London Street Names by Gillan Bebbington

This project has used the excellent 1972 book by Gillian Bebbington, “London Street Names”. At time of writing, this book is sadly out of print.

All of the streets linked to here are streets with a story behind them with many of the street descriptions deriving from the book.

Anchor Yard (Old Street 5). The Anchor tavern in Old Street was recommended in the early eighteenth-century Guide to Good Fellows, and is mentioned again in 1799, but thereafter it cannot be traced. Ref: 174.

Anderson Street (Chelsea 7), Lincoln Street and Coulson Street occupy the site of Colvill’s Nursery, one of the many nursery grounds which flourished beside the King’s Road, Chelsea until well into the nineteenth century. James Colvill (there is now a Colville Arms in King’s Road) died in about 1843, bequeathing his property to Thomas Coulson, a Clerkenwell bootmaker, and his son James, a Hammersmith baker. The trustees appointed to administer and develop the estate were John Anderson of Old Church Street, Chelsea, and Stroud Lincoln of Brompton, who was involved in many building schemes in Chelsea and Kensington in the mid-nineteenth century.

Andover Place (Paddington 2) was given a Hampshire place name by analogy with the other Hampshire names hereabouts: see Southwick Street, Paddington.

Andrew Borde Street (St Giles High Street 4). Dr Andrew Borde was reputedly the original Merry Andrew, a renowned wit of the time of Henry VIII, and author of the Tales of the mad men of Gotham. When the king dissolved St Giles Hospital, Doctor Borde owned the former Hospital Master’s House, which stood, as far as can be ascertained, where this modern (1962) street runs.

Andrews Crosse (Chancery Lane, City): The “Andrewes crosse” inn, showing the Scottish flag of St Andrew as its sign, occupied this site in Shakespeare’s time.

Angel. The Angel was one of the commonest medieval inn-signs, and gave its name to a multitude of little streets; in the mid-eighteenth century there were still 23 Angel Alleys and 30 Angel Courts in London. Unlike other common signs–Bells, Crowns, Balls and so on–it was not particularly simple to depict, so the pre-dominating idea must have been to invoke heavenly protection on the house and its occupants. Early Angel signs pictured the Annunciation to the Virgin ; after the Reformation, Mary was omitted from the scene.

Angel Mews (Pentonville Road 5) runs behind the well-known Angel, Islington, which dates from at least 1638. It was a popular resting place for farmers driving their cattle to Smithfield and other travellers who stayed there overnight rather than venture down St John Street, then infested with robbers, after dark. The inn now stands empty and anonymous on the corner of Pentonville Road and Islington High Street. Another Angel coaching inn, flourishing by the time of Oliver Cromwell, stood on the north side of Angel Street (St Martin’s-le-Grand 5) and survived until about 1840. The name also survives, though the inn has gone, in three thoroughfares that were so called by the time of Charles II Angel Court (Throg-morton Street 5), Angel Passage (Upper Thames Street 5) and Angel Court (St James’s 7).

Anglers Lane (Kentish Town 8) was ‘one of the loveliest sites imaginable’ according to an old resident of Kentish Town, reminiscing in the local newspaper in 1909: ‘Beside it, and then with a curve over it ran the Fleet River. Many a time, as a lad, I beheld the spectacle which gave it its name : a row of weary anglers, some in cloth caps and some in battered top hats’. The river on whose banks they fished was forced into sewer pipes in the 1860s when the area was developed, but there is still a Jolly Anglers pub at the end of the lane, as there has been for centuries.

Ann Lane (Chelsea 6) may be named after Mary Ann Riley.

Ann’s Close (Belgravia 7). Name first found in 1842. Origin unknown,

Ansdell Street and Terrace commemorate Richard Ansdell RA, whose animal paintings were highly popular with the Victorian public. After some success in his native Liverpool, Ansdell moved to Kensington in 1847, and there he was to live (in Victoria Road and later St Albans Road) until shortly before his death in 1885.

Ansleigh Place (Treadgold Street, North Kensington) contains back entrances to buildings in St Antis Road and Stoneleigh Street.

