The Scenery of London

Mitton, G. E.

CHAPTER VII: Name Associations

CHAPTER VII: Name Associations


So little is left of the old London, the London of history and association, that we are in danger of forgetting amid what historic scenes we move as we go daily to our business or our pleasure. But in the street names, if properly considered, we can always find a reminder; no 133rd Street or 98th Avenue has yet been adopted by our Borough Councils to obscure past memories, and it is safe to say that that day will never come for London, any more than with all the improvements and reconstructions will she ever be a town of right angles and straight lines.

The subject of these street names is a large one, and it is difficult to do full justice to it in view of the countless examples that crowd upon the mind. To attempt to deal with them in any sort of topographical order is useless; therefore they shall be chosen haphazard, as a child draws counters from a bag.

Knightrider Street :-What visions this name evokes of tall and well-mounted men, with plumes waving from their helmets, riding two by two down a narrow street


between houses of timber and plaster, gable and pinnacle, and storeys so much overhanging that they almost shut out the light of the sky. Knightrider Street lies between St. Paul's Churchyard and Queen Victoria Street, and is roughly parallel with both, running into the latter where it turns up to the Mansion House. Stow says it was so called from the fact that the knights "well armed and mounted," starting from Tower Royal, went this way to Smithfield, where the great tournaments and tilts were held. But the real reason why this street was selected for the title rather than others is that Lord Fitzwalter, who lived at Castle Baynard, used to assemble the City train-bands at his mansion before proceeding to Smithfield, and it was the number of knights passing this way to the rendezvous that originated the name. The street now called Giltspur Street was formerly known as Knightrider, and with more justification, leading as it does to Smithfield, where the chief tournaments took place.


The Strand speaks for itself. A Strand indeed it was. Stretching by the side of the river long before an Embankment was ever thought of; a fair strand and yet withal miry, and crossed by several hundred rivulets, some so wide that bridges were built over them, as Ivy Bridge and Strand Bridge. The Strand gave its name to the village that sprang up thereon, according to Maitland, and itself was the main road between the Cities of London and , a road full of deep holes and interrupted by "thickets and bushes." Paternoster Row and Ave Maria Lane speak of days prior to the


Reformation, when Aves and Paternosters were bartered daily. A Paternoster meant originally a rosary, but in time the term came to include also one who made rosaries, and the salesmen in Paternoster Row supplied rosaries, and all other objects of devotion, such as crucifixes, candles, service books, etc., to the faithful who worshipped at St. Paul's. Ave Maria Lane was so called, says Stow, "because of stationers and text writers who wrote and sold there all sorts of books then in use, namely A. B. C. with the Paternoster, Ave, the Creed, the Graces, etc."

St. Marylebone has been taken by some to mean St. Mary-le-bonne; but this is not the right derivation: the name was taken from the situation of the church, which stood on the banks of the Tyburn stream, and was consequently St. Mary at the Bourne or burn. Earl's Court has a pleasant aristocratic flavour.

One involuntarily imagines an earl holding a small court in state, where much ceremonial was used, and men and women of noble birth forgathered and displayed their gorgeous clothes and fought secretly but bitterly for precedence. This surmise is but an empty vision; an earl there was truly enough, the Earl of Oxford, who was lord of the manor, and here certainly he held his court, but it was a court of justice not of ceremonial. The court-house stood on the site of Barkston Gardens, near the present Underground Railway, and was still there so late as 878, though nearly one hundred years previously the courts had been transferred elsewhere.

The name of Bayswater has doubtless caused some people to reflect gravely, and there is certainly nothing in the present district that could give a clue to the name. In older maps it is marked "Bayswatering." Now, as Maitland tells us, there was in the year a very important " head of water " in Paddington, " containing twenty-six perches in length and one in breadth," and this was granted by the Abbot of Westminster to the mayor and citizens of London, and it was called Baynard's watering-place, though who or what Baynard was no one seems able to ascertain. There was certainly a Juliana Baysbolle, who had held land in Paddington, and she may have been connected with the "head of water," but this is pure conjecture.

bears its date in its name, as a street may well do. , the chief architect in the days of the Regency, propounded an idea royal in magnificence, nothing less than to build a street of exceptional width from the Prince Regent's town house, Carlton House, to a country mansion to be built for His Royal Highness in Regent's Park. Nash brought stucco into fashion, and his completed street is the great example of stucco in London. It is well known that there was at first a colonnade of columns in front of the shops, but this was found to darken the windows so much that it was subsequently removed. was finished about the time that George IV. ascended the throne. Nash had at first designed to make a straight line up Portland Place, but he finally abandoned


this idea and formed the turn as we now see it. The country house in Regent's Park was never built.

