From Farm Street to Haymarket: Hay-related London names

I’m off to the first day of the Hay Festival tonight; it is digital this year, so I am unsure what to expect other than some famous names reading Wordsworth.

(In all the years I’ve lived about an hour from Hay I’ve never been to the festival. One year, as a birthday treat for the husband and myself, I booked (pun unintended) the festival with glamping. However, a newish puppy and being let down by the kennel owner who promised to board him and our older dog meant we had to cancel. It wasn’t to be, I decided, and have never tried to book since. Until now. But I digress.)

That gave me a number of ideas for the next post theme: the last post was sex-related, so I thought perhaps it would be a nice idea to move from the baser instincts to the intellect and look at book-related streets. After all, books are what Hay is all about.

Which I may do at some point. But, first, hay-related street names.

Farm Street in Mayfair is where building in the area began, around the 1740s, and it takes its name from a nearby farm called Hay Hill Farm. An appropriate name for a farm, you might think, but the name was a corruption of Ayehill, from the nearby Aye brook. The area also boasts a Hay Hill, Hay’s Mews, and Hill Street nearby. Tallulah Bankhead once owned a house in Farm Street.

From farms to wharfs; Hay’s Galleria in Southwark, named after a merchant, Alexander Hay, who bought what was then a brewhouse in 1651. Nearly two centuries later it was converted to a dock and named Hay’s Wharf. (I have yet to discover what it was named before.) The wharf itself was closed in 1970 and was brought back to life as an upmarket mixed use building in the 1980s when the Docklands was the bright star of the London property market. There is a Hay’s Lane, also named for Alexander.

But what about Haymarket? That really is hay-related. And market-related. It was the site of a market for hay and straw that flourished from Elizabethan times until the 18th century. In 1697 the street was paved, each cartload of hay contributing to the expense.

In 1708 Haymarket was described by Edward Hatton, surveyor for a fire insurance company in London, as a “a very spacious and public street, in length 340 yards, where is a great market for hay and straw”.

In 1720 an enterprising carpenter named John Potter built a small playhouse in the Haymarket. The small playhouse was later called the Hay Market and then the Little Theatre in the Hay. According to London historian Edward Walford, “The cost of the building was £1,000, and Potter further expended £500 in decorations, scenery, and dresses. He leased the theatre, immediately after its completion, to a company of French actors, who were at that time much favoured by the English aristocracy.”

In 1729 Henry Fielding started what might today be called a string of hits in the theatre, starting with a burlesque and ending with a political satire that so enraged the prime minister, Robert Walpole, that he introduced what became unprecedented censorship powers that effectively closed the theatre for several years.

In 1807 Haymarket was described by James Peller Malcolm, a topographer and engraver, as “an excellent street, 1,020 feet in length, of considerable breadth, and remarkably dry, occasioned by the descent from Piccadilly”. 

However, a few years later, the Prince Regent, later King George IV, thought that London was looking tired and old and he instructed John Nash to enhance the appearance of the city. One enhancement tackled the Little Theatre in the Hay; it became the Theatre Royal Haymarket, which opened in 1821 with a production of Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’. The theatre is now the UK’s third oldest playhouse still in use.

Cardinal Cap Alley to Pall Mall: bishops, brothels, and London’s sex-related streets

Once again, without wanting to trivialise anything to do with the virus, I recently saw a TV report on the effect of the virus on the sex industry, particularly sex workers. Even in countries where it is a legal profession and sex workers pay their tax, apparently they are not entitled to any government financial aid. 

Apart from making me think about something that hadn’t occurred to me before, it also put me in mind of the oldest profession and the key role it has played in the history and naming of London’s streets. There is a natural link between the last post, which focused on prison-related streets (of which there are many, so there will be another, or another few, similarly themed post in the future) and this one.

The link is the Bishops of Winchester. Just to remind you, the mention ran thus: “The contradictorily named Liberty of the Clink was attached to the manor of the Bishops of Winchester who occupied much of the land on the south bank of the Thames”.