Apollo Place (Chelsea 6) is first shown on a plan of ‘Mr Riley’s freehold’ dated 1829. Probably from an early tavern sign in Riley Street.

Apothecary Street (City 5) leads to Apothecaries’ Hall. James I founded the company of Apothecaries in 1617, in order to restrict medicine-making to qualified druggists, and it was his royal apothecary who established the Hall here.

Appled Tree Yard (St James’s 7) was once St James’s Field, described in 1650 as pasture ground planted with apple trees. Some of the trees were probably allowed to survive when this yard and the surrounding streets were built 25 years later. Samuel Pepys came to St James’s in 1688 : and there walk an hour of two; and in the King’s garden, and saw the Queen and ladies walk; and I did steal some apples off the trees.’

Aquila Street (St John’s Wood 3) was built in about 1840. Origin unknown.

Archer Street (Soho 7). Origin unknown. First found in 1675, when it was called Arch Street.

Archery Close (Bayswater 3) recalls a nearby Archery Ground used by the Royal Toxopholite Society from 1821 until the land was wanted for development in 1834. Bathurst Street and the Archery Tavern now cover its site.

Archibald Mews (Mayfair 7) used to be John Court, after John, 5th Lord Berkeley who owned and developed the land. When and why John became Archibald is not known.

Arctic Street (Kentish Town 8) was originally Franklin Street, probably named after its Victorian builder. This was changed in 1937 because there were other London Franklin Streets, and Arctic was chosen by association of ideas : Sir John Franklin was the British Arctic explorer who died in an attempt to discover the North-West Passage in 1847.

Ardwick Road (North Hampstead 1). After Major Ardwick Burgess: see Burgess Hill, North Hampstead.

Argyle Square, Street and Walk (King’s Cross 4) and neighbouring streets were built on Battle Bridge Field (see Battle Bridge Road) in 1824, a few years after the adjoining Tonbridge School Field was laid out with streets named after places near Tonbridge, Kent. As a contrast, the Battle Bridge names were chosen from the north of Britain: Argyle, or Argyll, in Scotland; Belgrove Street, formerly Belgrave Street (Warwickshire); Crestfield Street, formerly Chesterfield Street (Derbyshire); and Birkenhead Street (Cheshire). There were also once Manchester, Liverpool and Derby Streets here.

Argyll Road (Kensington 6). After the Duke of Argyll, of Bedford Lodge : see Duchess of Bedford’s Walk, Kensington.

Argyll Street (Oxford Street 7). The 2nd Duke of Argyll, soldier and statesman, a founder of the union of Scotland and England, owned a small field on the site of this street. He established his town house here, but it was demolished to make way for Little Argyll Street. After his death in 1743, his successor the 3rd Duke built a new mansion in Argyll Street, which remained the family home until 1808. The London Palladium now occupies its site. Ref: 208.

Ariel Road (Hampstead 1). Ariel was a Hebrew word signifying a water spirit. Milton featured Ariel as a fallen spirit in Paradise Lost, and Shakespeare and Pope used the name in The Tempest and The Rape of the Lock. Ariel is also one of the satellites of the planet Uranus, but the reason this street should be so named is not known.

Arlington. Sir Henry Bennet, one of the King’s supporters in the Civil War, who loyally followed the royal family into exile, was rewarded at the Restoration with the Earldom of Arlington, and became Charles II’s Secretary of State. In 1681 the king gave him the Six Acre Close, previously part of Green Park, on which Bennet Street and Arlington Street St James’s, are built. , Arlington also received from the king the Manor of Tottenham Court, which passed to his daughter Isabella, ‘a sweete child if ever there was any’ according to the diarist Evelyn. At 5-years-old she married the king’s little illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Their descendants built Arlington Road, Kentish Town (8) : see Fitzroy Square, Tottenham Court Road.

Arlington Way (Rosebery Avenue 5) was built in 1822 on the site of an old footpath from Islington village to Sadler’s medicinal wells. Origin of name unknown.

