The street names of London are many, various and named after all sorts of people, objects and events.
Some names keep cropping up again and again though and we can sometimes blame the builders of the nineteenth century who required a lot of new names very quickly.
Many streets of London date from the nineteenth century. There was a surfeit of roads named Victoria
- so many and so confusing for postal workers of the time that a massive renaming programme was undertaken in the last decade of the century.
was a popular name with street builders of the late 1850s. Alma commemorates the Battle of the River Alma on 20 September 1854, the first engagement in the Crimean War.
road names commemorate another Franco-British victory over the Russians in 1854.
was Commander-in-Chief of the Crimean campaign and General Sir George Cathcart
his second-in-command. These preceding four names were popular with Victorian builders all over Britain.
Much rarer are Willes
roads which honour Lieutenant-General James Willes, Commander of the Royal Marines during the War.
Square, Avenue, Place and Way (Bloomsbury), Bedford Court, Street and Bedfordbury (Covent Garden) and Bedford Passage (off Charlotte Street) indicate the London possessions which the Russells of Bedford received in two stages, the first for merit in 1552 and the second by marriage in 1669. At the time the estates were unimportant orchard or pasture lands, yet they were to yield more profit to the later Dukes of Bedford than all the family's numerous country properties. The family names on more than seventy London streets continue to bear witness to three centuries of Bedford ownership.
is a hamlet in Cheshire which the first Earl Grosvenor
purchased in 1758. In 1784 he was created Viscount Belgrave, a title which his descendants, the Dukes of Westminster, still hold. When his son, Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster, decided to develop part of his Westminster lands in 1824, the names of Belgrave and other Cheshire and Flint properties were given to the streets and squares. Belgrave Square happening to be the focal point of the area, gave the name Belgravia to this select district. Belgrave Place and Upper and Lower Belgrave Street date from the same period. The Grosvenor estate in Pimlico was begun a few years later: Belgrave Road, Pimlico was built in about 1830.
In consequence of Belgravia's prosperity the name then became very fashionable, and propagated wildly in the outer suburbs until the London County Council intervened-a strange fate for a tiny village on the Welsh border. Belgrave Gardens, St John's Wood, was apparently named simply for this cachet of respectability.
was born about 1607, the youngest son of Sir Maurice Berkeley of Bruton
in Somerset. He was a royalist commander during the Civil War, and after a victory at Stratton in Cornwall was created Baron Berkeley of Stratton
. By a judicious marriage he added wealth to the title, and in 1664 bought a field fronting Piccadilly, as a site for a town mansion befitting his status.
A few years later Berkeley House was completed in spacious grounds on the site of the present Devonshire House, Piccadilly. John Evelyn the diarist described it as a 'sweete place', with 'by far the most noble gardens, courts, and accommodations, stately porticos, &c. anywhere about the towne'.
But by the time Lord Berkeley died in 1678, land along Piccadilly was so valuable that his widow could not resist sacrificing two strips of garden on either side of Berkeley House to the builders; Berkeley Street and Stratton Street were the result.
is the name given to the medieval manor which stretched from modern Euston Road to High Holborn, and west to east from Tottenham Court Road to Southampton Row. It is a corruption of Blemund's bury, the bury or manor house of William de Blemund, who bought the land in 1201.
In 1545 the Earl of Southampton
(Southampton Row) acquired the manor, which his descendants, the Dukes of Bedford
, still partly own today.
Street (Hampstead) is typical of a class of street name that came to maturity in Victorian times and was the ancestor of all suburban Acacia
Groves and Mead
Roads. The street was built by the Land Building Investment & Cottage Improvement Company Ltd, one of the land companies whose proliferation in the 1850s and 60s revolutionised the pattern of street building and naming. This was the period which saw the beginning of Hampstead's urbanisation, when landowning families who had farmed their fields for generations, and had no knowledge of how to develop them, sold out to the land companies -a continuing trend which has left most modern suburban building land in the hands of giant contracting firms or local councils.
The new owners had no interest in preserving old associations on these estates. In some cases they would name a batch of streets after the directors of the company and their country homes, but this source was soon exhausted, especially when (as often happened) the company consisted of a solitary businessman. Their only aim in naming streets was to give an impression of genteel, vaguely rural, desirable residences.
