Little slices of London's history

London’s Australia streets: from Batman Close to Sydney Street

On Australia Day it makes sense to look at a couple of streets with (mostly tenuous, what else?) connections with Australia, starting with Batman Close in White City. It is named for John Batman, the Australian who founded a settlement on the River Yarra; that settlement later became the city of Melbourne.

Australia Road is nearby, and there is a Melbourne Place off the Strand, presumably so named because it is the centre for the Australian government and business centres. Melbourne Grove in Dulwich, on the other hand, takes its name from a group of Derbyshire place names. Sydney Street in Chelsea off the King’s Road (and Sydney Place) are named for Viscount Sydney.

These and other streets were part of a 84-acre site left in trust in 1627 by Alderman Henry Smith of the City of London for “the relief and ransom of poor captives being slaves under Turkish pirates”. The trustees of the estate, largely aristocratic, named many of the streets after themselves.

There is also a Sidney Street (yes, that’s cheating as is is spelled differently), and that was the scene of the Sidney Street riots, during which Winston Churchill, Home Secretary of the time, narrowly missed being shot.

Speaking of Churchill, two days ago marked the anniversary of his death at his house in Kensington Gore, marked by a blue plaque. This comes from nothing gruesome, but from the Old English word ‘gara’, which was a triangular piece of land left after irregularly shaped fields had been ploughed.

Triangles notwithstanding, a retired British pharmacist, John Tinegate, used to make fake blood for the stage and screen; it was later trademarked Kensington Gore and that became a generic term for fake blood.

Nothing to do with Australia, but on this day in 1926, Scottish engineer and inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the first working television system in a laboratory in Soho’s Frith Street. The street takes its name from 17th-century property developer Richard Frith.

The name Soho itself is generally accepted to have come from an ancient hunting cry; apparently ‘tally ho!’ is the cry when a fox breaks cover and ‘soho!’ is when huntsmen uncouple the dogs.

5 responses to “London’s Australia streets: from Batman Close to Sydney Street”

  1. The White City estate took me back, Elizabeth. I worked at the ambulance station that was first response to that place. Did you know that it originally got its name from the white marble used on exhibition halls erected there? (I expect you did) All the countries that exhibited provided names for the streets on the housing estate, which was built much later, in the 1930s.
    When I worked there, from 1981-2001, it was a troublesome place, with lots of crime, social problems, and a constant need for police and ambulances to attend. I have no idea how it has changed in the last fifteen years, but I see that they are selling flats there for £400,000!
    (I wouldn’t live in one if they cost £4)
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Hi, Pete, why doesn’t it surprise me that you know the area? I do indeed remember the White City of the 1980s; I seem to remember it being famous for its crime and also – am I right? – greyhound racing. The closest I’ve come lately is Westfield shopping centre. And I should add a link; I did know about the marble and the exhibition.

      1. The dog track closed down in 1984. The BBC built more of their complex on that original site, but it had been one of the premier dog tracks, since the 1920s.
        I have driven past Westfield, but have yet to visit the shopping mall there.

  2. “Winston Churchill… nearly missed being shot.” This reads oddly? Was he shot or not?

    But thank you for another interesting article!

    1. Oops! It should read ‘narrowly missed’. I’ve updated it now – many thanks for pointing my typo out.

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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