Arne Street (Long Acre, Covent Garden). Thomas Arne, the composer of Rule Britannia and Where the bee sucks was born near here in King Street, Covent Garden, in 1710. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but Thomas smuggled a spinet into his bedroom and practised secretly at night, muffling the strings with a handkerchief. In a borrowed livery he studied opera from the servants’ gallery at Covent Garden Theatre where later he was to become official composer. He died in 1778 and is buried, appropriately, at St Paul’s, Covent Garden.

Arneway Street (Westminster 7). In honour of Thomas Arneway, who founded in 1603 a charity for ‘the pore of Saint Margarettes’ in Westminster.

Artesian Road (Westbourne Park 2) was built across a field containing an Artesian well, sunk in the early nineteenth century by boring through the clay surface to the water-bearing gravel below. It supplied the surrounding countryside with water until the 1850s, when it was filled in so that Talbot Road could cross the site.

Artillery. Artillery Row (Victoria Street 7) commemorates ‘the Shooteing house in Tuttle Ffields’ which stood on the site of Artillery Mansions and contained the butts where the Westminster men held their artillery practice, ‘that is to witt for Long Bowes Crosbowes and Handgonnes’. The parish accounts mention payment ‘To Mr Fisher, for making the Butts at Tothill’ as early as 1517. These butts beside Artillery Row (an old path from the Shooting House onto Tothill Fields) were not removed until the beginning of the nineteenth century. On the other side of London is Artillery Lane (Bishopsgate 5), a track which led into another Artillery Yard, a walled field seized from the Priory of St Mary Spital by Henry VIII and given over to the Honourable Artillery Company for national defence work. Volunteers and regular soldiers practised there weekly as a precaution in case of invasion, gradually replacing bows and arrows with guns and cannon. After the Artillery Company moved to its present ground in City Road in 1641, Gun Street and Fort Street were built across the Artillery Yard.

Arundel Street (Strand 5) and its neighbourhood—Norfolk, Howard, Surrey and Maltravers Streets belong to the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk, and have been in the family since 1549. Here stood Arundel House, their town mansion, formerly Bath Inn, which Henry Fitzalan, ancestor of the Dukes of Norfolk, purchased after Henry VII seized it from the Bishop of Bath. The streets were built when the house was demolished in 1678. The powerful Howards, once close kin of the royal family and still the premier noble family of England, have held many titles which appear as street names in Inner London.

Ashbridge Street (Marylebone 3). Arthur Ashbridge was the District Surveyor of Marylebone from 1884 until 1918. The large collection of prints, maps and cuttings relating to the district that he made during that time was bequeathed to the borough at his death, and is kept at Marylebone Road Library. The street was named after him in 1938.

Ashburn Gardens and Place (South Kensington 6) were begun in 1873. Origin unknown.

Ashburnham Road (Chelsea 6) runs the length of what was once the great lawn of Ashburnham House, stretching from Lots Lane almost to the King’s Road. The old house and its grounds, the home of the 2nd Earl of Ashburnham in about 1780, were replaced by rows of dreary streets in 1878.

Ashdown Street (Kentish Town 8). Edwin Ashdown esquire bought up several scattered properties in the rapidly developing Kentish Town district in the 1860s, including a house in Malden Crescent backing on to the little field on which this street was built in 1865. Ashdown probably owned the field as well as the house.

Ashen Tree Court (Whitefriars Street, City). A relic of the White Friars’ shaded cloister walks.

Ashland Place (Marylebone 3). The Victorian fondness for euphemism seems to have been responsible for the change of this name from Burying Ground Passage in 1886. The burying ground, now the adjacent recreation ground, was the graveyard belonging to St Marylebone Church.

Ashley Place (Victoria). Probably after Anthony Ashley-Cooper, better known as the Earl of Shaftesbury . At the time this street was begun (about 1850) he was still known by his earlier title, Lord Ashley. He was already the leading philanthropist of his age, famed for his attempts to improve the lot of lunatics and chimney sweeps, to limit the factory workers’ day to 10 hours, to prevent women and children working underground in mines and to open Ragged Schools for working-class children.

Ashmill Street (Marylebone 3) was originally Devonshire Street—the Portman family (Portman Square), who owned this land, also had estates in Devonshire. Renamed in 1912 after a village in that county, because there is another Devonshire Street in Marylebone.