Hence the number of countrified suffixes and prefixes found. 'Croft' is the most popular: Femcroft, Hollycroft, Rose croft, Greencroft and Lyncroft. Endings like 'wood
' and 'dale
' are fruitful basic elements: Inglewood, Netherwood, Maygrove, Honeybourne, Goldhurst, Cotleigh, Broomsleigh, Loveridge, Briardale, Holmdale. 'Glens': Glenbrook, Glenloch, Glenilla, Glen more) are no guarantee of rocky vales.
Flower names come into the same class. Narcissus
Road dates from 1877, and being also the name of a Greek mythological character led to the appearance of a subsidiary Pandora Road four years later.
When the companies wished to announce attractions more subtly, they relied on ruralistic associations like Ravenshaw Street and Rosemont Road), or names of pleasant villages and towns, usually in the West Country: this accounts for Glastonbury Street, Kemplay Road and Crediton Hill. Insipid but harmless names of this kind continue to spread with public acquiescence wherever English suburban development takes place.
was a popular name with builders in the year 1795, when Princess Caroline of Brunswick came to England to marry her cousin the Prince of Wales, later George IV. But the marriage was probably the least successful in the history of British royalty. Prince George is said to have been horrified at the sight of his bride and Caroline reported that he spent the wedding night in a drunken stupor. He stayed with her only until their daughter, Princess Charlotte, was born. Caroline, spurned and humiliated, led a wild vagabond life on the continent which shocked all Europe until her death in 1821.
The Earls Cadogan
have owned most of Chelsea for centuries. The connection began with their ancestor Sir Hans Sloane, President of the Royal Society and of the College of Physicians, whose library and collection formed the nucleus of the British Museum. His brother had settled in Chelsea, and when Sir Hans' success was established he decided to buy the Manor of Chelsea, in 1712. Having no sons, Sir Hans divided the manor between his two daughters and their heirs, and their family names are now scattered all over the parish.
In the fifteenth century the manors of Notting Hill and Paddington belonged to the Lady Margaret, the mother of Henry of Richmond, head of the House of Lancaster, who ended the Wars of the Roses when he seized the throne as Henry VII in 1485. She was renowned for her graciousness and generosity, and is mainly remembered now for founding the Lady Margaret professorships at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
In her will she left the Notting Hill and Paddington estates to pay for these professorships - hence Oxford
Squares (Paddington) Oxford and Cambridge Gardens, (Notting Hill), and Lancaster
Road, (Notting Hill). The manors were held by Westminster Abbey in trust for the universities until Lady Margaret's grandson Henry VIII, dissolved the abbey along with all other English monasteries and seized the lands in 1543.
The district now known as Camden
Town was a prebend, a manor belonging to St Paul's Cathedral, where the income supported a prebendary canon. By about 1670 John Jeffreys was farming the land on behalf of the Cathedral and in 1749 it passed to Charles Pratt
, then a struggling barrister, who married Elizabeth Jeffreys of Brecknock
Priory. Later Pratt reached the highest possible honours in his career as a lawyer, being appointed Lord Chancellor in 1766 and created Viscount Bayham and Earl Camden.
In 1790 Lord Camden came to an arrangement with the prebendary, the Reverend Thomas Randolph, to start developing the land. A contract was drawn up with a local builder called Augustine Greenland - who was to profit well from the deal - and streets were begun. Hence Camden Gardens, High Street, Park Road
, Road, Square and Street; Jeffreys Street; Prebend Place; Brecknock Road; Pratt Street; Baybam Street; Randolph Street; Greenland Place, Road and Street; Marquis Road; Georgiana Street; Caroline now Carol Street; Murray Street; and Rochester Place, Road and Square.
Gardens and Carlton House Terrace occupy the site of Carlton House, built in 1709 for Lord Carlton. Unlike most noble town houses, it kept its name despite changes of ownership. The Prince of Wales lived there, and spent so much money renovating it after he was made Regent in 1811 that 'Carlton' became a byword for spendthrift luxury. But in 1826 he tired of it, the house was demolished, and these terraces were built. The name remained popular for the rest of the century with builders and publicans who wished to imply an ambiance of elegance. Carlton Hill, St John's Wood, Carlton Vale, Paddington, and Carlton (now Carltoun) Street, Kentish Town, date from the 1840s and 1850s, and there are still half a dozen Carlton pubs in London.
