London’s culinary streets: Hop Gardens to Lime Street

We left off our culinary posts at Honey Lane, about which which one of my readers and helpful critics has commented: “I’ve always been suspicious of Honey Lane’s etymology. Honey just doesn’t seem a sufficiently high volume commodity to name a street after. Bread, Milk, Fish, Wood, Candles and even Poultry would be bought most days by the citizens but honey …? Maybe.

“Ekwall agrees that the honey was made there but this seems unlikely too. Even in medieval times, the area around Cheapside would have yielded slim pickings in terms of wild flowers compared to the countryside just a couple of miles away.”

So I guess I’ll keep looking into the etymology of Honey Lane.

Hop Gardens cropAnother of my ‘systems’ has been upset: I had been considering doing culinary (food) and then bibendiary (drinks) but I’m not sure there are enough of the latter so I’ll include them all in together.

And we start with Hop Gardens, off St Martin’s Lane. According to the Survey of London (as published by the London County Council, not the one written by John Stow), “Prior to 1649 it was known as Jenefer’s Alley from the occupant of a house at the western end, Roland Jenefer.” It was later called Fendalls Alley, and then from 1656 The Flemish Hop Garden, so it was presumably named for a tavern of that name.

This one is cheating big time (as we not only have a brand name but one that is not spelled quite right) and I have covered it a few times before, but I can’t resist at least mentioning Kitcat Terrace. This commemorates the Reverend Henry James Kitcat, rector of St Mary’s Bow from 1904 to 1921. The name derives from Kitcott, a place name in Devon. So it’s nothing to do with the chocolate bar, but there was once a Kit-Kat Club comprised of Whig Patriots dedicated to ensuring that Protestants would continue on the throne after the reign of William III.

Lavender Sweep
Photo courtesy of

Lavender Hill in south London (and I can feel MattF reading over my shoulder as I write this) is so named because of the lavender was grown in the area’s 18th-century market gardens. There are also a Lavender Road, Lavender Sweep, Lavender Terrace, and Lavender Walk nearby. That’s a lot of lavender.

From hops and lavender to limes, but not the edible kind: Lime Street, an ancient street that is serves as the location of headquarters of Lloyd’s of London.

The street was Limestrate in the 12th century, and one of the documents in which it appears also mentions one ‘Ailnoth the limeburner’, so it seems safe to assume that it was a street where lime was burned and sold. (There is also a Limeburner Lane in London, presumably named for similar reasons.)

EAS_4130There is, as ever, a conflicting theory and that is that the name derives from a row of lime trees that ran along it. Possibly, but somehow a row of lime trees does not seem likely in 12th-century London.

In the 17th century there was a famous robbery, and subsequent execution of the thief, one Colonel James Turner, in Lime Street. According to the Newgate Calendar, “There was one Mr Francis Tryon, a great merchant, who lived in Lime Street, whom Colonel Turner knew to be very rich”. Turner and his accomplices bound and gagged Tryon in his bed and stole jewels from the warehouse and cash from the house, all to the tune of five thousand nine hundred and forty-six pounds four shillings and threepence.

It appears that Turner was very charismatic and, though his guilt was proved conclusively, “all who knew him wondered at the fact”.

Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on the day of Turner’s execution that he sent his wife to his aunt’s house, in the area of Lime Street, to save him a good place for viewing the execution. He estimated that 12,000-14,000 people were in the street to watch.

When the time came, says Pepys, “And there I got for a shilling to stand upon the wheel of a cart, in great pain, above an houre before the execution was done; he delaying the time by long discourses and prayers one after another, in hopes of a reprieve; but none came, and at last was flung off the ladder in his cloake. A comely-looked man he he was, and kept his countenance to the end: I was sorry to see him.”

Not, presumably, sorry enough to have held off watching the execution.

London’s feline streets: Cat and Mutton Bridge to Pope’s Head Alley

Catherine Wheel AlleyIt seemed only fair, after a dog-related post, to include our feline friends; it has been a bit of a challenge, however, and I have had to stretch tenuous to new lengths.

