derives from the Old English eald and wic meaning 'old trading town' or 'old marketplace'; the name was later applied to the street and district.
In the seventh century, an Anglo-Saxon village and trading centre named Lundenwic ('London trading town') was established here approximately one mile to the west of Londinium. Lundenwic probably used the mouth of the River Fleet as a harbour or anchorage for trading ships and fishing boats. It was recorded as Aldewich
in 1211 but then the name Aldwych
largely disappeared from history for some 800 years.
scheme was the London County Council's first large urban improvement scheme in central London. It was opened in 1905 and signalled the council's vision of London as a modern city of tree-lined boulevards, office blocks and free-flowing traffic.
There had long been calls for a new route for traffic between Holborn
and Fleet Street
, but it was not until the London County Council came into existence that the scheme took shape. A new road was proposed between Holborn
and Fleet Street
. The slum properties and crowded alleys at the east end of the Strand
would first have to be cleared, which was seen as a further advantage of the scheme.
Although modern in spirit, the scheme respected London's past. The new crescent at the south end was designed around the historic church of St Clement Danes
. The Saxon-sounding name given to the new crescent, Aldwych
, was chosen as a reminder of London's long history of continuous settlement.
The scheme's large boulevard, running north to Holborn
, was named Kingsway
in honour of Edward VII. A hundred feet wide, it was London's widest street and thoroughly modern in spirit, not least because a tunnel for electric trams ran beneath it. The building plots on either side of the new boulevard were leased to speculative builders, the intention being that this would become London's new commercial district.
Lundenwic - the original Aldwych
- was 'rediscovered' in the 1980s after the results of extensive excavations were reinterpreted as being urban in character. Recent excavations in the Covent Garden
area have uncovered an extensive Anglo-Saxon settlement, covering about 600,000-square-metre stretching from the present-day National Gallery
site in the west to Aldwych
in the east.