The ancient family of Cavendish
split into two branches in the seventeenth century: One branch of the family was created Dukes of Devonshire
, The other branch produced the Dukes of Newcastle, whose eventual heiress, Lady Margaret Cavendish, married the owner of Marylebone Manor. Her daughter Henrietta married Edward Harley in 1713, and four years later he began Cavendish Square. Cavendish Place and Old and New Cavendish Streets soon followed. Henrietta's descendant, the 4th Duke of Portland
, purchased a plot of land St John's Wood in 1827, and built on it Cavendish Close
and Cavendish Avenue
Gardens, Place, Road and Villas (Paddington), Clifton Hill (St John's Wood), and Clifton (now Cliff) Road and Villas (Camden Town), all dating from the mid nineteenth century, are named after the fashionable district of Bristol where Brunei's Clifton Suspension Bridge, an amazing feat of engineering, was constructed 1832-1864.
, pipes and channels carrying water from fresh springs outside London into the densely populated areas, were vital to the pre-Water Board Londoner. The Thames and its tributaries had become inadequate or polluted by the thirteenth century and water had to be conveyed artificially from further afield. With the exception of the New River the ancient conduits are all disused, but several of them are perpetuated in street names. White Conduit Street and Lamb's Conduit Street are notable examples.
Street (near Gray's Inn Road) adjoined the extensive premises of Messrs Cubitt's, the building company, whose headquarters were here until 1930. The firm was founded by Thomas Cubitt who built the surrounding streets. He developed much of Bloomsbury for the Duke of Bedford, and spread his houses, many of them still standing, across North London from Camden Town to Stoke Newington. In 1825 he embarked on his greatest achievement, draining the remote and desolate swamps which were to become Belgravia and Pimlico. Cubitt Town is also named after the family.
Street (St Giles) was formed across the site of St Giles' Leper Hospital soon after 1683, the year Princess (later Queen) Anne married dull Prince George of Denmark. 'I have tried him drunk and I have tried him sober, but there is nothing in him'
, sighed the Merry Monarch, his uncle by marriage. Denmark was the father of Anne's 17 children, who all died in infancy. Denmark Street is better known by its nickname Tin Pan Alley, the centre of the music publishing business.
About 1855, the Devonshire name was very popular by association with the dukedom: at that time there were no less than nine Devonshire Terraces in London as well as nine Devonshire Streets and many other variations of the same name.
Streets are named in honour of James Duke of York, later James II.
Names suffixed with End
in and around London date from the days when villages now absorbed in the suburbs were so small and compact that houses even a short distance from the main cluster of buildings were isolated outposts. Town's Ends and even World's Ends - one of the latter survives in Chelsea - were common. In Kensington South End, South End Row and South End Gardens, only a few hundred yards from the village centre at Kensington High Street, demark the southern extremity of the settlement in the eighteenth century. In Hampstead too South End Green, so close to Hampstead Village, is a separate hamlet on Rocque's map of 1745. Hampstead also boasted two other far-flung communities on the opposite boundaries of the parish, at West End (surviving in West End Lane) and North End.
were very common street names, sometimes named after royalty but more often after builders. In Stepney alone there were once five separate places called George Street
and ten called John Street.
The Latin gleba
meant 'earth' or 'soil', and in English the name Glebe
was extended to 'ground belonging to a parish priest'. Glebe names tend to adjoin a church.
The prefix Great
does not usually imply particular grandeur or importance in a street. It generally indicated the presence of a corresponding Little
street in the neighbourbood, although the latter has disappeared or been renamed in many cases. In the late 1930s the London County Council systematically attempted to eliminate all prefixed names from the London Directory, and hundreds of suburban 'Greats' were simply dropped.
The story of the immensely valuable Grosvenor
family estates in London starts with Hugh Audley, who was born in 1577. He started his career as a law student of humble origin, but before long revealed a talent for making the utmost profit from all his transactions. He accumulated vast estates all over the country, including one manor which a lesser businessman would have dismissed as worthless. This was Ebury, an extensive flat rural holding, its fields inundated by the Thames, its few inhabitants shepherds and tenant farmers, its lanes infested with thieves and its main produce osiers. It is now Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico the most valuable single estate in Britain.
is defined as a small wood or group of trees. Most Groves in central London indicate the proximity once of a such vegetation.
