Worship Street: tenuous connections to bets, pigs and brothels

Bishopsgate mitreFollowing on from yesterday’s pig-related streets we can go, in a sense, from the ridiculous to the sublime: from hoggish to holy, starting with Worship Street in Shoreditch. The reason for starting with that street? I’m not the queen of tenuous connections for nothing: Worship Street was once called Hog Lane.

And guess what? The name has nothing to do with religion, worship, or prayers. It takes its name from an Elizabethan merchant tailor, John Worsop, who owned over six acres of land in the area. By happy coincidence, however, there was once a foundry there used by John Wesley as a place of worship. Shakespeare is reputed to have once lived here, possibly when it was still Hog Lane.

Then there’s Bishopsgate, which is named after a bishop: according to John Stow, the original London gate was named for Bishop Erkenwald, who became Bishop of London in 675. The site of the former gate is marked by a stone bishop’s mitre and, for the trivia lovers among you, the street is one of the longest in the City of London.

EAS_4093In no particular order or geographical proximity or otherwise, we move to to Pope’s Head Alley, where Lloyd’s of London was first established. The alley takes its name from a 15th-century tavern that was destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt. One of the earliest mentions of the tavern occurs in Edward IV’s reign: a wager took place as to whether a goldsmith from Alicant was as talented as one from England.

Crutched FriarsFrom there we can go to to Crutched Friars (an arbitrary choice as there are various friar-related streets), which takes its name from a holy order, the Crossed Friars. This was an Augustinian order that began in Bologna in 1169 and was established in London by Ralph Hosiar and William Sabernes in 1298. The name derived from the friars’ habits, which were blue with, usually, a red cross on the back.

And on to Dean Street, which I can quite happily count in the ‘occupations’ category as well as this religious category. It is generally agreed (and who am I to argue with historians and scholars?) to have been named as a compliment to Bishop Henry Compton, Dean of the Chapel Royal.

The good bishop was a great philanthropist and gave lie to the notion that charity begins at home. He died a poor man, having spent his money aiding those who were refugees from persecution in foreign countries, helping poor children and rebuilding hospitals and churches.
Two famous names associated with the street are Marx and Mozart.

Cardinal CapAnd of course, London street names being what they are, we have to include a little smut with the holy-sounding Cardinal Cap Alley, which in fact takes its name from a brothel, possibly named for Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. If that seems a bit incongruous, it’s not: the brothels of Bankside, which flourished for centuries, were leased from the Bishops of Winchester.

There are too many streets with churches, cathedrals, temples, and saints in their names for me to go into them here, but we could take a(nother) quick look at the area around St Paul’s Cathedral, where there is a group of streets with religious names. It is argued by some that, before the Reformation (the anti-Catholic movement originating with Martin Luther), there was a regular procession of the clergy around the cathedral.

EAS_4022This procession involved reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Paternoster Row, the Hail Mary in Ave Maria Lane, the Credo in Creed Lane, and the Amen in Amen Corner.

Incidentally, there is a Dean’s Court nearby, as well as Sermon Lane, Friar Street and – but this may be too much of a stretch, even for me – a Godliman Street.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reverential post and now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to dash off to see what I can learn about Godliman Street.

London’s coffee connections

EAS_4101As it is International Coffee Day today (National Coffee Day in the US), let’s have a look at coffee and London. Coffee follows on nicely from our last post on London’s singleton street names, as 1652 saw London’s first coffee house open in St Michael’s Alley, off Cornhill. Coffee was advertised as “a very good help to digestion, quickens the spirits, and is good against sore eyes”.Cornhill, according to London historian John Stow, takes its name “of a corn market, time out of mind there holden”. The street has literary connections including Charlotte Bronte, Daniel Defoe, and Thomas Gray. It was also once a place dear to the hearts of fences and drinkers.

EAS_4102One of London’s strongest coffee connections, at Change Alley in the City of London, the name of which is an abbreviation of ‘Exchange Alley’ – from the Royal Exchange. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Exchange was so crowded that many of the brokers transacted their business in local coffee houses, Jonathan’s Coffee House in particular. Jonathan’s was also the scene of the disastrous ‘South Sea Bubble’ scheme, speculation that ruined the purses and lives of thousands of investors.

Samuel Pepys (who pre-dated the Bubble) mentions the coffee house in his diary: “At noon by coach to the ’Change with Mr. Coventry, thence to the Coffee-house with Captain Coeke”.

Another coffee connection lies in Dean Street, where Number 33 was the site of a coffee house known as Jack’s, which was frequented by artists and writers such as Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and Oliver Goldsmith. It later became Walker’s hotel, where it is alleged that Nelson slept the night before he sailed to the battle of Trafalgar.

In the 18th century, part of St John’s Gate was a coffee house run by Richard Hogarth, father of the painter William Hogarth. It was also the base for the Gentleman’s Magazine, a publication edited by Edward Cave and which provided the first use of the word ‘magazine’ as we know it today. Some of the more frequent visitors of the time (and contributors to the magazine) were Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and David Garrick.

