Little slices of London's history

London’s culinary streets: Cat and Mutton Bridge to Garlick Hill

Cat & Mutton
The Cat and Mutton pub

Ok, I’m cheating (because it’s out of alphabetical order): I forgot Cat and Mutton Bridge. There is a pub here, and given the number of pub names in London streets, it is likely that the pub gave its name to the bridge.

There are two main theories about the name, the first being that it was originally Shoulder of Mutton and Cat from the ‘cats’ or coal barges that would have gone under the bridge on the nearby Regents Canal; there is also a Sheep Lane nearby that ties in with the mutton side of things.

Another version is that it was originally the Cattle and Shoulder of Mutton, also from the “many drovers and agricultural workers arriving in London to sell there various beasts in the markets in what now is known as the city”.

Coley Street (it’s a kind of fish, and there was a fish-related streets post a while ago; you can read it here) is named for a person rather than a fish: Henry Coley was a 17th-century astrologer and mathematician. That name comes from ‘colig’, meaning dark or swarthy.

And on to Crisp Road in Hammersmith which is also cheating slightly as ‘crisp’ really only has the connotation of potato chip in the UK. It is, naturally, not anything to do with food: it takes its name from Sir Nicholas Crisp. Sir Nicholas was a remarkable man; Samuel Johnson said of him that he was “a man of loyalty that deserves perpetual remembrance”.

Crisp was a native of Hammersmith, and his loyalty was to Charles I – he was a dedicated Royalist and spent over £100,000 in the cause of his king. Crisp managed to escape too dire a fate at the hands of Cromwell, but was severely fined for the mere fact of his existence and affiliation.

Crisp built Grand House, later known as Brandenburgh House (at one point the home of Caroline of Brunswick, consort of George IV), and paid for the east window in St Mildred’s church in Bread Street (the church was destroyed during the Second World War). The window was divided into five parts, depicting the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, Elizabeth I, the 1625 plague and the Crisp family with their coat of arms.

Crisp monument
The Crisp monument. Photo courtesy of Bob Speel

Another of the Crisp monuments is a bust of Charles I in the Hammersmith parish church of St Paul’s. The bust sits atop a black and white marble column and is marked by an inscription which reads:

“This effigy was erected by the special appointment of Sir Nicholas Crispe, Knight and Baronet, in a grateful commemoration of that glorious martyr, King Charles the First, of blessed memory.”

Not being content with this token of loyalty, Crisp also directed that his heart be placed in an urn under the effigy of his king. The heart was to be refreshed annually with a glass of wine; this service was performed for around a century until the heart became too much decayed. And what then? Let us hope that a century of wine provided enough alcohol for the spirit of Sir Nicholas.

Incidentally, Crisp’s body was buried under a tomb at the aforementioned church in Bread Street; in the 19th century it was removed and reunited with his heart in Hammersmith. I learned this from a charming website with a wealth of information about the church of St Paul’s and its monuments.

FIsh Street Hill EC3Fish Street Hill was once the main road leading to London Bridge, and brings us back to street names that do have a food connection. (Oh, yes, it was called New Fish Street as opposed to Old Fish Street, which was demolished in 1870.)

In the 13th century the hill became the centre for fishmongers who settled there because of its proximity to the main fish market of Billingsgate; the street was one of the authorized spots for retail fish sales. Samuel Pepys mentions it in his description of the Great Fire of 1666:

“By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it was now burning down all Fishstreet by London Bridge.”

This was once the main road leading to London Bridge, and. In the 13th century it became the centre for fishmongers who settled there because of its proximity to the main fish market of Billingsgate; the street was one of the authorized spots for retail fish sales.

Stow said that Edward, the Black Prince, son of Edward III, had a house there, though not many modern sources appear convinced of that fact. Oliver Goldsmith did lodge here. Edward, whose name is likely to have come from the colour of his armour, makes an appearance as Sir William Colville in the movie A Knight’s Tale, though historical accuracy takes second place to drama.

Another main feature of Fish Street Hill is that it leads past the Monument; the reminder for everyone of the Great Fire. It is 202 feet high (202 feet said to be the distance to the spot where the fire broke out) and, unfortunately, until the balcony was enclosed in an iron cage, it was a favoured spot for suicide leaps.

Garlick HillGarlick Hill also delivers a culinary connection: this hill was named for the hythe, or wharf, where shipments of garlic were landed on the Thames. Or, if you prefer, from the hythe, or hill, at the foot of which garlic was sold in vast quantities. It is not unlikely that enough garlic would have been sold in medieval times to warrant an entire parish being called Garlickhythe.

Seasoning was important both for the rich, who ate lavishly of beef and venison; and for the poor, who had a rather less interesting diet in need of spicing up. Strong spices also played their part on the frequent occasions when meat had begun to spoil before it reached the consumer, a fact that had to be heavily disguised.

The parish church of St James Garlickhythe had a somewhat chequered career. It was built in 1326, later destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt by Wren (at a cost of under £5,500). Although suffering some damage during the blitz of the Second World War, it was again restored. In 1984 remains of a 1st-century timber building were discovered near the church.

Through all this, one of the church’s occupants remained virtually unscathed – an unidentified person known as Jimmy Garlick. Jimmy is an almost perfectly mummified corpse, discovered in 1839 when workmen were closing up the old vaults. It is possible that he is (or, rather, was) either Richard Rothing, who built the original church, or one of the six early Lord Mayors of London who were buried there.

In any case, Jimmy Garlick was somewhat unceremoniously relegated to a small closet until his coffin was jolted by a bomb and his spirit began to roam around, frightening the tourists. He was, for a time, rehoused in a glass-fronted coffin in the vestibule of the church and he then ceased his practice of appearing to unwary visitors.

In 2004, Jimmy Garlick featured in the Discovery TV documentary series ‘Mummy Autopsy’ which used modern analytical techniques including carbon dating and x-ray analysis, establishing that he died between 1641 and 1801 and that he suffered from osteoarthritis, a disease that afflicts older people. Physical examination by the Discovery team showed that the mummy appeared to be balding and suffered tooth decay at the time of death, both consistent with an older person. The mummy now sits in the tower in a newly made case.

2 responses to “London’s culinary streets: Cat and Mutton Bridge to Garlick Hill”

  1. Mutton… Tangential to topic, but good for a smile. The difference between lamb and mutton is that only one of them is old enough to get a drivers license…

  2. Thoroughly enjoyable, and as informative as always, Elizabeth.
    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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