House in Holland Park was built by Sir Walter Cope, Lord of the Manor of Kensington in 1605. Cope and his wife Dorothy Grenville had an only child, a daughter Isabel, who married Henry Rich, Earl Holland. Their son Robert was later the Earl of Warwick. Local names associated with the fortunes of the house and its ownership are: Holland Park, Park Avenue, Park Gardens, Park Road
, Gardens, Place, Road, Street, Villas Road and Walk; Cope Place; Grenville Place; Warwick Gardens and Road; Addison Crescent, Gardens, Place and Road; Edwardes Place and Square; Radnor Terrace; Pembroke Gardens, Gardens Close, Place, Road, Square, Villas and Walk;Longridge and Marloes Roads; Nevern Place, Road and Square; Pennant Mews; Penywern Road; Philbeach Gardens; Templeton Place; Trebovir Road; Napier Place and Road; Russell Gardens and Road; Strangways Terrace; Ilchester Place; Woodford Square; Abbotsbury Close and Road, and Melbury Court and Road.
Street has always been a very popular street name, with its implications of patriotism and regality. It was also a convenient label for streets with no official name, and almost every medieval City thorough fare was known as Via Regia (King's Way), Vicus Regius (King's Lane) or 'ye kinges hie way' at some stage in its history. There are still three King Streets in central London.
The earliest street to honour the 1st Duke of Marlborough
was Great Marlborough Street, begun in 1704, the year of his victory at Blenheim
. The Duke died in 1722, but he and his battles are found in street names all over London, even in the newest suburbs. In the London suburbs of Chiswick, Harrow, Croydon, Sutton and Leytonstone, as well as in countless provincial towns, Blenheims are situated close to Marlboroughs.
Blenheim and royalty apart, during the First World War, every street but one in London with a Germanic name was changed. Only Weimar Street in Wandsworth escaped this process.
(Clerkenwell) was once a very pleasant country path, winding down into the valley of the River Fleet and mounting again on the other bank. The name 'Mount Pleasant' is common around London, and where it occurs in built-up areas the sense is usually ironical. The Vale of Health, Hampstead is another ironic example.
Streets have always abounded in London, as in other towns, either as a sign of patriotism or to lend a noble tone to the street. Most Prince Streets are genuinely named in honour of royalty. Allegiance to the new House of Hanover was proclaimed in the name of Princes Street off Hanover Square. The birth of the future Edward VII in 1841 had predictable results wherever new roads were being formed on the suburban outskirts: for instance Prince of Wales Road and Crescent, biting through the fields of Kentish Town; Princes, now Princedale, Road and Princes Place, along with the Prince of Wales pub, laid out in 1841 in North Kensington ; Princes Square, Bayswater; and the Prince of Wales Gate into Hyde Park which led in turn to Princes Gate and Princes Gardens. Prince of Wales Terrace, Kensington, dates from 1862, the year Edward came of age and entered into public life.
s, like Princes and Kings, have long been subjects for street names, whether from patriotic fervour, a spirit of chivalry, or simply a desire to ennoble an undistinguished suburban street. The oldest in London is Queen Street in the City, formed after the Great Fire of 1666 at the same time as King Street, and diplomatically named in compliment to Charles II's unpopular Catholic consort, Catherine of Braganza.
The source of nearly all urban York
Streets was the 'Grand Old Duke of York', destined to be immortalized among children as the inefficient leader of pointless military exercises. He was HRH Frederick, eldest brother of the Prince Regent
and also the Regent's heir apparent for most of his life. In 1793 he was made Commander of the English Forces fighting the French in the Netherlands, where he encountered disastrous defeats, retreats and scandal. He was tried (though acquitted) with his notorious mistress Mary Anne Clarke, for running the Army at a vast profit by selIing commissions in return for bribes. Most of the York Street
s inspired by him have since been renamed to avoid confusion.
Main source: Gillian Bebbington's Street Names of London