in-the-Hole was formerly a steep sided enclave within the valley of the Fleet river, rather like a hole. It was a small hamlet of ill repute, “a rendezvous of thieves, burglars, and other depraved characters,” and drinking, gambling, plus the notorious bear gardens which had been moved over from Bankside in July 1700.

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Handbook for London: Past and Present, Volume 1 By Peter Cunningham 1849.

Hockley in old english refers to a muddy place, obviously here was a muddy hole for the Fleet dropped fast hereabouts and constantly flooded. Hockley was mentioned in the Beggars Opera as a place of valour – in other words one that made hardened men. The very bad-ness of the place, where men were “morally low conditioned” – as well as the mud, is probably why the name fell out of use and in 1774 it simply became Ray Street.

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The Coach and Horses on the site of Hockley’s notorious bear gardens. The red ring marks the Fleet drain.

The only reminder of Hockley-in-the-Hole is the now closed Coach and Horses. The original inn stood by the Bear Gardens.

The pub is noted for having a drain cover right outside where one can hear the Fleet river (now buried deep below the streets) as it heads towards a steep cascade that drops the watercourse even deeper below Farringdon Street. This picture on Flickr shows the slope.

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The Fleet can be heard through this drain sited outside the pub.

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The Coach and Horses mentioned in The History of Clerkenwell by William John Pinks, 1881.

Dick Turpin, highwayman, is perhaps the most famous criminal to have set foot in Hockley. A portmanteau alleged to be his was discovered here sometime after Turpin’s execution in 1739.

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Lift Engineers in Ray Street, EC1. Little is known of the company that was based here.

A quick internet search reveals little information other than 24 Ray Street was once the offices of lift engineers Elliston, Evans & Jackson, and later G. L. Evans Lift & Hoist Services Ltd.

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Old marker stone in Ray Street marking the boundary of St Andrew Holborn Parish.

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View looking down Crawford Passage towards Ray Street. The valley which the River Fleet once flowed through is evident. The scene will change somewhat when the new development on the old Guardian site is completed.

Pictorial depicting the last hours of the Guardian at Farringdon Road before its move to King’s Place in 2008.

**derived from a much older spelling which was something like Hocknye Hole.

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