Little slices of London's history

London street names and the three men in a tub

Lately we’ve looked at a bevy of wicked women, a clutch of bad boys, and a menagerie of animals, all lurking within the pages of London’s history and its names. Now we can turn to some of the occupations that feature in London’s street names, starting with the three men in the tub of the nursery rhyme: the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.

Baker Street, best known as the residence of the fictional Sherlock Holmes (topical, given that BBC’s drama Sherlock recently won various Emmy Awards), has been covered in an earlier post. Writer and politician Edward Bulmer-Lytton was born here and other, real, residents, included William Pitt the Younger and Dusty Springfield.

Butcher Row, east of the City of London, was once in the heart of a riverside village and provided a route to the north and east. The name could have come from the fact that the row would have played an important part in supplying victuals, particularly meat, to the ships docked at the nearby wharfs. It would, possibly, have been inhabited by foreign meat traders who were not allowed into the City guild and therefore set up business outside of the City limits.

Building along the row had begun by the late 15th century and one of the rows notable points is that part of its surface was metalled (paved) – a feature not common in medieval times.

Ward of CandlewickThere’s not actually a Candlestick Maker Street in London, but there are various Chandler and Chandlers streets, ways, and rows. Possibly the original candlestick maker street, however, was Cannon Street, which took its name not from artillery. As London historian John Stow pointed out, it was originally Candlewright or Candlewick street, so called, “either of Chandlers or makers of candles”. It could also have been named from the wicks of those candles.

In any event, the original name lives on in the Ward of Candlewick.The wards were systems in medieval London that allowed for smaller units within the city to be self-governing and there are still 25 of them in existence.)

Another occupational name is Dean Street, named for Bishop Henry Compton, Dean of the Chapel Royal. Among the famous names associated with the street are Mozart, who played the harpsichord at 21 Dean Street when he was seven years old. (He was, in the interests of equality, we should point out, accompanied by his four-year-old sister.) Another famous resident was Karl Marx, who began to write Das Kapital when he was living at number 28.

There are many other names that come from, or seem to come from occupations, such as Pardoner Street, named for one of Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims, and associated with pardons, testicles, and hog’s turds.

One last name for today is the intriguingly named Pimp Hall Park; this seemingly ‘tell it like it is’ name is nothing to do with prostitution or procurement. It is a field name, a variation on ‘Pympis’ or ‘Pympes’, from a Reynold Pympe whose family owned land in the area in the 16th century.

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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