London’s canine streets: from Dog Lane to Soho

HoundsditchOur household has recently increased by one with the addition of an eight-week-old Springer Spaniel puppy, Django. Naturally that made me wonder about dog-related street names; we’ve visited many animal street names before but not specifically dogs. There aren’t very many that I can find, but here’s what I’ve got.

There is a Dog Lane in Neasden (and, entertainingly, it has a Baskerville Gardens), which takes its name from the Old Spotted Dog pub that once stood at the end of the lane. Many streets take their name from tavern signs, and those signs were often given nicknames that reflected public opinion on the merits (or representational accuracy) of the painter. In this case, the spotted dog may have been a leopard from from a family coat of arms.

Dog and Duck Yard is almost certainly from an inn sign, which referred either to the more common form of duck hunting with guns and retrievers, or possibly from one of Charles II’s sports, known in 1665 as the ‘Royal Diversion of Duck Hunting’. The fun of this diversion was to throw ducks, often with pinioned wings, into a pond and watch them try to escape from the spaniels that were sent in after them.

There was once a fair, St James’s Fair, which was of a similar nature to Bartholomew Fair (Cloth Fair), and was suppressed for the third and final time in 1764. Duck hunting was a major attraction of the fair, with bets being placed on the first dog to catch a duck. The nearby tavern was, naturally, called, the Dog and Duck.

By the beginning of the 19th century the pleasure of that type of duck hunting had begun to pall and the sport went out of fashion, leaving only the name behind.

Incidentally, there has been a Dog and Duck pub in Bateman Street since 1734 and, at one point – possibly still, though I can longer find any mention of her – the manager was a delightfully appropriately named Ms Hubbard. According to the pub’s website:

“Many famous historical figures have enjoyed the hospitality of The Dog and Duck, including John Constable, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and George Orwell. Our pub was originally built in 1734 on the site of the Duke of Monmouth’s home. The present building was built in 1897, and is considered to have one of London’s most exquisite interiors of the period, characterised by thousands of highly glazed tiles.”

The name of Dog Kennel Hill in Dulwich does derive from an association with kennels. Prince George of Denmark had kennels for his hounds here and Edward Alleyn, the Elizabeth 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.

Another theory is that an earlier landowner, one Monsieur de Canel, resided there, and Dog Kennel is a heavily anglicized version of his name.

Houndsditch is supposed (by some, and I’ve been reprimanded for airing this theory that is considered by others to be eyewash) to take its name from a moat that bounded the City wall and, according to John Stow, was where “much filth…especially dead dogs” was dumped.

Another theory about the name is that hounds (from Old English hund) were specifically hunting dogs, whereas dogs were just, well, dogs. The City Kennels, where hunting dogs were kept, were located here.

In the recent post on money-related streets, we had Pound Lane in Willesden, which was the location of a pound for stray animals, and was originally Petticote Stile Lane.

I can’t leave without a tenuous link, so we have Soho. That name is generally accepted to have come from an ancient hunting cry; apparently ‘tally ho!’ is the cry when a fox breaks cover and ‘soho!’ is when huntsmen uncouple the dogs.

Petty France, Jeremy Bentham, and UCL’s amazing auto-icon

HoundsditchThis blog (and the book-in-progress with which it is associated) promises not just the derivations of London’s street names, but also the ‘rest of the story’: stories of the streets themselves, their residents, and famous (or infamous) people associated with them. So today we are going to look at Jeremy Bentham, who willed his skeleton and body to University College London to be be preserved and displayed.

Bentham, reformer anPetty France cropd philosopher, was born in Houndsditch, lived in Crutched Friars, and died in a house in what is now Petty France (another resident of Petty France was John Cleland, author of the 18th-century erotic novel Fanny Hill). He was a strong believer in the equality of women and a proponent of the theory of Classical Utilitarian, believing that moral virtue lay in the greatest good for the greatest number.

However, his strongest London links could be considered those with University College London, an establishment of which he is (wrongly) considered to be a founder. He was held in high esteem by the actual founders, and can be viewed as, according to UCL, its spiritual father.

The auto-icon. Photo: UCL Bentham Project

But on to the amazing auto-icon: Betham willed (shortly before his death) that his body be dissected, and the skeleton preserved to form the basis of an ‘auto-icon’ upon which his mummified head would rest – the whole to be displayed at the University.

The mummification techniques those days were not up to scratch, and the result was not considered suitable for display. A wax head was created for the auto-icon, and Bentham’s own head, supposedly, rested at his feet for some time, later becoming the object of various pranks. Due to the sensitive nature of displaying human remains, the head was removed in 2002 and put into safe storage.

Bentham’s head. Photo: UCL museums

To this day, Bentham sits at the end of the South Cloisters of the UCL campus, where he can be seen 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. Today was a particularly timely day for this particular blog post, as he was removed from his cabinet for inspection, and was available for member of the public to meet him.

For those unable to meet Mr Bentham in the flesh, the university has developed an amazing virtual auto-icon, which can be viewed here.