The Bishops also rented out the brothels, also known as ‘stews’, on their land: from the 12th century to the 17th, the banks of the Thames, primarily the south bank, teemed with such establishments and the women who worked within them were known as ‘Winchester Geese’.

The stews were licensed and regulated by the government to prevent any debauchery of the respectable wives and daughters of London and, says London historian John Stow, “for the repair of incontinent men to the like women”. Those who failed to comply with the regulations could be sent to the Clink.

Some of the regulations governing the stews were that they could not be opened on holidays; that women of religion or married women could not work there; that men could not be enticed into them; that no woman could be “kept against her will that would leave her sin”; and that a woman could not “take money to lie with any man, but she lie with him all night till the morrow”.

The women of the stews were not allowed the rites of the church, and were not permitted Christian burial; they had their own plot of land, called the Single Woman’s churchyard, a respectable distance from the parish church.

On the south bank is Cardinal Cap Alley, which takes its name from the Cardinal Cap, or Cardinal’s Hat, one of the licensed brothels of Bankside that flourished for centuries until the time of Henry VIII and had their names painted on the walls rather than on a hanging sign.

On the other side of the Tate Modern from Cardinal Cap Alley is Holland Street, which has nothing to do with the more respectable Holland connections in the Kensington area, which take their names from land owned by Sir Henry Rich, Baron of Kensington and first Earl of Holland.

This Holland Street was named for a notorious procuress – the self-proclaimed Donna Britannia Hollandia. Mother Holland, as she was known, rented a moated manor house once owned by the Knights Templar, and ran a brothel frequented by James I and his court, including George Villiers who features quite a lot in this blog and who is due another appearance soon.

Photo courtesy of streatsoflondon

Mother Holland was a force to be reckoned with: when, during Charles I’s reign, there was an attempt by soldiers to storm the house, she waited until they were on the bridge before drawing it up and depositing the soldiers in the unpleasant waters of the moat.

Let us now head north of the Thames to Stew Lane, which probably takes its name from one of the few early brothels on that side of the river. According to one source, the lane led down to the waterside embarkation point for women working in the Bankside brothels. 

From Stew Lane we move on to the eminently respectable Pall Mall, which takes its name from a French game, paille-maille, mentioned as early as the reign of James I, who recommended the game for his eldest son, Prince Henry. The game was similar to croquet and Pall Mall was supposedly constructed by Charles II especially for the playing of this game.

Pall Mall has sex and brothel connections in high places. Charles II’s mistress, Eleanor (Nell) Gwynne, whose mother ran a brothel, spent the last 16 years of her life in a house in Pall Mall. Nell’s bed in the house was solid silver and situated in a room lined with mirrors.

This bed may have been the inspiration for a quirky 18th-century quack by the name of James Graham, who ran a ‘Temple of Health and Hymen’ in Pall Mall, at Schomberg House. It was, essentially, an 18th-century sex therapy clinic and fertility centre, and one of Graham’s early assistants was a young girl known as Vestina, Goddess of Health. Vestina was born Emy Lyon and later became Lady Hamilton, mistress of Admiral Nelson and the mother of his child.

The centrepiece of this temple of Hymen was the Grand Celestial Bed, guaranteed to induce conception for even the most infertile of couples. The bed was supported by forty glass pillars and surmounted by a mirror-lined dome.

From Clink Street to Giltspur street: prison-related London streets

View of Clink Street

Well, it’s been a while, and thank you to all my faithful readers who have continued to visit this blog despite the lack of new material for a few months.

The last post I put up on the website was about watery names, prompted by our near miss of flood water in October. We were not so lucky when Storm Dennis raged through in February and so we are seeing out lockdown, and probably the rest of the year, in a rented house. No more water-related posts just yet.

