Little slices of London's history

London’s number streets: from Four Dials to Twelvetrees Crescent

We left off our numbers post from one to three with quite a few ‘three’ streets, but the other numbers are not as much in evidence. And I regret to say that of many of the ones I have found, the name is the only piece of information I have.

Four Seasons Close in Tower Hamlets, for instance, near the Blackwall Tunnel, is near Redwood Close and Primrose Close, so maybe there is some kind of tenuous horticultural connection.

There is a small lane called Five Acre in north west London, which leads off Lanacre Avenue and is near a North Acre and South Acre. ‘Acre’ in names often designates a street near to, for instance, a farm with ‘acre’ in its name. Presumably that bears some relation to both this name and to Forty Acre Lane in Canning Town.

Fives Court in Southwark is, apparently, a relatively new name, the derivation of which is still a mystery. Unless it’s something to do with ‘fives’ –a handball game that is played on a court.

Also a bit of a mystery is Five Bell Alley, which leads off Three Colt Street, a fairly major road in the Limehouse Area (and near to the alarmingly named Grenade Street). Presumably it takes its name from a tavern, Five Bells being not uncommon in pub names in nautical terms it means 2:30pm – once pub closing time.

There are quite a few ‘sevens’ in London: Seven Dials, Seven Sea Gardens, Seven Sisters Road, and Seven Stars Yard. Seven Sea Gardens in east London is part of a residential complex on Caspian Wharf, so presumably that accounts for the maritime name. Seven Stars was also a popular tavern name, usually represented either by a plough or by the Plough (or Big Dipper) constellation, which consists of seven stars. There is a Seven Stars pub in Holborn, which is one of the pubs purporting to be London’s oldest.

Seven Dials, which has been covered before in this blog, was an early exercise in town planning (and possibly getting it wrong). In the 17th century the Master of the Royal Mint, Sir Thomas Neale, planned seven streets radiating from a central point where there was a column with a sun dial on each face. However, the column had only six faces.

Some say the seventh ‘dial’ comes from the column itself; others that the column was commissioned before a change of plan meant there were seven streets instead of six.

Seven Sisters Road and Nine Elms Lane, have been covered in the earlier tree-themed post. Seven Sisters Road south of Finsbury Park takes its name from a tavern called the Seven Sisters. The tavern, in turn, commemorated the fact that, in front of it, stood a circle of elm trees with a walnut tree in the centre. The trees, removed in the 1840s, were supposed to have dated back to around the 14th century, planted on the spot where a martyr had been burned.

Nine Elms Lane, now a major road rather than a lane, runs on the south bank of the Thames and past the New Covent Garden market. It was, however once a country lane that did run past nine elm trees.

Twelvetrees Crescent in Bow is hardly a crescent – being, as it is, a fairly large road that spans the River Lea, but perhaps it was once in a rural area with lots of trees.

4 responses to “London’s number streets: from Four Dials to Twelvetrees Crescent”

  1. More great nostalgia for me, and meticulous research on your part. Always a joy to read. Thanks, Elizabeth.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thanks, Pete, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Seven Stars pub in Carey Street in Holborn is supposedly linked to the Seven Provinces of the United Provinces now the Netherlands.

    1. Thanks, that’s a new one to me. A great addition to the info.

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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