The City of London’s street names come from Middle English and medieval words and have evolved over time.
There are lots of fascinating things about The City of London, not least its street names. It’s often cited that there are no roads within this part of the capital, as the terminology didn’t come into modern usage until the 17th century, by which time the entire area had been named.
Alas, this is no longer the case, as changes to the boundary of The City put Goswell Road right inside it in 1994. Despite this, the origins of many of The City’s street names come with fascinating stories. Think about that the next time you are walking down Pudding Lane or Cannon Street on your way back to one of the serviced apartments in London City.
Streets named after trades
Naming convention led many streets to be known by the products that were traded upon them. This saw the likes of Milk Street, Bread Street, Wood Street and Pudding Lane all coming about. While you may think you know what pudding means, it was actually the name for animal guts in medieval times. The moniker was derived from the waste the butchers of the thoroughfare threw onto the street to make its way down to the River Thames.
Friday Street also has similar origins, as it’s where a fish market was held once a week… you guessed it, on Fridays. Cheapside was the site of one of The City’s principal markets too. Its name derives from the medieval word, cheap, meaning market.
Cannon Street was also named after the item made on it, as it was first known as Candlewick Street, but this was shortened and changed over time. After the candle-makers left, it was drapers that could mainly be found on Cannon Street.
When Henry III closed all of the law schools in The City down, legal students needed somewhere to carry out their apprenticeships. They were set up on what was then called New Street and were known as Inns of Chancery – a contraction of the word Chancellery. Even after the Civil War meant the Inns of Chancery no longer served a purpose and were turned into professional clubs, the name had already stuck.
Other services for sale
It wasn’t just goods that were traded in The City of London in times of old. Both Love Lane and Cock Lane are said to have come about due to the availability of brothels in these areas.
The building that stored the clothes for monarchs attending state occasions in the 1300s gave rise to the whole street being known as Wardrobe Place.
Old Jewry William the Conqueror made the case for Jews to come to England in the wake of the Norman Conquest. Many of those who took up the opportunity set up a community near to what is now Guildhall. Over time, this Jewish quarter became known as Old Jewry.
Now synonymous with the newspaper industry, Fleet Street was named after the River Fleet that flows nearby. Prior to the journalists moving in, the tanning of animal hides was the main preserve of Fleet Street, due to its proximity to the river.
Putting up a fight
Just off Fleet Street, the evocatively named Hanging Sword Lane is said to have acquired its moniker due to the fencing and sword fighting school that was once found there. Perhaps those who graduated from this academy would eventually be seen rushing down Knightrider Street. This thoroughfare was frequently used by knights in the 14th and 15th centuries to get to Smithfield to attend jousting tournaments.
Not far from Fleet Street is Fetter Lane, which began as faitour in Middle English and by medieval times had come to mean false beggar. This is where vagabonds would feign affliction and disease in order to gain pity and small change from passersby.
Named after the northernmost gate in the boundary of The City, Aldersgate Street’s moniker is derived from its use by the elders when they headed north.