Following on from yesterday’s post about the Top 10 most unusual names in the City of London, it seemed a good idea to look at some other unusual names, not just in the City but in all of London, starting today with perhaps, one of the most fun(ny) names in London: Ha Ha Road in Greenwich. Not only is this most definitely a name to catch the attention, it one about which there is no dispute as to the derivation.
Simple: a ‘ha ha’ is a sunken ditch which serves as a boundary marker for property, rather than a high wall that could block the landowner’s view.However, there is slight dispute as to the derivation of the term ‘ha ha’ itself. One school of thought says it is an exclamation of surprise from the unwary strollers who suddenly find themselves in a ditch, another that it is the reaction of any spectators who see their companions abruptly disappearing from sight.
Whatever the derivation of its name, this cunning device was adopted in Kensington Gardens by Charles Bridgman, a fashionable designer of gardens in the 18th century who was hired by George II’s queen, Caroline of Ansbach. The gardens, which had been a part of Kensington Palace since William III bought Nottingham House and converted it for his use, went though several changes before George II first opened the gardens to the public – provided that they were “respectably dressed people”.
Respectably dressed they may have been, but that didn’t prevent George II from being mugged there. He was in the habit of taking a solitary stroll around the gardens every morning and one day was approached by a man who jumped over a wall (had there been a ha ha in that spot presumably the mugging would never have taken place).
The man, who claimed to be financially distressed, very respectfully asked the king to hand over his money, watch and shoe buckles. The one-sided transaction was carried out, and the king mentioned that there was a seal on his watch chain of little monetary, but great sentimental, value. The man promised to take it off the chain and return it provided George said nothing of the robbery. The king agreed, and the seal was returned the next day at the same time.