Ashworth Road (Paddington 3). Four parallel roads named Ashworth, Biddulph, Castellain and Delaware were all formed in 1875. It would seem that this is just an alphabetical series, with no intrinsic meaning.

Astell Street (Chelsea 6). Mary Astell, a remarkable femininist and a forerunner of the suffragettes, lived in Chelsea in Royal Hospital Road. She planned to set up a sort of monastery where women could withdraw from men and lead useful lives, but the idea was ridiculed by Swift and Addison. She was buried in Chelsea Old Church in 1731.

Atherstone Mews (South Kensington 6). The name of a Warwickshire town. Connection with Kensington unknown.

Athlone Street (Kentish Town 8), has replaced a notorious black spot of the Kentish Town slums. Its decrepit Victorian cottages and tenements were demolished by the St Pancras Housing Society and in 1933 the first block of ten large flats on the estate was opened by HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, after whom the building was named Athlone House. More land was purchased on the other side of the street and three further blocks of flats were erected and named after Lady Pentland, Mrs J. B. Priestley and Leonard Day, all tireless members of the St Pancras Housing Society. The Society then obtained the London County Council’s permission to name the street Athlone Street.

Attneave Street (Farringdon Road 5). Named in 1895 after Mr A. Attneave of 192 Pentonville Road, a builder who had made some improvements in this area.

Aubrey Road and Walk (Kensington 6). Aubrey de Vaere was Lord of the Manor of Kensington, granted to him by William the Conqueror.

Austin Friars. The Dutch church here is all that remains of the important Augustinian (Austin) Friary, founded in 1253, which covered all the area between London Wall and Throgmorton Street and was the principal priory of the Order in England. After the dissolution of the monasteries, most of this property passed to the Marquis of Winchester, but its church was given to the Dutch colony in London.

Avenue Road and Close (St John’s Wood 1). An avenue is ‘a wide and handsome street, usually bordered by trees, a good description of this road, which was a broad tree-lined boulevard when first built in the 1830s. A turning out of it was named Avenue Close some years later.

Avery Row (Mayfair 71) and Avery Farm Row (Pimlico 71). Avery is a corruption of the old name Ebury (q. v.).

Avondale Park Gardens and Road (North Kensington 2). Avondale Park was opened in 1892, the year the death of the Duke of Avondale shocked and grieved the nation. The young Duke, who was the eldest son of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra and therefore heir to the throne, was only 28-years-old and had just become engaged to Princess Mary of Teck when he suddenly died of pneumonia at Sandringham.

Aybrook Street (Marylebone) Aye brook was the alternative medieval name for the River Tyburn : probably provided the first syllable of the Westminster names Avery Row, Hay Hill and Ebury Street. The stream flowed across the south end of the street and the slope of the valley is still just perceptible.

Aylesbury Street (Clerkenwell). The south side of this street was once occupied by Aylesbury House, whose grounds stretched from here to Albemarle Way. The house was originally part of the priory of St John of Jerusalem, which passed to the Earls of Exeter after the dissolution of the monasteries, and then by marriage in 1646 to the 1st Earl of Aylesbury. It remained the town house of the Aylesbury’s until 1706.

Finstock Road, W10

John Adam Street, W1

Oliphant Street, W10

Queensborough Terrace, W2 Built by the grandson of John Aldridge in the 1860s on part of the Aldridge lands

Savage Garden, EC3N

First Street (Chelsea 7), begun in 1845, was the first street laid out on the Hasker estate.

Fish Street Hill (City 5). By the thirteenth century the City fish-mongers had settled in this street close to Billingsgate, London’s main fish market. Soon afterwards they built their Hall in nearby Fish-mongers’ Hall Street. Members of the Fishmongers’ Company still come from the Hall to inspect the quality of the fish at Billingsgate. In the middle ages fishmongers were intensely hated by the poor, for whom fish was the staple diet, because the Company used its monopoly to keep prices artificially high.

Ulysses Road, NW6


    • Sam Waylen on August 17, 2020 at 10:52 am
    • Reply


    1. Not sure that we know of a Waylen Street. Do you know which district it is in?

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