All that glisters is definitely not gold in London street names

Yesterday we ended with a quick look at Golden Square, which is more to do with castrated animals than precious metals. So today let’s look at more precious metals and gemstones in London street names. Or not, as the case may be.
There was once a Silver Street in the City of London which did actually have a name that made sense: it was named, says Stow, from the silversmiths who lived there, and earlier forms included ‘Silvernestrate’. Shakespeare took lodgings, around 1602, on the corner of the street. Silver Place in the West End, however, may have been called that because it is close to Golden Square.
There is an Ironmonger Row in Islington, 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. Another hangout for the ironmongers was an Ironmonger Lane (near Cornhill), which was known as ‘Ysmongeres Lane’ around the turn of the 12th century.
From metals to rocks: Emerald Street reflects the ingenuity of some of those people responsible for naming and renaming streets. It was originally called Green Street, presumably either because it was close to a bowling green, or it was after a local resident. Towards the end of the 19th century there were far too many Green Streets in London and so it was given its new name.
Diamond Street in Peckham, is named, so some believe, because it forms one side of a small ‘square’ that could be considered roughly diamond-shaped. There was once another Diamond Street, built in 1890; this was, intriguingly, given its name because the plumber who built it was able to do so because of a diamond. Sad to say, any details of the plumber and his diamond have been lost in the mists of time.
(There is also a Diamond Street in Brent near to a Sapphire Road and Ruby Street; a Ruby Street in Peckham is believed to have been named after Ruby Hahn, the daughter of the area’s one-time landlord.)
Coal can be turned into diamonds and in one case gravel was turned into a garnet. Garnet Street in Wapping was upgraded into the gemstone category in 1938. The street was originally New Gravel Lane and the present Wapping Street was Old Gravel Lane. They were so called because they were part of the routes for carrying sand and gravel inland from the riverside – also taken to sea as ballast.
There is still a Gravel Lane near Houndsditch; this, along with its neighbour Stoney Lane, was probably so named because of the fact that it had, unusually, a surface other than mud. Up until the 17th century, this was relatively rare – certainly rare enough to be registered in a name.
Finally, in contrast to all these shiny metals and stones, there is Rust Square in Camberwell. That is nothing to do with oxidized metal. It is, supposedly, named for George Rust, the Bishop of Dromore, though it is not clear what his connection with the area was, Dromore being a town in Northern Ireland.

Some other stones and metals represented in London street names include Agate Road, Amethyst Road, Bronze Street, Copper Close, Coral Street, Crystal Terrace, Flint Street, Glass Street, Granite Street, and Opal Street.


I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like

Horseferry RoadFrom some of London’s eccentric men and wicked women, today is the turn of the animals with a London connection. Yesterday’s blog included Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his menagerie, including a wombat named after the man whom Rossetti had cuckolded.

EAS_3916William Hogarth was another animal-loving painter: he had a succession of pugs, the favourite of which was included in a self-portrait. Apparently Hogarth often commented on the resemblance between himself and the dog, called Trump.

Bear GardensFrom pets to animals that were the target of great cruelty: Bear Gardens in Southwark marks the site of a 17th-century bear pit, where one of the more revolting sports of earlier times – bear baiting – was staged. The pit was visited by the diarists Samuel Pepys, who described it as “a very rude and nasty pleasure”; and John Evelyn, who noted that it was a “rude and dirty pastime”.

Cockspur Street signCock fighting was another very popular sport, and Cockspur Street near Trafalgar Square is one of many London streets whose name reflects the old ‘sport’ of cock fighting. The spurs with which the birds were equipped to ensure even greater flow of blood, were made and sold in this street.

cock laneThere is also a Cock Lane in the City of London, and its intersection with Giltspur Street is where the Great Fire of 1666 finally halted. The spot is marked by the statue of a fat little boy (the Golden Boy of Pye Corner).

Houndsditch, near Aldgate, has a literal (and disgusting) derivation:: it runs along the site of a moat that bounded the City wall and, according to John Stow, it was where “much filth…especially dead dogs” was Houndsditchthrown. On a happier note, another theory about the name is that hounds (from Old English ‘hund’) were specifically hunting dogs, whereas dogs were just, well, dogs. The City Kennels, where hunting dogs were kept, were located here.

But back to pets and animals more kindly treated. Birdcage Walk near Buckingham Palace is the site of an aviary started by James I and enlarged by his grandson, Charles II (though some sources give Charles the credit for establishing it).

Birdcage WalkJames was fond of animals and in addition to the birds had a comprehensive menagerie, including crocodiles and an elephant. Charles expanded the aviary considerably with a collection of exotic birds; he was also to be seen strolling through the park, feeding the ducks and playing with his dogs

EAS_4123Do mermaids count as animals? There is a Mermaid Court in Southwark, named from an inn. The name was a common one, and especially popular for taverns in areas frequented by sailors, who had long believed in the existence of the beautiful creatures who were half woman, half fish.

Mermaid Court is not far from the south bank of the Thames, and a tavern there could have attracted its fair share of nautical drinkers. (Another, perhaps more famous, Mermaid Tavern was that on Cheapside, where Ben Jonson was a regular.)

EAS_3973Many of London’s street names derive from inns and taverns, and sometimes shops and these in turn often featured animals. Some of the quirkier names include Fox and Knot Street in the City, and Cat and Mutton Bridge in East London.

Regarding the Fox and Knot, opinion is divided as to whether the name comes from a tavern (by why the Fox and Knot is a mystery) or from the shop of a furrier who catered to ladies only – and presumably did a good trade in fox furs.

There is still a Cat and Mutton pub at the bridge, but which came first and what the original name was is not clear. There are theories that it was once called either Shoulder of Mutton and Cat or Cattle and Shoulder of Mutton. In either case, the name is likely to have been connected to the nearby canal where drovers would arrive to sell their animals.

One last ‘animal’ London connection (for now): at one point the licensed brothels of London’s Bankside were leased from the Bishops of Winchester, and the working women therein were known as ‘Winchester Geese’.

Before I forget, thank you to Doris Day who provided today’s heading; the full quote is: “I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.”