The name of Holborn is easily solved. There was, until the making of the viaduct, a deep depression in Holborn down to which the thoroughfare sloped steeply, and in this depression ran the river or bourne known in its lower part as the Fleet. It was most likely referred to colloquially as the burn or bourne in the hole, hence Holebourne.

Cheapside has a derivation certain and clear; it was the way that ran by the side of the chepe or market, from time immemorial the most important market in the City. At first this was lined by stalls or open sheds, and these afterwards grew into closed shops. The streets leading out of Cheapside proclaim what was sold in various parts of the market: we have Bread Street, Milk Street, Honey Lane, Ironmonger Lane, and Poultry. Probably very few of the people who constantly pass through it guess that the last name is a true reminder that once there was here the greatest poultry market in London. Stow says, "then employed by poulterers that dwelt in the High Street from the Stocks market to the great Conduit. Their poultry which they sold at their stalls were scalded there. The street doth yet bear the name of the Poultry, and the poulterers are but lately departed from thence into other streets." There was another poultry market at .

Eastcheap has of course the same origin, having been the eastern market. Gracechurch Street is akin


to the Haymarket in its meaning, though certainly the derivation does not lie on the surface. Both streets were markets for grass or dried grass, thus Graschirche (as it was originally spelt) and Haymarket, though at Gracechurch there seems to have been traffic in various kinds of herbs as well as hay. This name was frequently corrupted into Gracious, and is so spelt by some old writers, which is misleading. In Gracechurch Street was also the great corn market, to which corn came from all parts, the memory of which may be traced in the adjacent Cornhill. Cannon Street has gone far from its original spelling, for it was at first written chiefly Candlewike, but with many varieties, such as Candlewright and Canewyke. There seems, however, to be little doubt that the name was connected with the manufacture of candles; it was the candlemakers' quarter, and their hall is on Dowgate Hill close by. In Newcourt's map of the street first appears under its present spelling.

Jewry was of course the Jews' quarter. At the first coming of the Jews to London they received this convenient and central site for their residence, and their synagogue stood at the north-eastern corner. The precinct was walled round, and fines were inflicted on Christians found there after nightfall. In , when the Jews were banished, their synagogue was given to the Fratres de Sacca, an order of friars.

Lombard Street was in like manner the quarter of the Lombards or Italian merchants, who came over at first as collectors of the papal revenue, and afterwards


stayed to carry on trade. So successful was this foreign enterprise that Lombard Street became the regular place of mart or exchange with the London merchants before the building of the Royal Exchange. The name of Fenchurch Street has been commonly derived from its being situated in a fenny or marshy place, but as there seems to have been very little marsh about here an attempt has been made to derive it from the French foin, hay; in the same way that Gracechurch was the grass market so Fenchurch would be the hay market; Professor Skeat admits this as just possible, if it comes through the Anglo-French word fein, but thinks it unlikely.

Of Leadenhall there seems to be no ascertainable derivation, and the curious word Threadneedle is lost in antiquity, though it has been suggested it may have originated with some house bearing the sign of the Three Needles.

The word , belonging to such a well-known part of the town, and being so peculiar, has attracted much attention. It has generally been stated to be connected with the enormous Pickadillas or ruffs worn by the fashionable in the time of the Tudors; these ruffs made the fortune of one Higgins a tailor to whom the land belonged. Others have taken it from the same word meaning a wide hem or edge of a skirt or other garment, and suggested that the last house in the suburbs, as a famous house in at one time was, might have been denominated the edge or skirt house. Pennant traces the name to piccadillas, meaning


turnovers or cakes, which may have been sold here. But the derivation suggested by Mr. W. J. Loftie is the most likely. " Robert Baker," he says, " who died in , is described as of Hall. This was a kind of tea-garden, a place of amusement. There can be no reasonable doubt that Baker meant to describe his house and garden as a place it would be a peccadillo to visit."

Mayfair needs no such dubious endeavour, for, as already stated, a May fair there was beyond all cavilling. was anciently written Chelchith, of which the termination hith meant a haven. Gravelly banks or pebble stones frequently occur in the form of "Chesel," as in Winchelsea, and so some sort of gravelly bank with a bay or landing-place may originally have been the distinctive mark of in the eyes of the primitive men who used the great waterway.


The limits of the ancient City within the walls may easily be traced by the names of its gates or posterns. Beginning on the west, we have Ludgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate, but the Liberties, now all included in the City, reach far beyond this, and our present City begins at Temple Bar.