But, speaking of lockdown, I am not making light of anything that has been happening this year, but a while ago I saw some unfortunate comments from celebrities with Hollywood mansions talking about lockdown similar to being in prison, so I did turn my thoughts to prison-related streets, of which there are many.

Today, let’s look at three of them, starting with Clink Street in Southwark. I used to work just round the corner, in the days long before Borough Market, when what became a bustling, trendy, foodie hang out was somewhere you didn’t like to walk through even during the day.

The street takes its name from the Clink Prison, now a museum. The first prison on this site, dating back to 1144, was a cellar in the Palace of the Bishop of Winchester. The contradictorily named Liberty of the Clink was attached to the manor of the Bishops of Winchester who occupied much of the land on the south bank of the Thames.

A popular theory for the derivation of the name is that ‘clink’ was the sound made when the blacksmith’s hammer secured the irons around the wrists or ankles of the prisoners.

Another theory is that the Flemish word ‘klink’ means ‘latch’, and may have referred to the latch on the door of the prison.

The Clink prison was destroyed in the Gordon Riots of 1780 and never rebuilt. Much of the rest of the area was also destroyed in the blitz during World War II; when the damage was being cleared up, part of the west wall and the 14th-century rose window of the Bishop’s palace was discovered and preserved.

Today, in addition to the Clink Prison museum, Clink Street leads to the replica of the Golden Hind – Sir Francis Drake’s galleon. 

The Clink Museum

We now move north of the river to Coldbath Square, which takes its name from a spring discovered in 1697 by Walter Baynes and converted to a bath, which was said to be a great cure for nervous illnesses. A famous 18th-century strong man, Thomas Topham, had a pub in the Coldbath Fields area, called the Apple Tree, but the area was, however, far more notorious for its prison.

The Coldbath Fields Prison was built in 1794 with 280 cells for individual confinement; soon there were nearly a thousand prisoners. It was built on swampy ground and the over-crowding and unhealthy air were responsible for prisoners dying off at an alarming rate. There was a great deal of rioting and the troops were often called in. The prison was closed in 1877 and demolished in 1889.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge mentions the prison in his poem ‘The Devil’s Thoughts’:

As he went through the Cold-Bath Fields he saw
A solitary cell;
And the Devil was pleased, for it gave him a hint
For improving his prisons in hell.

The area once covered by the prison is now the site of the Mount Pleasant Post Office. 

Not so very far away is Giltspur Street, which takes its name from the spurs worn by the knights who would ride through the street to reach jousting tournaments at the nearby Smooth Field. (That field gave its name to Smithfield, and I used to work around the corner from the meat market, again, many years ago when it a very un-trendy area.)

Spurs were an essential part of the knight’s life in medieval times; the expression ‘to win one’s spurs’ – to prove oneself – comes from the fact that originally it meant to obtain knighthood. (The word ‘spur’ itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon spura, to kick.) Gilt spurs, therefore, would have been a real mark of oneupmanship.

Giltspur Street later became far less glamorous: it was the site of the Giltspur Street Compter, a debtors’ prison, built at the end of the 18th century.

The street also formed part of the route from Newgate Prison to Tyburn, leading into the steep ascent of Holborn Hill, sometimes called Heavy Hill. As prisoners on that journey rode backwards, the expressions ‘to ride up Heavy Hill’ or ‘to ride backwards up Holborn Hill’ indicated that someone was on their last journey.

The expression ‘going west’, unlike the ‘go west’ of American pioneering times, referred to that last journey towards Tyburn.

From Brook Street to Quaggy Walk: river-related London street names

Given the recent activity of the River Wye, during which it was in closer proximity to my house that I would have liked, I thought I would take a short break from Hogarth and focus on a few of the London street names with river connections. London’s rivers, part of the transportation system, provided boundaries for ecclesiastical property in Saxon times and were a source of water for much of the city.

