Little slices of London's history

Janis Joplin, Kensington Gore, and Green Ginger

Janis Joplin Update: Although Gore of Kensington Gore does not derive from anything to do with blood, a retired British pharmacist, John Tinegate, used to make fake blood for the stage and screen and it was trademarked Kensington Gore. The term has now become a generic term for fake blood. Apparently Stanley Kubrick used several thousands of gallons of Kensington Gore in The Shining. (But one of the most famous blood scenes in movie history, the shower scene in Psycho, made use of chocolate syrup.)

This day in London history: on 19 January 1943, American singer-songwriter Janis Joplin was born. She sang first with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and then pursued a solo career; some of her more famous songs were ‘Cry Baby’, ‘Mercedes Benz’, and ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. She died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27; though there is apparently no evidence to show that singers are more likely to die at 27 than any other age, people speculate about a Forever 27 group. In addition to Joplin, members of this club include Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. During her singing career, Janis Joplin appeared in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, the official address of which is Kensington Gore. The ‘gore’ part of the name is innocent of anything gruesome: it comes from the Old English word ‘gara’, which was a triangular piece of land left after irregularly shaped fields and been ploughed. This could be the triangle formed by Knightsbridge, Queen’s Gate and the Brompton Road.

William Wilberforce

Although now in the borough of Kensington, the land of Kensington Gore was for years the property of the City of Westminster and there was a Gore Estate on the site for many years until the Victorian property developers took over. Gore House, now the site of the Royal Albert Hall, was once the home of William Wilberforce, a strong force in the movement to abolish slavery. The house was later opened as a restaurant to help cater for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The Royal Albert Hall was officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. Gore HotelThere is a Gore Hotel in Queen’s Gate, opened in 1892 by the Cooke sisters, descendants of Captain James Cook. (Incidentally, William Wilberforce was born in Kingston upon Hull. There is a street in Hull called The Land of Green Ginger, the derivation of which is uncertain.)

About Me (and my Obsession)

My obsession with London street names began in the early 90s when I worked in the Smithfield area and happened upon Bleeding Heart Yard. In my wanderings around London, I kept adding to my store of weird and wonderful street names. Eventually it was time to share – hence my blog. I hope you enjoy these names as much as I do.
– Elizabeth


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