From Ham Yard to Poultry: renaming London’s streets

Cockspur Street signI think it’s time for another PETA-inspired blog post. The last one was when the animal rights group said that Britain’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, should change its name to Ye Olde Clever Cocks, “in recognition of society’s growing compassion for animals and in celebration of intelligent, sensitive chickens”. You can read that post here, in which we run through the names of Cockspur Street, Bear Gardens, and Birdcage Walk, with a nod at Soho.

Since that post I have learned that the group uses the Trump tactics of saying outrageous things to get the media attention. As with their claim a little while ago that the village of Wool should be renamed Vegan Wool. (The name comes from an old word meaning ‘well’ and is nothing to do with wool.)

Today we will jump on that bandwagon and propose some animal-friendly changes to existing London street names.

EAS_4080First off is Poultry, which was once called Scalding Alley, from the poulterers who lived there and scalded the poultry they sold. Scalding, either with hot water or steam, was a way of treating the carcasses to make the removal of feathers easier. The poulterers were eventually joined by grocers, haberdashers, and upholsterers and, by the time of the Great Fire of 1666, Poultry had become famous more for taverns than anything else.

Let’s change Poultry to Poetry to commemorate the poet Thomas Hood. The house where Hood was born was at what is now number 31 Poulty, and was immortalised in his most famous poem, ‘I Remember, I Remember’.

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

Another possible name change is from Poultry to Reform. Poultry was also home to Elizabeth Fry, a notable prison reformer, who lived there from 1800 to 1809. Mrs Fry, of an old Quaker family, was horrified at the conditions under which as many as 300 women and children could be packed into Newgate. She worked hard at improving conditions but was forced to give up philanthropy when her husband became bankrupt.

We move on to Dog Kennel Hill in East Dulwich, which I propose we change to De Canel Hill.

One theory for the name is that Prince George of Denmark had kennels for his hounds here. However, Edward Alleyn, the Elizabethan actor, owned much of what was, at the time, the manor of Dulwich and some of the land here was recorded as Kennels, Kennoldes Croft and Kennold’s Acre. That means a more likely theory is that an earlier landowner (date unknown), one Monsieur de Canel, resided there, and Dog Kennel is a heavily anglicized version of his name. 

Haunch of Venison Yard cropHaunch of Venison Yard in Mayfair takes its name from a tavern that stood at the entrance of the yard from the 1720s to the early part of the 20th century. The sign is one that was more commonly found near royal hunting forests: though ‘venison’ now means only deer meat, the word derives from the Latin venari, to hunt, and was originally used for the edible flesh of any animal that had been captured and killed in a hunt.

Perhaps, instead of Haunch of Venison, this could be named Running Deer Yard.

Ham YardA bit further east, in the heart of the West End, is Ham Yard. Food played a large part in the naming of taverns – and hence London streets; often the speciality of the house would be featured in the sign. There was a Ham tavern in this small yard in the heart of the theatre district as early as 1739 and there was also once a Tudor mill in this area (commemorated in Great Windmill Street). The Ham tavern became the Ham and Windmill, was renamed the Lyric in 1890 and still stands there today.

Instead of Ham, we could hark back to Lyric and it could become Lyric Yard.

Still on food and pub specialities, there is Cat and Mutton Bridge in East London. There is still a Cat and Mutton pub located here, but which came first and what the original name was is not clear. 

One version of the name is 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. 

The old inn sign, at one time, had two verses on it:

Pray, Puss, do not tare,
Because the mutton is so rare

and

Pray, Puss do not claw,
Because the mutton is so raw

Another theory behind the name 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”.

It would seem, whatever inspired the name, that a shoulder of mutton featured in there somewhere. We could rename it Cat and Mouse, but anyone who has seen a cat in action will know that cruelty to animals features prominently in that combination. How about Clever Cat?

Let’s draw a line under the renaming of London streets for now. I am off to investigate Europe-inspired street names…

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.

London’s feline streets: Cat and Mutton Bridge to Pope’s Head Alley

Catherine Wheel AlleyIt seemed only fair, after a dog-related post, to include our feline friends; it has been a bit of a challenge, however, and I have had to stretch tenuous to new lengths.

Suitably feline is Cat and Mutton bridge in Hackney, where there is still a Cat and Mutton pub. One version of the name is 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. Another version (on the pub’s own website) 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”.

The old inn sign, at one time, had two verses on it:

Pray, Puss, do not tare,
Because the mutton is so rare

and

Pray, Puss do not claw,
Because the mutton is so raw

In the recent saintly street signs post, we looked at Catherine Wheel Alley, which takes its name from a tavern. During the time of the Puritans, when overtly religious symbols were frowned on, most landlords of such taverns changed the name to the Cat and Wheel.

Kitcat Terrace in Bow commemorates the Reverend Henry James Kitkat, rector of St Mary’s Bow from 1904 to 1921. The name derives from Kitcott, a place name in Devon. There was once a Kit-Kat Club, founded in 1700 by a bookseller called Jacob Tonson, and taking its name from the proprietor (Christopher (Kit) Kat, whose name is also given as Cat, Katt, and even Catling ) of a pastry-house in Shire Lane off Fleet Street, where the members used to dine.

Alexander Pope whimsically referred to the club and its name in verse:

Whence deathless Kit-Cat took its name
Few critics can unriddle
Some say from Pastry Cook it came,
And some from Cat and Fiddle

Sadly, there is no Cat and Fiddle street.

EAS_4066Bow brings us nicely to the first tenuous cat connection: Elbow Lane in the City of London, now called, less interestingly, College Street. In the 16th century it a street that ran west and then suddenly turned south, according to London historian John Stow, and was “therefore of that bending called Elbow Lane”.

The reason it was named College Street was to commemorate a college founded by Dick Whittington or, properly, Sir Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of the City of London.One legend about him is that attempted to flee the city in order to escape a menial job where he was beaten and that he was persuaded to return by the sound of the Bow Bells promising him that he would be Mayor of London. And everyone knows the other legend: that he went to London with his faithful cat to seek his fortune.

EAS_4093During the reign of King Edward IV, there was a kind of ‘engrave-off’ between English goldsmiths and their foreign rivals, which took place at the Pope’s Head tavern (now Pope’s Head Alley). According to Old and New London, “The challenge was to engrave four puncheons of steel (the breadth of a penny sterling) with cat’s heads and naked figures in high relief and low relief; Oliver Davy, the Englishman, won, and White Johnson, the Alicant goldsmith, lost his wager of a crown and a dinner to the Company.”

And the last of the very tenuous cat links: the writer Eleanor Farjeon, best remembered for writing children’s books, was born in Buckingham Street. Perhaps her most famous work was the hymn ‘Morning has Broken’, popularized in the 1970s by the singer known then as Cat Stevens.