London’s clothing streets: from Boot Street to Whalebone Court

Buckle Street2Before Boot Street (alphabetically speaking) there are various Ascot Houses, Courts, and Lodges, but they are all buildings rather than streets. So let’s move along alphabetically to Boot Street near Old Street station in Islington.

One thing I have learned about this street is that it was used as a location for the filming of The Crying Game: the exterior of the Metro Pub, where Dil sings the title song, was an empty property behind a pub on the corner with Coronet Street.

Buckle Street, in East London (not far from Amazon Street, Batty Street and Coke Street) may, like Bucklersbury, take its name from the Bukerel (or Buckerell or Bucherel) family who were London property owners in the 12th century. The family had a fortified mansion, or bury, on the banks of the Walbrook – one of London’s now subterranean rivers, which gave its name to a ward and to the street that still bears its name.

(By the 13th century it was less than salubrious as it had to keep being cleared of dung.) Stow refers to “a manor and tenements pertaining to one Buckle, who dwelt there, and kept his courts”.

Cloak LaneSpeaking of the Walbrook and dung, that takes us to Cloak Lane, which has featured a few times in this blog and is also included in the ‘scatalogical London’ category. Fittingly, it once led over the Walbrook, when it was called Horseshoe Bridge. The current name first appears in the late 17th century and is likely to have derived from the Latin ‘cloaca’, or sewer.
Clothier Street cropA more glamorous, though unlikely in the extreme, explanation is that it refers to the cloak dropped by Lady Elizabeth Hatton as she was carried away from a party by Old Nick from Bleeding Heart Yard. Similarly, Shoe Lane is supposed to be where she dropped her shoe; again, this is – alas – unlikely. More likely is the theory that an early reference to it as ‘Scholanda’ (Show-land) means that the lane was once a place for the setting out and showing of water-borne merchandise to tax collectors and customers.

Other explanations are that Scholanda could also have meant ‘land shaped like a shoe’ and that the lane led to such a piece of land. Alternatively, it could have taken its name from an ancient well –
Showelle – at the north end of the lane.

Give me Lady Elizabeth any time.

Next, we have Cloth Court, Cloth Fair, and Cloth Street, all of which presumably get their name in the same way. From the 12th century to the 19th century a three-day fair – Bartholomew Fair – was held in the Smithfield area; money charged on tolls for goods was a source of income for the priory of St Bartholomew.

The fair was, early on, essentEAS_4009ially a trade fair for the woollen and drapery industries, with Italian and Flemish cloth merchants, though it later became a rowdy free-for-all. By the early 19th century, pickpockets and brawlers dominated, and the fair was discontinued in 1855.

Incidentally, 41 Cloth Fair, built between 1597 and 1614, is one of the only houses in the City to have escaped the flames and lays claim to being the oldest London house in existence.

From cloth to clothiers: Clothier Street (also known once as Crab Court and Carter Street), near Houndsditch has a connection to the rag trade that goes back to Elizabethan times when it was famous as a gathering area for “sellers of old apparel”. An official Clothes Exchange was established there in 1875 and the current name was assigned in 1906.

Petticoat Lane viewNot far away is Middlesex Street, otherwise known as Petticoat Lane. The earlier, 17th-century, name could be from silk weavers, who would have made petticoats, and who settled in the area; or from the secondhand clothes dealers who had begun to trade in the lane even back then.

Henry Mayhew, a 19th-century social researcher, journalist, and playwright, said of the lane that to look down it was “to look down a vista of many-coloured garments”. Less poetically, FH Habben, a contemporary of Mayhew, and a somewhat curmudgeonly scholar of London’s streets, stated firmly that the name was “The English form, I presume, of petit court, the little short lane.”

Fashion Street is nothing to do with fashion but takes its name from the Fasson brothers, Thomas and Lewis, who owned the land upon which the street was built in the 1650s. On second thought, there is also a clothing connection of sorts: Thomas was a skinner.

Hanger Lane in West London was called Hanger Hill in 1710; it was the site of a wood called ‘le Hangrewood’ in the 14th century. The word comes from the Old English ‘hangra’, meaning a wooded hill with clinging steep slopes.

Hat & Mitre Court, little more than a slight gap between buildings, doubles up on the headgear theme, as ‘mitre’ is an ecclesiastical hat of sorts. The second half of the name comes from an 18th-century tavern called the Mitre, a common tavern name, especially in areas, such as this (the priory of St John was nearby), with a large ecclesiastical population.