Let’s start with Fleet Street, which takes its name from ‘flēot’, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a tidal inlet. The Fleet still flows, but underground, and it is used as a sewer. This continues a practice started in the 14th century when butchers used the river for cleaning out animal entrails and others followed suit by dumping refuse into it. Pudding Lane was once part of the meat centre of London and was known earlier as Red Rose Lane; its newer name arose from the face that it was on the route where the ‘puddings’ – parcels of offal – were transported to be thrown into the river.

While ‘fleet’ was nothing to do with speed, Quaggy River was so called because it moved sluggishly – like ‘quagmire’. The river, which was part of the bounds of the Manor of Bankhurst, gives its name to Quaggy Walk in Blackheath. The name is relatively recent: until 1863 it was known as Lee Water.

There was an Effra River in South London; technically, there still is but it is now underground. It gives its name to Effra Road (also Effra Court and Parade) in Brixton. The name is another relatively recent one, and there are varying opinions as to its derivation. One view is that it is is a corruption of ‘Heathrow’, a former manor of some 70 acres south of present day Coldharbour Lane and east of present day Effra Road. The name Heathrow meant just that: a row of houses along a heath.

Coldharbour Lane is a fairly common place and street name in the UK. In this case it is in memory of an ancient manor called Coldherbergh – Cold Abbey. ‘Harbour’ derives from the Middle English word meaning ‘shelter’, and cold harbours are considered to have been wayside shelters that provided for travellers a roof over their heads, and nothing more.

Knightsbridge takes its name from a bridge which stood, for centuries, over the Westbourne river. In earlier times ‘knight’ was simply a generic term for ‘young man’, usually servants of barons and lords. It was known as a dangerous area, with highwaymen, robbers and cutthroats targeting travellers on the western route out of London. By the 19th century it was well on its way to becoming the affluent area that it is today.

The Westbourne river was originally known as the Kilburn, which in turn derives either from the old English term ‘cyne-burna’ (royal stream) or ‘cyna-burna’ (cattle stream). Or it could have been from ‘Kilnbourn’ because of tile-making in the area. The river enters Hyde Park at what is now the Serpentine. The Serpentine lake was formed in 1730 by building a dam across the Westbourne at the instigation of Queen Caroline, wife of George II, to beautify the royal park.

Jacob’s Well Mews was named for a local resident, Jacob Hinde, who also gave his name to nearby Hinde Street; there was a Jacob’s Well tavern at the end of the mews until 1893. The Tyburn river flowed through the area, which is probably where the water for the well came from. It was in a house in this mews that the young Michael Faraday lived.

The Tyburn River (from ‘teoburna’, or boundary stream) is where a gallows was erected and which served as London’s place of public execution until the 19th century. The site of the old gallows is marked on the ground at Marble Arch, where the Bayswater and Edgware roads meet. (Tyburn features in the recent post on Hogarth and hanging-related streets, which you can read here.)

There is a Tyburn Brook, which is a tributary of the Westbourne; some sources say it is the brook that gives its name to Brook Street, others that it is from the Tyburn River. Former music-related residents of Brook Street include Jimi Hendrix, George Frideric Handel, and the Bee Gees: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb.

Horseferry Road takes its name from a horse ferry, supposedly older than London Bridge, and the only one of its kind allowed in London. At one time communication between the north and south banks of the River Thames was not easy, especially without bridges. The ferry was supposed to have been established when St Peter himself was taken across to consecrate Westminster Abbey and there is a story that once, when Oliver Cromwell was being taken across the river, his coach sank in mid-stream.

Cuckold’s Point to Tyburn: Hogarth-related hanging streets

An earlier post about Hogarth-related streets featured fictional and lost names; today I thought we could look at some street and place names with hanging connections, starting with Cuckold’s Point, which features in the Hogarth series ‘Industry and Idleness’.

The series charts the parallel lives of two apprentices, recognisably named Francis Goodchild and Tom Idle: one is industrious and virtuous and becomes Mayor of London while the other is lazy and morally corrupt, eventually being hanged for murder.

