Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Unofficial London - What's In a Name?


Author's own photo.
 One sunny day I decided to investigate the history within walking distance of London's, Bank tube station - and after the initially eye-catching buildings such as the Bank of England and Royal Exchange... next to strike me were the street names.


Heading out of Bank station towards St Pauls Cathedral, I walked along Cheapside, passing side roads with names such at Bread Street, Honey Lane and Ironmonger Lane.
 
 
Cheapside.
Cheapside was established in 1104, following the path of a Roman road. In medieval times the word 'Cheap' meant, market, and as the widest road in the city, it was a popular trading place. The roads leading off it were named for the produce they sold, hence Milk Street, Poultry et.c
 
Modern Cheapside (Saturday 22 September 2012)
Because Cheapside was regularly thronged with people, it was also prime site for a pillory - or place to publicly humiliate those who had broken the law. The offender was fastened into the pillory by their neck and wrists, on a platform so everyone had a good view. [Stocks were subtly different, the villain being fastened only by their ankles.] The crowd then pelted the wrong-doer with anything that came to hand, from rotten eggs and vegetables, to blood and guts from the nearby slaughterhouses. Concerns about public disorder meant the pillory was abolished as a punishment in 1837.

My sons in the pillory! Warwick Castle 2002.
Bread Street
Bread Street got its name when in 1302, a decree was passed that bread must not be sold door to door, but in an open market. The bakers principle market was established here and hence lent its name to the street.
Bread Steet - now home to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant
and a branch of Gap.
The poet, John Milton, author of Paradise Lost and described as "the greatest British writer", was born here. Also, the commander of the First Fleet, founder and first Governor of Australia, Admiral Arthur Phillip was baptised in All Hallows Church, Bread Street in 1738.

Admiral Arthur Phillip.
By happy coincidence, I am currently reading "The Gilded Lily" by Deborah Swift and the central characters live in Bread Street for a while. It feels such a lovely connection to history to have such believable characters treading through snow, bringing the area to life.

Sherborne Lane.
And finally, although London streets were named for the trade that took place there, sometimes this backfired. 'Sherborne Lane' - quaint as it sounds, conjuring images of clear running water, (named from the Dorset town Sherborne, which itself was derived from the Saxon word for 'clear stream') was actually a cover up, created by the 17th century Protestants to hide a much cruder descriptive name.

In medieval times an open sewer, rather than a stream, ran down the middle of the road, hence the much more colourful, "Shitteborne Lane." However this wasn’t the only street named after human refuse; the nearby Cloak Lane derived its origins from the Roman word for a sewer, cloaca.


Sherborne Lane in the modern day - nice and clean.
 So when have you been surprised by the things around you or read a book with a setting familiar to you? Do leave a comment.

14 comments:

  1. This is lovely! I visited London two years ago but it was by snowblockade not intention. The only book I had was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I should have thought to read something period. Cute!

    The best for me actually is going to a place I have never read about like Philadelphia and writing my impression like they are brand new.

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  2. What a fun and informative post, Grace! As one who only dreams of visiting all those out-of-the-way, but incredibly interesting snippets of places, I especially loved the photos!

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    1. Thanks, TJ!
      I falling back in love with London. I visited regularly as a teenager but when I had a family of my own it just seemed noisy and dangerous. Now they are older I'm enjoying hunting out the more unusual side of the city.
      Grace x

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  3. Hi Wren, thanks for leaving a comment. Interesting. After visiting places I also try to imagine what they were like in the past - a double challenge.
    Grace x

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  4. Fabulous post, Grace. Great historical tidbits about London. Must remember them.

    A few years back, hubby and I did a tour of Edinburgh's underground - several rows of lanes are still intact 100 years later below the Royal Mile. Dark, narrow, with high rise buildings up to 12 floors high, I had a feeling of poverty and hardship. Herds of animals were pushed through these often very narrow lanes where barely two people could pass each other. Their refuse filled a loch in an area which is now Princes Street Gardens. Perhaps that's why it's so lush and green now.

    Oh, and I used one of those lanes, Pearson Close, as a setting in my Scottish historical. Just had to do it. I love discovering hidden gems. ;-)

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    1. Very evocative - I can almost smell the sheep!
      Thanks so much for visiting, it's much appreciated,
      Grace x

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  5. Congratulations on a nicely thought-of article!

    Your own photographs ((both old and new) being the icing on the cake. They really wet a former London resident's appetite and make him realize how much he misses London from the other side of the pond where he lives now. :(

    More on that London theme, please! Resuming your trip in The City - which is so adorably empty on weekends, and head to Aldgate and Whitechapel, perhaps??

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    1. Ooops - not sure what happened there. Halfway through replying and the page reloaded. Lets try again!

      I love the Whitechapel idea - oodles of fascinating history to unearth there.
      It is strange how some parts of London are so empty at the weekend. Last summer I meant to visit the London Museum, in Docklands, but ended up at the Docklands Museum, London (a small, but as it turns out important difference!) and the area around the docks was deserted.
      G x

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  6. I'm looking forward to my next walk around London now.

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    1. It's great fun but can be daunting. Maybe I'm being anal but I've started writing lists now - so that I dont get like a 'rabbit in the headlights' with so much to see.
      Thanks for visiting,
      Grace x

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  8. Cheap road is a broader road.Is that pillory still available?

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  9. Brilliant post, I never knew any of this stuff about the city that I live in!

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    1. Thank you for visiting,
      It's amazing what you can find out about a place with a little curiosity and a stack of books!
      G x

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