Why hat as well is not clear , though it was also common in signs, both for hatters’ shops and for taverns. Possibly a new landlord of the Mitre once had a tavern called the Hat and was reluctant to give up the name and possibly lose customers. Combining the names of two taverns was a ruse often employed for landlords to get the best of both worlds as far as customers went.

From head to foot with Hosier Lane, which is exactly as it sounds. In the 14th century the hosiers lived and worked here, making their age’s equivalent of today’s trousers: fashionable garments that replaced the robes of previous generations. These hose were brightly dyed, often with legs in contrasting colours.

The houses in the lane were, at one time, nearly all built of timber, probably dating back to the 17th century. There was a barber’s shop on the corner, in which was displayed a dagger said to be the one with which Walworth killed Wat Tyler, virtually on that spot.

Keeping up with the clothes theme, in the 18th century, the lane was a resort spot during the time of Bartholomew Fair, when “all the houses were made public for tippling”.

Sadly, Naked Boy Court no longer exists, but takes its name from a sign that was supposed to have been a comment on the rapidly-changing fashions of the time. Apparently the sign painters had so much difficulty keeping up with them that the artist responsible for this one didn’t even try.

Silk Street apparently comes from the silk weaving carried on in 17th-century London largely by French refugees who settled in the Spitalfields area. By the 19th century they had been joined by their English counterparts from the north, who set up silk factories. Many of them lived in this street, which was finally named in recognition of that fact.

Skinners LaneSkin Market Place behind the Globe Theatre takes its names from London’s (legal) skin trade: “the skins from nearly all the sleep slaughtered in London” were sold in the market here. Skinners Lane on the other side of the Thames, was known as Maiden Lane and renamed for much the same reason, except that the skins in this case were furs.

There is also a Skinner Street; although one theory is that in the early 19th century an Alderman Skinner was the driving force behind building the street, it is more likely that it is named because in 1630 eight acres of land were bequeathed to the Worshipful Company of Skinners by John Meredith.

Wardrobe Terrace cropWardrobe Place and Wardrobe Terrace take their name from a house that belonging to Sir John Beauchamp was purchased in 1359 by Edward II for use as the storeroom for the royal clothing worn on state occasions. In Shakespeare’s will he bequeathed, to his daughter, land near the Wardrobe.

Weaver Street, like Silk Street, is named for the weaving industry that became prevalent in this area, especially after the 19th century. There is also a Weavers Lane, on the south bank of the Thames, probably so named for the same reason.

Whalebone CourtFinally, Whalebone Court, according to an 18th-century source, was so called because whalebone was boiled there, presumably in preparation for it being made into corsets.

London’s occupational streets: from apothecaries to wrestlers

London’s street names are full of those relating to, or seeming to relate to, occupations, and an earlier post looked at the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, as well as Dean Street, Pardoner Street, and Pimp Hall Park.

Today let’s look at some more occupations, trades, and titles in London street names, starting with Apothecary Street, south of Fleet Street. Many ‘trade’ streets take their name from an association with one of the City Livery Companies, and Apothecary Street is one of them.

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London was founded in 1617 by James I to prevent unqualified people from making medicine. His Royal Apothecary established the first hall here in 1633. It was destroyed over 30 years later in the Great Fire of London, which started in Pudding Lane, and was rebuilt in Blackfriars Lane in 1786.

Czar Street in Deptford was named for Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, who lodged here at the end of the 17th century, supposedly learn shipbuilding at the local shipyard, famous since the reign of Henry VIII. His – originally delighted – landlord was the diarist John Evelyn, who had moved to Deptford to escape the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.

Evelyn had let the propery, Sayes Court, to Captain (later Admiral) John Benbow, which he began to regret, writing that he had “the mortification every day of seeing much of my former labours and expense there impairing for want of a more polite tenant”.

To make matters worse, Benbow in turn sublet the property to the Czar of Russia who delighted in being trundled in a wheelbarrow through Evelyn’s holly hedge. Evelyn’s manservant wrote that the house was “full of people, and right nasty”.

Evelyn later writes sadly of his “now ruined garden, thanks to the Czar of Moscovy”. The government later agreed to compensate him and Christopher Wren, along with the King’s gardener, was assigned the job of assessing the situation and supervising the repairs, though much of the damage caused was irreparable. The extent of the damage was assessed at 162 pounds and 7 shillings – an amount that would equate to thousands of pounds today.