In the fifth engraving of the series, Idle is seeking his fortune at sea. He is shown being rowed along the Thames, with a seaman pointing out a gallows that once stood at Cuckold’s Point. The bodies of executed criminals, usually river pirates, were displayed there as a deterrent.

Although not officially listed in many London street atlases, this name still exists: the point is part of a sharp bend in the Thames on the Rotherhithe peninsula, opposite the West India Docks.

The point was once marked by a pole, crowned with a set of horns, which – so the story goes – delineated the boundary of land granted to a miller who had been cuckolded by King John. Legend has it that the miller returned home unexpectedly one day to find his beautiful wife disporting herself with the king. Not unnaturally, the fact that it was royalty in his bed did not stop the miller from being somewhat upset about the whole matter. In order to appease him, King John granted the miller as much land as he could see, and the furthest point he could see was the point that bears the name.

The king also granted the new landowner the privilege of an annual fair but there was, however, a catch (there often was with royal generosity back then). The condition was that, on the day of the fair, the miller should walk to the point wearing a pair of buck’s horns on his head. The miller’s jealous neighbours had to wrest some satisfaction from this downside to his newfound wealth: they dubbed the fair Horn Fair and gave the name of Cuckold’s Point to the termination of the miller’s journey.

Cuckold’s Point is mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys, when he describes a trip on a pleasure boat: “It carried us to Cuckold’s Point, and so by oars to the Temple, it raining hard, where missed speaking with my cosen Roger, and so walked home and to my office; there spent the night till bed time, and so home to supper and to bed.”

Daniel Defoe mentions Cuckold’s Point both in his description of London and in A Journal of the Plague Year, and it is the subject of a painting, ‘A Morning, with a View of Cuckolds Point’ by Samuel Scott.

The pole with the horns stood there in Ben Jonson’s day, and he used the setting in one of his plays, Eastward Ho!, written in conjunction with George Chapman and John Marston.

From one hanging spot to another: in the penultimate scene of this series, Tom Idle is shown in a cart with his coffin, having made the journey from Newgate to the gallows at Tyburn, the location of which is marked by a plaque at Marble Arch. This journey was made by those condemned to be hanged: they would travel from Newgate Prison to Tyburn, leading to the expression ‘going west’, in the context of dying. 

Tyburn once referred to the area now known as Marylebone, taking its name from the Tyburn River, from teoburna, or boundary stream: the Tyburn marked the boundary of Westminster.

But back to Newgate, which was one of the original seven gates within London Wall, and one of the six that date back to Roman times. It was so named because it was, in the 12th century, a new gate, built to replace the original Roman gate. The gatehouse was being used as a prison later that century and Newgate has a place in history as one of the world’s most famous, and infamous prisons. In 1783 the last hanging took place at Tyburn and the gallows were moved to Newgate prison. Prisoners no longer made the long journey west from Newgate to be executed, and could more conveniently be hanged close to their cell.

Before his trip west, Tom Idle was ‘betray’d by his Whore, & taken in a Night Cellar with his Accomplice’. This scene, ninth in the series, is set in Hanging Sword Alley. The name of the alley goes back as early as 1564, when a large Tudor house there was known by the sign of the Hanging Sword. The area was popular with fencing masters and the sign may have referred to this occupation.

The alley was also known at one time by the sinister name of Blood Bowl Alley, after a 14th century inn called Blood Bowl House – the unsavoury and notorious night cellar where Idle meets his doom.

Hanging Sword Alley is also immortalised in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: Jerry Cruncher, messenger and odd-job man, had lodgings in the alley (“not in a savoury neighbourhood”.)

