Golden rings in London’s 12 days of Christmas street names

Most of the 12 days of Christmas deal with birds, but it’s a bit too soon to do birds again, since that started this whole blog post theme.

Golden SquareLet’s look at the golden rings instead, starting with Golden Square – partly because that’s featured in earlier posts, so is easy for me, and partly because it’s nothing to do with gold. The square stands upon the site of what was known as Gelding’s Cross in the early 17th century when the land was used for farming.

The site was once a plague pit: during the Great Plague there were times when the graveyards could not hold all the dead bodies and victims of the plague were dumped into large pits and communal graves, such as Bunhill Row.

There is also a Golden Lane; it was called Goldynglane and Goldynggeslane in the 14th century, and is probably derived from the name of someone responsible for building it. The Fortune Theatre stood here, a round wooden theatre modelled on the Globe and built in 1600 for Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslow (at a cost of £500). Playwrights represented there included Christopher Marlowe.

The theatre burned down in 1621 and was rebuilt in brick; the Puritans tried to close it down in 1642 but plays continued until the Ordinance of 1647-8, which suppressed playhouses completely. Soldiers dismantled it in 1649 and it was finally demolished in 1661.

Then, of course, we have Goldsmith’s Row and Goldsmith Street, which do take their name from goldsmiths. Goldsmith’s Row and Lombard street was where the goldsmiths plied their trade, but, according to Walter Thornbury in Old and New London, “In 1622 the traders of the Goldsmiths’ Company began to complain that alien traders were creeping into and alloying the special haunts of the trade, Goldsmiths’ Row and Lombard Street; and that 183 foreign goldsmiths were selling counterfeit jewels, engrossing the business and impoverishing its members.”

Piccadilly CircusOk, if you insist, we could try and fit the ‘ring’ bit of the golden rings in: how about Piccadilly Circus and Cambridge Circus? (Circuses were so named because they were circular.)

The former is named from a ruff-type collar, plenty more of which has been covered in earlier posts, and the latter served as the model for ‘The Circus’ in the John Le Carre novels.

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