Dame Street in Islington was named for Dame Anne Packington (nee Dacres), who is also remembered in nearby Packington Street. This area was once part of Middlesex; when the canons of St Paul’s who owned the land, divided it into six parishes and disposed of much of it, they retained the prebendal land of Islington.

The Clothworkers Company became one of the largest landowners here, especially after Dame Anne’s death in 1563, as she bequeathed 60 acres of land to them.

So far, so good on names making sense, but Dancer Road in Parsons Greet is nothing at all to do with dance, The road was named in 1881 after the Dancer (or Dauncer) family who had connections with the area since the early 17th century.
In 1656 one Nathaniel Dancer or Dauncer) left a fund for the poor of Fulham, to be paid out of two acres of land. The family also had a market garden in this area until 1884.

Goldsmith’s Row and Goldsmith Street do take their name from goldsmiths. The goldsmiths plied their trade in Goldsmith’s Row and Lombard street but, according to Walter Thornbury in Old and New London, “In 1622 the traders of the Goldsmiths’ Company began to complain that alien traders were creeping into and alloying the special haunts of the trade, Goldsmiths’ Row and Lombard Street; and that 183 foreign goldsmiths were selling counterfeit jewels, engrossing the business and impoverishing its members.”

Goldsmith Street is near to where, in 1339, a merchant’s house was purchased; this house was on the site of where Goldsmith’s Hall still stands today. The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths is number five in the City Livery Companies, and by Elizabethan times they owned much of the property in the area.

EAS_4083Grocers’ Hall Court, unsurprisingly, takes its name from the fact that the Grocers Hall Company has been there since 1427. The company, once called the Pepperers, became the Grocers in 1345 and are second in the list of City Livery Companies. They were a powerful company for centuries but their power was diminished somewhat in 1617 when the Apothecaries seceded and took the profitable drug trade with them.

Haberdasher Street takes its name from a bequest by Robert Aske, silk merchant and member of the Haberdashers’ Company. He left land and money to the Company; it was used to establish a school in 1690.

Hosier Lane was a medieval streets with specialized tradesmen. In the 14th century the hosiers lived and worked here, making their age’s equivalent of today’s trousers: fashionable garments that replaced the robes of previous generations. These hose were brightly dyed, often with legs in contrasting colours.

The houses in the lane were, at one time, nearly all built of timber, probably dating back to the 17th century. There was a barber’s shop on the corner, in which was displayed a dagger said to be the one with which Walworth killed Wat Tyler, virtually on that spot.

Ironmonger Row was once largely inhabited by ironmongers, the row was built in the 18th century on land bequeathed to the Ironmongers Company in 1527 by Thomas Mitchell, ironmonger and citizen of London. the bequest involved 10 acres, so there was lots of room for other streets to be built, and others were Mitchell Street, Helmet Row, and Lizard Street.

Jockeys Fields does have an equestrian connection, albeit with a rather more sedate pace than horse racing. The fields in question may have formed part of the route taken by the mayor and other dignitaries – on horseback – to inspect the City Conduit, built in the 13th century to provide drinking water piped from the River Tyburn to the City of London.

This annual event later developed into a grand mayoral hunt, but use of the conduit ceased after the Great Fire of 1666.

Managers Street in the Docklands area does take its name from managers. In this case, the managers of the Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB), formed by legislation to deal with London’s sick poor. TheThe MAB established floating smallpox hospitals, and Managers Street led to the wharf used for these ships.

EAS_4010Pageantmaster Court takes its name from the Pageantmaster who organizes the procession of the Lord Mayors show. This duty includes inspecting the route and ensures that all runs smoothly and to time on the day.

Ropemaker Street was one of many ‘rope walks’ that existed on the outskirts of medieval London. Lengths of rope were twisted as long as possible, and this street was longer and straighter than many of the time. The ropemakers were living there up until the 17th century. Daniel Defoe died, impoverished and unknown, in lodgings in this street.

Wrestlers Court is from, well, wrestlers. Wrestling was a popular sport in London; Pepys mentions it in his diary when he writes, “Thence homewards by coach, through Moorefields, where we stood awhile, and saw the wrestling.”
John Stow writes of it being “against the wall of the city… a large inn or court called the Wrestlers, of such a sign”.

We shouldn’t really end this occupation-themed post without mentioning Occupation Road in south London. This, however, comes from occupation as in occupied by, rather than career. At one time occupation of the land went with rights of access: this was the way to a strip of land, used for cultivation and owned by a Walworth villager.