From Beer Street to Hog Lane: Hogarth-related streets

I recently had the pleasure of a long-overdue visit to one of my favourite museums – the Sir John Soane museum, which owns the ‘Rake’s Progress’ and ‘The Humours of an Election’ series of paintings by William Hogarth. By happy coincidence, my visit fell at the time when all of Hogarth’s other series of paintings and engravings series had been brought together at the museum in an exhibition called ‘Hogarth: Place and Progress’.

The bulk of Hogarth’s work is set in London, so naturally I had a look for Hogarth-themed streets, of which there are quite a few, from fictional to real by way of some streets that are no longer in existence.

Beer Street and Gin Lane feature in engravings that Hogarth produced in support of the Sale of Spirits Act 1750, also known as the Gin Act 1751. (I have checked and can find no Beer or Gin streets, lanes, or otherwise in London, which is a shame.)

The Gin Act came about because of concerns about the amount of alcohol being consumed In 18th-century London. Alcoholism was widespread amongst the poor in the 1700s, and a ‘gin craze’ held sway in the city. 

That gin craze was nothing like the modern thirst for expensive and exotically flavoured drinks paired elegantly with similarly exotic mixers. Then, gin referred to any grain-based spirit and it was cheap and potent, helping people to escape the misery of their lives.

In 1726 Daniel Defoe commented: “the Distillers have found out a way to hit the palate of the Poor, by their new fashion’d compound Waters called Geneva, so that the common People seem not to value the French-brandy as usual, and even not to desire it”. It was the introduction of Dutch ‘genever’ to the UK that had led to the production of gin.

By the 1730s, over 6,000 houses (‘dram shops’) in London were openly selling gin to the general public. The spirit was available in street markets, grocers, chandlers, barbers and brothels, and workmen were often given their wages in cheap gin.

In an effort to combat this gin craze, the government introduced the Gin Act of 1736, which imposed hefty fines on licences for drinking houses. People, however, still wanted their gin and the legislation led to rioting. The act seemed to have served little purpose as, by the 1740s, gin consumption in Britain had reached an annual average of over six gallons per person. 

The act was repealed in 1743 and then, in 1750, the Gin Act effectively restricted the distribution of gin. Other methods of attempting to curb gin drinking were to smooth the passage of the import of tea, which, along with coffee, was still beyond the means of most people; and encourage people to drink beer, which was less potent than gin and safer than the unhygienic drinking water of London.

Hogarth issued the engravings Beer Street and Gin Lane in 1751 to support the Gin Act. The prints were designed to be viewed alongside each other, depicting the evils of the consumption of gin, which encouraged drunkenness and led to a rise in crime, in contrast to the merits of drinking beer.

Although they don’t exist, the streets were set in recognisable areas of London: Gin Lane, depicting a drunken mother allowing her child to fall to its death, was set in what is now New Oxford Street but then was a notorious slum area. Nearby is a gin shop sign with the inscription, “Drunk for a penny. Dead drunk for two pence. Clean straw for nothing.”

Beer Street, by contrast, was set in a more prosperous area near to the church of St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. There is bustling industry and commerce with prosperous men merrily quaffing beer from tankards.

Even the use of ‘street’ and ‘lane’ are significant: a street was originally a well-made, paved way, from the Roman ‘via strata’ or ‘paved way’. A lane, by contrast, was narrow and winding and, at one point, had only to be wide enough for two men to roll a barrel along it.

From fictional to extinct names: Hog Lane in Soho features in ‘Noon’ of the Hogarth series ‘The Four Times of Day’. Well-dressed French Hugenouts leave their church while nearby there is a bit of scuffle where, and I quote the catalogue here, “The other side shows a sequence that begins with a black boy grabbing a servant maid’s breasts, causing her to drop something off her tray; this smashes a plate of food held by a little boy, casing the contents to fall on the ground where they are grabbed by another child, all of these occurrences following from an act of unrestrained lust.”

Hog Lane was later called Crown Street and then became part of what is now Charing Cross road. It formed the boundary between the parishes of St Martin in the Fields on the west and St Giles in the Fields on the east. Hog Lane was once a relatively common street name in London, generally signifying that hogs were kept there. The Crown Street name came from the Crown Tavern, one of many inns on the street.

