This nearly 500 feet (150 meters) thoroughfare joins a plethora of street monikers throughout Britain with unusual names. Though some have lost their original meaning to a long-forgotten language, like Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, others are immortalized in song, such as Penny Lane. Needless Alley’s derivation, however, may have been lost to the mists of time.
There are two popular theories as to how this backstreet received its unlikely title. One derives from the 1700s, when such passageways in the nearby vicinity were closed and absorbed into a redevelopment scheme, to rid the city of vice and squalor. The other pertains to the street being named after a row of needle makers, who owned businesses in the area.
No matter which explanation one chooses to believe, the name has survived. Although over the years, the lane that connects New Street with Temple Row has narrowed significantly, its epithet is still likely to cause a moment of curiosity for pedestrians who travel up the tapered path from the rail station to St. Philip’s Cathedral.