And, last but not least, the inn at La Belle Sauvage Yard once also served as a coffee house.

Incidentally, there is, alas, no Coffee Street, Lane, Yard or anything else in London, though there are many scattered about the US.

London street names and the three men in a tub

Lately we’ve looked at a bevy of wicked women, a clutch of bad boys, and a menagerie of animals, all lurking within the pages of London’s history and its names. Now we can turn to some of the occupations that feature in London’s street names, starting with the three men in the tub of the nursery rhyme: the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.

Baker Street, best known as the residence of the fictional Sherlock Holmes (topical, given that BBC’s drama Sherlock recently won various Emmy Awards), has been covered in an earlier post. Writer and politician Edward Bulmer-Lytton was born here and other, real, residents, included William Pitt the Younger and Dusty Springfield.

Butcher Row, east of the City of London, was once in the heart of a riverside village and provided a route to the north and east. The name could have come from the fact that the row would have played an important part in supplying victuals, particularly meat, to the ships docked at the nearby wharfs. It would, possibly, have been inhabited by foreign meat traders who were not allowed into the City guild and therefore set up business outside of the City limits.

Building along the row had begun by the late 15th century and one of the rows notable points is that part of its surface was metalled (paved) – a feature not common in medieval times.

Ward of CandlewickThere’s not actually a Candlestick Maker Street in London, but there are various Chandler and Chandlers streets, ways, and rows. Possibly the original candlestick maker street, however, was Cannon Street, which took its name not from artillery. As London historian John Stow pointed out, it was originally Candlewright or Candlewick street, so called, “either of Chandlers or makers of candles”. It could also have been named from the wicks of those candles.

In any event, the original name lives on in the Ward of Candlewick.The wards were systems in medieval London that allowed for smaller units within the city to be self-governing and there are still 25 of them in existence.)

Another occupational name is Dean Street, named for Bishop Henry Compton, Dean of the Chapel Royal. Among the famous names associated with the street are Mozart, who played the harpsichord at 21 Dean Street when he was seven years old. (He was, in the interests of equality, we should point out, accompanied by his four-year-old sister.) Another famous resident was Karl Marx, who began to write Das Kapital when he was living at number 28.

There are many other names that come from, or seem to come from occupations, such as Pardoner Street, named for one of Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims, and associated with pardons, testicles, and hog’s turds.

One last name for today is the intriguingly named Pimp Hall Park; this seemingly ‘tell it like it is’ name is nothing to do with prostitution or procurement. It is a field name, a variation on ‘Pympis’ or ‘Pympes’, from a Reynold Pympe whose family owned land in the area in the 16th century.

Marx, Mozart, and a philanthropic dean

Communist Manifesto21 February 1848 saw the publication in London of Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei or, in English, Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx. Marx, who spent the last years of his life in London, a few of them in Soho’s Dean Street.

The street is generally agreed to have been named as a compliment to Bishop Henry Compton, Dean of the Chapel Royal. The sixth and youngest son of an earl, Compton was educated at Oxford, spent several years travelling abroad – mainly in Italy, though he was a dedicated anti-papist – and did not return to his native land until the Restoration of Charles II. Compton became Bishop of Oxford in 1674 and then at the end of 1675 was translated to the See of London.

Compton’s rapid promotion within the church and his influence in Charles II’s court (he was responsible for the education of the king’s nieces, the princesses Mary and Anne and also performed their wedding ceremonies) were attributed to his hostility towards Catholics.

Above all, however, Compton was noted for his philanthropy: he spent his own money aiding those who were refugees from persecution in foreign countries, helping poor children and rebuilding hospitals and churches. The generous bishop died a poor man himself, having spent all his money on these acts of charity. Old Compton Street, which intersects Dean Street, is also named after him.

Mozart as a boy
Mozart as a boy

Dean Street has many associations with the fine arts world: in 1746, at number 21 Dean Street, the seven-year-old Mozart played the harpsichord, accompanied by his four-year-old sister. Number 33 was the site of a coffee house known as Jack’s, which was frequented by artists and writers such as Johnson, Reynolds, and Goldsmith. It later became Walker’s hotel, where it is alleged that Nelson slept the night before he sailed to the battle of Trafalgar.

Karl Marx lived at number 28 from 1850 (or 1851) to 1856, where he began to write Das Kapital. (A Greater London Plaque was erected on the site and some sources claim that the date of 1851 on the plaque is incorrect.)

Karl Marx
Karl Marx

Marx and his family – wife Jenny, children, and maidservant Helene – lived there in grinding poverty. Most of the money they did have was contributed by Marx’s friend Engels, and Marx seldom went outside because his clothes were often in the pawnshop rather than on his back. When one of his daughters died, the family had to borrow £2 for the coffin.

The question as to whether, or how, they could afford to pay a maidservant may perhaps be best addressed, if not answered, by one who said, somewhat acidly, that Marx “further complicated his struggles against capitalism by making his servant pregnant”.

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