mes amis, je tiens à vous présenter, un répertoire des noms de rues de Londres

vale of health

Roughly translated as a few London street names that have taken my fancy over the past few years.  Inspired by a punter who wanted to go The Vale of Health in Hampstead yesterday, it jogged my memory that I had wanted to write about some of the stranger and more interesting street names in London.  But so precious is my time now that I’m such a media whore, I am going to start the ball rolling today and then hope that you, my adoring public, will rise to the challenge and let me know your favourite LONDON road names.  If it takes off, I may even give the directory it’s own page on this site, a rare honour.

So I’m going to start you all off with 10, in no particular order, apart from the one at the top of my list and the reason for my intro de Francais;

Petty France, SW1 – presumably derived from “Petite France” but someone else will have to fill quite why it’s called that.

Vale of Health, NW3 – now, here was a nice Twitter moment (groans all round from non Twitter users and BM who thinks Twitter is for narcissists – moi??), after tweeting that I’d done a job to the Vale of Health, one of my cabbie colleagues gave me the following information about it; “name was changed to disguise the fact that this was once a swampland and tanning pit and quite unsavoury till redeveloped”.  There, a cabbie told you, so it must be true.

Newington Butts & Newington Causeway – both quite grand sounding but sadly just part of the concrete jungle that is the Elephant & Castle traffic system.

Snowsfields, SE1 – Close to the entrance to Guy’s Hospital, a really evocative street name I’d say.

Fleur de Lis Street, E1 – another French influence, another very evocative name.

All quite close together in EC3, I can give you; Mincing Lane, sorry but it makes me think of Dick Emery every time I go down it, Seething Lane, Crutched Friars, Rood Lane and last but by no means least, London Street which just got the nod over England’s Lane for sheer arrogance, believing it can speak for the whole city.  London Street is, however, such a disappointment, being part of the one way system that takes you past the front entrance to Fenchurch Street Station.  But I’d love my address to be No. 1 London Street.  Wouldn’t you?

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20 thoughts on “mes amis, je tiens à vous présenter, un répertoire des noms de rues de Londres

  1. Hi Guys, great post by the way!
    Just thought about an area behind Dulwich Hamlets FC with a few one word streets, Blanchedowne, Dylways,Woodfarrs,
    And a one way system off Abbey street in SE1 called Neckinger !

  2. Ribbon Dance Mews off Camberwell Grove SE5 makes me think of dancing round the May Pole and Morris Dancers, but I don’t know how it got its name.

  3. A couple of fairly strange names which are so well known you take them for granted:

    Threadneedle Street
    Coldharbour Lane

    Also Petticoat Lane’s an odd name when you think about it.

    There’s an interesting post on the Scottish road names in Poplar here:

    http://eastlondonhistory.com/when-scotland-met-poplar/

    ….. a 1923 book about London’s road names here:

    http://openlibrary.org/b/OL7091247M/Historic-streets-of-London

    ….. and if you’re interested I’m trying to work out the derivations of the road names of my home town here:

    http://salisburyandstonehenge.net

    Enjoying the blog….Matt

  4. Mount Pleasant Crescent – just for the sound it makes

    and also just the plain Mount Pleasant – the Royal Mail staff never look as if they think so

    The Cut – Anything beginning with “The” sounds grandioise to me

    Pudding Lane – No explaination needed!

    and finally the scarily named St Mary Axe – she must have been a formidable lady!

  5. Here’s a few roads with peculiar names to be getting on with:

    Little Britain (No Matt Lucas or David Walliams)

    Bleeding Heart Yard (named after an ancient religious symbol)

    Crutched Friars (not as rude as it sounds, its an old form of cross)

    Electric Avenue SW9 (first street with electric light)

    Ogle Street W1 (place for lechery)

    Rotten Row (was the first throughfare with light in England)

    Undershaft (old term for a maypole)

    French Ordinary Court (Ordinary is an old English word for eating)

  6. In Battersea there’s a little corner full of references to Afghanistan – Afghan Road, Candahar Road, Khyber Road and Cabul Road. From the fact that the spelling is different to current accepted usage (Kabul, Kandahar etc), I’m guessing that these are fairly old street names, although I have no idea of their history – maybe some link with Britain’s 19th century military exploits in Afghanistan?

  7. Chelsea police station is on the peculiar sounding Petyward and in sunny battersea we have a unusual name ending in Lavender Sweep

  8. Endlessly entertaining subject.

    Hanging Sword Alley, near Fleet Street.
    Turk’s Head Yard, near Faringdon

    Oh, and there’s a Tessa Sanderson Close somewhere in the northern suburbs.

    Dullest name has to be Avenue Road in St Johns Wood. Bor-ring.

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  10. The one I immediately came to think of was the little narrow Frying Pan Alley, nr Middlesex Street. Always wondered how it got its name , never bothered to check it up. Nicked this explanation from http://www.walksoflondon.co.uk :

    “Frying Pan Alley. The frying pan was the emblem once used by braziers and ironmongers. It was the custom for ironmongers to hang a frying pan outside their premises as a means of advertising their business. The number of such businesses in this alley led to its being named Frying Pan Alley.”

    Another one which springs to mind is Little Britain.

    After first thinking Matt Lucas must live here (not), I’ve now learnt (from http://www.victorianlondon.org.) that it used to be the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. “As London increased, however, rank and fashion rolled off to the west, and trade creeping on at their heels, took possession of their deserted abodes. For some time Little Britain became the great mart of learning, and was peopled by the busy and prolific race of booksellers…”

    I’ve seen several street names worth mentioning but, as usual, I can’t remember them now that I want to. Will have a look through my London map and see if it can trigger my memory. From now on, I will make notes – not just take pictures when walking around London. Or even better – take pictures of the names directly!

    I have a book with British place names, which is great if you want to know your Ashby-de-la Zouches and Chipping Sodburys from your Stenhousemuirs and Fingringholes. Should invest in a London directory, as well. Or I might just wait until your online directory is finished! Great idea.

  11. Hi Richard,
    A small book you may find very entertaining ,I found at the transport Museum called “What’s in a name”.
    Its all about the London Underground station names and their origin.
    A fine read.
    One quick example is Perrivale;
    comes from Middle English, Peri= Pear tree and old French val= valley and means the valley with the pear trees, although in the book they go into more detail.

  12. How about Shooters Hill SE18, Popes Head Alley EC3, and the most strange I think, Trevor Square SW7 so grand yet such an unimaginative name.

  13. Of course, it has to be Ha Ha Road, SE18 – crossing Woolwich Common (next to its ha-has).

    And, like Snowsfields, single-word names usually make me stop and think. Like Colonnade, WC1, behind Russell Square station.

  14. there a few crackers

    bleeding heart yard
    jockeys field

    not forgetting

    french ordinary court – which is off of crutched friars

  15. You don’t need to go far in the City to find some cracking names (and you’ve cherry picked some of the better ones – but your blog, your right).

    I’m sure there are lots that temporarily escape my memory, but two spring immediately to mind.

    Poultry. Why not Poultry Road or Poultry Street? Were hens really that important that Poultry sufficed as a road name?

    Throgmorton Street. I just love the way sounds (and also spent far too much time and money in a cellar bar there that was blessed with no mobile signal).

    I challenge anyone not to get any pleasure out of saying either of those as part of an address or a set of directions.

  16. I think it’s called Petty France because it was home to Huguenot Weavers fleeing persecution in France.

    There’s also a Petty France in Gloucestershire – same reason.

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