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Named from a house that belonged to the leper hospital of St Giles ‘Le Vyne’, which was there by the 16th century. It is possible that a vineyard once stood on this spot as the area was particularly fertile and the vines were mentioned in the Domesday Book. The street was once called Vine Street.
There is another derivation of the name Grape Street, as it relates to a lane, now gone, in the parish of St Pancras. Early, non-euphemistic, forms of the name appear, as early as 1276, as ‘Gropecontelane’ and ‘Groppecountlane’. In Oxford, lanes of this name appeared as early as 1230. The name, says one source tactfully, is “an indecent one’. When it wasn’t changed completely, the name was altered to less drastic forms such as Grope Lane and Grape Lane.
“So called,” John Stow wrote candidly, “of wantons.” There is not much more that can be said, though some people theorize rather wistfully that it could have been a sort of lovers’ lane where courting couples used to stroll. That could, of course, also be true given that, centuries ago, street names tended to be more unflinching, so a street of wantons could well have been called something less euphemistic than ‘love’. As in Grape Street, above.