Little slices of London's history

Colours and music in London street names

I’ve been musing over colours in London street names. “Why?” you ask. (Or possibly, “Get a life,” you say.) There are two main reasons. After seeing Empire of Light, I’ve been listening to a lot of two-tone music lately (hubby will start to wonder why his music streaming service is beginning to show him bands like the Specials, the Beat, and the Selecter rather than Floyd and Genesis). One Madness song I was listening mentioned Orange Street (admittedly in Kingston, Jamaica, not London, but still).

That followed soon after I had been reading some of the London trivia as provided by the excellent CabbieBlog website; one fact was that, “The only true home shared by all four Beatles was a flat at 57 Green Street near Hyde Park, where they lived in the autumn of 1963.”

There you have it: colour AND musical connections.

Before I get to the point – colourful London street names – if you want more about Orange Street in Kingston, there is a great article on the United Reggae website. And for more trivia, news, musings, and a wealth of information of information about London, do visit the CabbieBlog website.

One theory behind the name of Orange Street in Soho is that it was named after William III, William of Orange and grandson of Charles I, who became joint monarch with his wife Mary in 1689.

A more widely voiced explanation is that the area was the location of the Royal Mews and among the many mews in the area were the Green and Blue Mews, and the Duke of Monmouth’s Mews – in all likelihood also known as Orange Mews from the Duke’s colours – which stood partly on the site of Orange Street.

Development of Orange Street began in the 1690s; by then the unfortunate Monmouth would have had no interest in his horses, having been beheaded in 1685. The story of Monmouth’s execution is a particularly grisly one: the executioner, Jack Ketch, had a bad day (though not quite as bad as Monmouth’s): he took five attempts with his axe to complete the job and even then had to finish it with a knife.

Regarding the Beatles’ Green Street, that may have been named because of its proximity to Hyde Park. I confess I haven’t been able to find much about the name other than the statement in the book Discovering London Street Names that, “This was simply a plot of land covered with grass, between Park Lane and Oxford Street, when the street was first designed.” I did find out that other famous residents included Ian Fleming and William Blake. In 1998 English Heritage erected a blue plaque at number 49 to commemorate the fact that aircraft designer and manufacturer Sir Thomas Sopwith lived there.

There is an Emerald Street in Holborn which was originally called Green Street. Towards the end of the 19th century there were far too many Green Streets in London and so it was given a name to rank it with streets such as Diamond Street and Ruby Street. (Precious stones may feature in a future blog.)

Dog walking time is upon me, so rather than face the full-on mournful Spaniel eyes, let me put this up now and look at more colours next time.

3 responses to “Colours and music in London street names”

  1. As much as I loved the Two-Tone revival, I had already been there with the Bluebeat and Ska originals.
    There is Brown Street, off Lisson Grove. Mint Street, near the Tower. (I know, Mint is a shade of green, so a stretch.) Red Lion Square. (I know, it’s about the lion.) I will stop there. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Hi, Pete, thanks for the suggestions. I think two-tone was in full flow by the time I came to the UK in the early 80s and, having grown up with reggae and calypso, it felt more like home than the punk and glam rock of the time so I have always had a soft spot for that genre. The film reminded me not just of the music of the time I first came here but also what this new home of mine was like then! Thank you for the Brown Street suggestion; I think Mint Street may feature in a herbs and spices or culinary category! All the best, Elizabeth

  2. […] green streets in an earlier post about colours and music in London street names, which you can read here. Green Street, one source stated, took its name from the fact that it was just a plot of grassy […]

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, 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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