Little slices of London's history

Prudence and whalebones

A short blog today, to go with two short passages in the City of London: Prudent Passage and Whalebone Court.

Whalebone CourtWhalebone Court, according to an 18th-century source, was so called because whalebone was boiled there, presumably in preparation for it being made into corsets.

That kind of whalebone is not the bones of whales (which is also called whalebone); the stuff once used for ladies’ undergarments is a horny elastic substance in the mouth of a baleen whale. While the whale is alive and the baleen is still in its mouth, it is used as a filter food from water.

Prudent PassageThe name of nearby Prudent Passage is not quite so obvious; one theory is that it may have been something to do with “the foresight displayed in its construction”.

More entertaining is the theory that it once served the same useful function as Passing Alley, and therefore was a prudent route to take on the way home after spending too many hours in the pub.
Another relatively short passage in the same area is Tokenhouse Yard, and more of that in a future blog post.

2 responses to “Prudence and whalebones”

  1. Two more streets I have never ventured along! Always great to read about my home city. Indeed, the actual City of London, perhaps more so than the rest of the capital, is a great source of unusual street names.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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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