First mentioned as Abbechurche Lane in 1291, St Mary Abchurch is near the south end. The name is perhaps a corruption of Upchurch, as the church is on slightly rising ground. In the early 17th century the lane was renowned for the cakes referred to in John Webster’s Northward Hoe (1607) and sold by Mother Wells who had her shop here.
In the later part of the century and in the early 18th century it was even better known for the French eating house, Pontack’s, whose exact site is uncertain. This was patronized by Evelyn, Wren and Swift. Pope chided John Moore, ‘author of the celebrated worm powder’, who lived here in 1737:
Oh learned friend of Abchurch Lane
Who sett’st our entrails free
Vain is thy art, thy powder vain
Since worms will eat ’een thee.
The new King William Street which was built in the 1830s cut the lane in two. In 1855 excavations for a sewer revealed an 11-metre length of Roman ragstone wall, probably running northwards up the middle of the lane from its junction with Nicholas Passage. The former Gresham Club at No. 15 reopened in 1994 as the London Capital Club.
Excerpted from The London Encyclopaedia by kind permission of the Publishers, Pan MacMillan.