Metallic London streets from Brass Talley Alley to Silver Street

The revisitation of my Christmas lurgy has halted proceedings on this website for a while but I am now – I hope – beyond the lying on the couch bleating feebly stage and onto the coughing and sounding worse than I feel stage. At least there is a wider audience than my husband and the pets for the latter stage.

But I digress. On to London street names and the wonderful Brass Talley Alley. Thanks to the very interesting blog ‘View from the mirror’, I have learned where that name came from: something that has, for some time, been vexing me.

The abovementioned blog described a project called ‘Brass Tally Men: An Oral History of London’s Dock Workers’. This project, set up by educational charity digital:works, is an oral history focusing on the fascinating history of the people who worked on the docks of London from the 1930s up until the closing of the docks from the 1970s.

Another website, eastlondonhistory.com, has this to say: “”Before the Dock Labour Scheme was created in 1946, bringing with it at least some guarantee of pay, the dockers were each given a brass tally, oval in shape. They would hand this in when given a job for the day, and collect it again when given their pay. If they didn’t get a day’s work they would have to sign on at the local Labour Exchange, bearing their brass tally as proof.”

It all makes sense now. The trouble is, as I have mentioned before, in looking at the map again to see just where the alley is, I found a Needleman Street, a Poolman Street, and a Garter Way. Now I have to fight the urge to dash off and research them.

(Incidentally, apologies to whoever provided me with this photo of the Brass Talley Alley street sign; I can’t for the life of me find a credit for it.)

Instead, let’s have a quick look at some other metal street names, some of which are logical and others which are anything but.

There was once a Silver Street, which no longer exists, but was, says Stow, named from the silversmiths who lived there. Legal evidence, surviving from May 1612, shows that Shakespeare gave evidence in a lawsuit about a marriage dowry of £60. The evidence confirms his presence as a lodger at a house on Silver Street in the Jacobean period.

There is also a Silver Place in the West End, which may have been so named because it is not that far away from Golden Square.

Golden Square, on the other hand, is nothing to do with gold: the site upon which Golden Square stands was known as Gelding’s Cross in the early 17th century when the land was used for farming. Building work on the square was begun in the 1670s and, as it was designed for the gentry, a rather more refined name was needed.

Ironmonger Row, once largely inhabited by ironmongers, was built in the 18th century on land bequeathed to the Ironmongers Company in 1527 by Thomas Mitchell, ironmonger and citizen of London. There is also an Ironmonger Lane in EC2, which was known as ‘Ysmongeres Lane’ around the turn of the 12th century and was also the haunt of ironmongers. The Ironmongers Company had their original hall here until the 15th century, when they acquired buildings in Fenchurch Street and moved there, along with most of the ironmongers.

By way of contrast, there is Rust Square in Camberwell, which is nothing to do with metal, rusty or otherwise. It is, supposedly, named for George Rust, the Bishop of Dromore. Dromore is in Northern Ireland. Go figure.

It just occurred to me: I could include Leadenhall Street in this post. Leadenhall is basically as it sounds – from a grand mansion with a lead roof. The mansion, built by Sir Hugh de Neville, was eventually acquired by Dick Whittington, otherwise known as Sir Richard Whittington, Mayor of London, who then granted it to the City.

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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.

Ironmonger Row: lizards, Formosans and laudanum

Following on from yesterday’s post about livery companies and their connections with London’s streets, let’s revisit the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, partly because I gave them such short shrift and partly because of a (tenuous) connection to a great eccentric.

To start with, the company does give its name to Ironmonger Lane near St Paul’s cathedral. It was was once known as ‘Ysmongeres Lane’ around the turn of the 12th century and was also the haunt of ironmongers. The Ironmongers Company had their original hall here until the 15th century, when they acquired buildings in Fenchurch Street and moved there, along with most of the ironmongers.

It also gives its name to Ironmonger Row further north; 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 more streets to be built, and others were Mitchell Street, Helmet Row, and Lizard Street.

The derivation of the name Mitchell Street is pretty obvious, but Helmet Row and Lizard Street may give pause to think. Unless you see the coat of arms of the Ironmongers Company, which features two salamanders (lizards) and a helmet.

But back to Ironmongers Row and perhaps its most eccentric inhabitant: George Psalmanazar, who was, perhaps, as famous for being an enthusiastic user of laudanum as for being a fraud. He claimed to be the first Formosan (Formosa being Taiwan today) to visit Europe and wrote extensively about the country in his book An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan.

As the name alone suggests, it was as fictional as it was detailed. A couple of its highlights were the ‘facts’ that men walked naked except for a gold or silver plate to cover their genitals and that Formosans were polygamous and husbands had a right to eat their wives for infidelity.

Psalmanazar lived to be eighty-four and attributed his good health to the “ten or twelve spoonfuls of laudanum, and very often more” that he drank every night.

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.