Another lost name is Grub Street, now Milton Street, which is considered to feature in ‘A Harlot’s Progress’, at the end of the sequence when the unfortunate protagonist of the series lies dying in a miserable garret and then is shown in her coffin. surrounded by uncaring onlookers.

Grub Street was known as ‘Grubbestrete’ in the 13th century and could have meant ‘street infested with maggots’, or it could have taken its name from ‘grube’, a ditch or drain, or from a personal name, as Grub was not uncommon in those days. Towards the end of the 17th century, the street became the haunt of poor and hack writers and the poet, Andrew Marvell, coined the phrase ‘Grub Street’, which became a generic term for sub-standard literary achievements.

The name was changed in 1830 in an effort to associate the street with a rather higher standard of literary achievement.

Farthing Alley, Hare Court, and other Parliament-connected London streets

I’ve been holding off but it’s finally time to look at some streets with parliamentary connections of one kind or another.

Barbon Alley was named for Nicholas Barbon, a property developer and the son of Praisegod Barebone, the Parliamentary nominee for the City of London and the man for whom Oliver Cromwell’s Barebones Parliament was named. 

Parliament had been pared down by the simple method used by Colonel Thomas Pride to prevent Parliament from agreeing on the Treaty of Newport to reinstate King Charles I: Pride blocked 231 known supporters of the treaty from entering Parliament and imprisoned 45 of them for a few days. The remaining free members then became the Rump Parliament.

Oliver Cromwell became disenchanted when it became clear that the main concern of the Rump Parliament was to create legislation that would ensure the survival of the Parliament. He lost patience after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and attended a sitting of Parliament to lambaste the Rump Members. “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” he declared.

Barebone’s Parliament was then established: 144 Members of Parliament who were not elected, but selected by Cromwell’s officers for their religious fervour.

Not far away is Whitehall, location of the palace of Whitehall, which was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698 when most of its structures were destroyed by fire. Henry VIII was a fan of the bear baiting, and had a bear pit built in the grounds of Whitehall palace so that royalty could watch the sport in comfort from the palace windows. Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, was also a big fan and overruled parliament when the members tried to ban bear baiting on Sundays.

Bridle Lane in Soho takes its name from John Brydall, a law writer who became secretary to a Master of the Rolls (the second most senior judge in England and Wales after the Lord Chief Justice), who rejoiced in the name of Sir Harbottle Grimston. Sir Harbottle was a Member of Parliament during Charles I’s reign and was a great defender of the privileges of the House of Commons following Charles I’s unsuccessful attempt in 1642 to arrest five members. He made a fiery speech in defence of the rights of MPs in which he spoke of “the drooping Spirits of men groaning under the burthen of tyrannicall oppression inflicted on them unjustly and maliciously by unmercifull and wicked men that have usurped to themselves places and offices of power and authority both in State and Church”.

There is a Farthing Alley in Bermondsey which took its name from Aleyn Ferthing, a Southwark representative in the 14th-century parliament.

Hare Court, part of London’s Inner Temple, was named for Sir Nicholas Hare, who paid for the building of the court. Hare Master of Rolls to Queen Mary whose Parliament, on the 12th of November 1555, re-established Catholicism. (The restoration of Catholicism lasted only a short time; in 1558, on Mary’s death her half-sister Elizabeth I reversed it.)

Milk Street was the birthplace of Thomas More, who entered Parliament in 1504, was knighted in 1521 and became Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor in 1529 following the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. More was later to oppose the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also refuse to take an oath renouncing the authority of the pope over that of the king. That led to him being tried and convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Let’s finish not with a street, but with a tower: the Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is located. At the top of the tower is a light that was installed at the wishes of Queen Victoria so that she could see which of her Members of Parliament were sitting after dark.