London’s narrowest alleyway, a mere 67cm (26.5in) at its narrowest point, it appears on John Rocque’s 1746 map as an unnamed alley between Grange Street (now, Emerald Street) and Red Lyon Street (now, Lamb’s Conduit Street). Unlike the adjoining Emerald Street however, which has had various names since it was laid out in about 1700, Emerald Court only appears to have been named in the 20thCentury. Like Emerald Street, which was renamed in 1885 from Green Street to avoid confusion with numerous other streets of that name, it refers to the shade of green. In 1562 William Harpur, a man of humble beginnings from Bedford who moved to London and amassed a large fortune as a merchant tailor, bought about 13 acres of land for £180 13s at Holborn. It would prove to be a very savvy investment given the rapid rate of London’s expansion. In 1566 the land was conveyed to the Bedford corporation which supports four independent schools in Harpur’s home county, including the Bedford School. The endowment enabled the school to take up a second site, and provide a house for its headmaster, Edmond Greene. Harpur became Lord Mayor of London in 1561 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1562. In the 1680s the land in Holborn started being built upon, which is around the time this street was laid out.
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