Farthing Alley, Hare Court, and other Parliament-connected London streets

I’ve been holding off but it’s finally time to look at some streets with parliamentary connections of one kind or another.

Barbon Alley was named for Nicholas Barbon, a property developer and the son of Praisegod Barebone, the Parliamentary nominee for the City of London and the man for whom Oliver Cromwell’s Barebones Parliament was named. 

Parliament had been pared down by the simple method used by Colonel Thomas Pride to prevent Parliament from agreeing on the Treaty of Newport to reinstate King Charles I: Pride blocked 231 known supporters of the treaty from entering Parliament and imprisoned 45 of them for a few days. The remaining free members then became the Rump Parliament.

Oliver Cromwell became disenchanted when it became clear that the main concern of the Rump Parliament was to create legislation that would ensure the survival of the Parliament. He lost patience after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and attended a sitting of Parliament to lambaste the Rump Members. “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” he declared.

Barebone’s Parliament was then established: 144 Members of Parliament who were not elected, but selected by Cromwell’s officers for their religious fervour.

Not far away is Whitehall, location of the palace of Whitehall, which was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698 when most of its structures were destroyed by fire. Henry VIII was a fan of the bear baiting, and had a bear pit built in the grounds of Whitehall palace so that royalty could watch the sport in comfort from the palace windows. Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, was also a big fan and overruled parliament when the members tried to ban bear baiting on Sundays.

Bridle Lane in Soho takes its name from John Brydall, a law writer who became secretary to a Master of the Rolls (the second most senior judge in England and Wales after the Lord Chief Justice), who rejoiced in the name of Sir Harbottle Grimston. Sir Harbottle was a Member of Parliament during Charles I’s reign and was a great defender of the privileges of the House of Commons following Charles I’s unsuccessful attempt in 1642 to arrest five members. He made a fiery speech in defence of the rights of MPs in which he spoke of “the drooping Spirits of men groaning under the burthen of tyrannicall oppression inflicted on them unjustly and maliciously by unmercifull and wicked men that have usurped to themselves places and offices of power and authority both in State and Church”.

There is a Farthing Alley in Bermondsey which took its name from Aleyn Ferthing, a Southwark representative in the 14th-century parliament.

Hare Court, part of London’s Inner Temple, was named for Sir Nicholas Hare, who paid for the building of the court. Hare Master of Rolls to Queen Mary whose Parliament, on the 12th of November 1555, re-established Catholicism. (The restoration of Catholicism lasted only a short time; in 1558, on Mary’s death her half-sister Elizabeth I reversed it.)

Milk Street was the birthplace of Thomas More, who entered Parliament in 1504, was knighted in 1521 and became Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor in 1529 following the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. More was later to oppose the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also refuse to take an oath renouncing the authority of the pope over that of the king. That led to him being tried and convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Let’s finish not with a street, but with a tower: the Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is located. At the top of the tower is a light that was installed at the wishes of Queen Victoria so that she could see which of her Members of Parliament were sitting after dark.

London’s money-related streets: Allfarthing Lane to Pound Lane

There have been passing mentions to money, coins and other currency in this blog, but I don’t seem to recall a specifically money-themed post. Now that I am over my shame about King Cole and Ursula (I recovered quickly), let’s look at the filthy lucre in London’s streets.

First of all, we have Allfarthing Lane in Wandsworth; nothing to do with money, this lane derives its name from the manor of Alferthyng, upon which site it is located. Healf-feorthung in Old English means ‘half a fourth’ and was an indication of a small piece of land.

EAS_4102Change Alley, mentioned recently in the nautical-themed post as the street where the Marine Society was formed, 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 (the setting for the South Street Bubble) in particular.

Coin Street in Lambeth takes its name from a royal mint established here around 1543 at the home of Henry VIII’s brother-in-law Charles Brandon. (Brandon was consoled for the loss of his home with a town house, which formerly belonged to the Bishop of Norwich, in the Strand.) In 1833 a number of coins were found in a nearby field. The nearby Mint Street also marks the royal mint, which was used until its demolition in 1557; smaller houses were then built in the area.

Until the early 18th century the Mint area was a criminal quarter, a recognized sanctuary for thieves and debtors, and a haunting ground for marriage brokers. In John Gay’s 1728 The Beggars’ Opera, there was a character referred to as Matt of the Mint.

Clink Street
View of Clink Street

Farthing Alley, on the edge of Bermondsey, is the sole survivor of a pair of quaintly-named pair of alleys: Farthing and Halfpenny. The names, like Allfarthing Lane, were an indication of their size. Or, if you prefer, it was named for Aleyn Ferthing, a Southwark representative in the 14th-century.

New Change near Cheapside was formerly Old Change, originally just Change (it became Old in 1293); it took its name from a building where bullion was stored before being taken to the Mint to be coined.

Pennyfields, in Poplar, was recorded as Penny Field in 1663; the name was probably an indication of the rental level. At the turn of the century the Limehouse area, centring around Pennyfields, was London’s Chinatown, considered to be be a hive of crime and opium dens.

The writer Arnold Bennett visited the area, in the company of a police inspector, in 1925. “We saw no vice whatsoever,” he remarked. The worst that he saw was tea-drinking in restaurants at around eleven o’clock in the evening . The people looked decent, he added, and there were a few “nice-looking prostitutes”.

EAS_3905Pound Lane in Willesden has an affluent-sounding name is nothing to do with money: it was the location of a pound for stray animals, and was once called Petticote Stile Lane.

I am going to cheat and include Clink Street in Southwark, on the basis that money clinks. This is a centuries-old name that still lives on in modern idiom when people talk about being put ‘in the clink’, or in prison. The name dates back to the prison there as early as the 14th century, but there is no clear derivation of the name.

The most popular theory is that ‘clink’ was the sound made when the irons when the blacksmith’s hammer secured the irons around the wrists or ankles of the prisoners. Another theory is that the Flemish word ‘klink’ means ‘latch’, and may have referenced that on the door of the prison.