Suitably feline is Cat and Mutton bridge in Hackney, where there is still a Cat and Mutton pub. One version of the name is that it was originally Shoulder of Mutton and Cat from the ‘cats’ or coal barges that would have gone under the bridge on the nearby Regents Canal. Another version (on the pub’s own website) is that it was originally the Cattle and Shoulder of Mutton; also from the “many drovers and agricultural workers arriving in London to sell there various beasts in the markets in what now is known as the city”.

The old inn sign, at one time, had two verses on it:

Pray, Puss, do not tare,
Because the mutton is so rare


Pray, Puss do not claw,
Because the mutton is so raw

In the recent saintly street signs post, we looked at Catherine Wheel Alley, which takes its name from a tavern. During the time of the Puritans, when overtly religious symbols were frowned on, most landlords of such taverns changed the name to the Cat and Wheel.

Kitcat Terrace in Bow commemorates the Reverend Henry James Kitkat, rector of St Mary’s Bow from 1904 to 1921. The name derives from Kitcott, a place name in Devon. There was once a Kit-Kat Club, founded in 1700 by a bookseller called Jacob Tonson, and taking its name from the proprietor (Christopher (Kit) Kat, whose name is also given as Cat, Katt, and even Catling ) of a pastry-house in Shire Lane off Fleet Street, where the members used to dine.

Alexander Pope whimsically referred to the club and its name in verse:

Whence deathless Kit-Cat took its name
Few critics can unriddle
Some say from Pastry Cook it came,
And some from Cat and Fiddle

Sadly, there is no Cat and Fiddle street.

EAS_4066Bow brings us nicely to the first tenuous cat connection: Elbow Lane in the City of London, now called, less interestingly, College Street. In the 16th century it a street that ran west and then suddenly turned south, according to London historian John Stow, and was “therefore of that bending called Elbow Lane”.

The reason it was named College Street was to commemorate a college founded by Dick Whittington or, properly, Sir Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of the City of London.One legend about him is that attempted to flee the city in order to escape a menial job where he was beaten and that he was persuaded to return by the sound of the Bow Bells promising him that he would be Mayor of London. And everyone knows the other legend: that he went to London with his faithful cat to seek his fortune.

EAS_4093During the reign of King Edward IV, there was a kind of ‘engrave-off’ between English goldsmiths and their foreign rivals, which took place at the Pope’s Head tavern (now Pope’s Head Alley). According to Old and New London, “The challenge was to engrave four puncheons of steel (the breadth of a penny sterling) with cat’s heads and naked figures in high relief and low relief; Oliver Davy, the Englishman, won, and White Johnson, the Alicant goldsmith, lost his wager of a crown and a dinner to the Company.”

And the last of the very tenuous cat links: the writer Eleanor Farjeon, best remembered for writing children’s books, was born in Buckingham Street. Perhaps her most famous work was the hymn ‘Morning has Broken’, popularized in the 1970s by the singer known then as Cat Stevens.

London’s great names: Kitcat Terrace and Clotworthy Skeffington

Once again, apologies for the gap in posts on this blog; I am trying to work out a system that means posting something at least once a week; daily is proving to be something of a challenge and less frequently than weekly means losing momentum.

But enough about me. I’ve been reading up on some of the fascinating people who, in one way or another, have contributed something to my knowledge of London streets.

Some of these people are fascinating by virtue of their names: Sir Harbottle Grimston, for instance; and Praisegod Barebone (who was demurely named compared with his brothers). And Clotworthy Skeffington, of course, more of whom shortly.

Which brings us back to people who have made a contribution to London’s history, such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who lived in Covent Garden and has a (tenuous, of course) connection with Kitcat Terrace in Bow, East London.

The delightfully named Kitcat Terrace rather sedately commemorates the Reverend Henry James Kitcat, rector of St Mary’s Bow from 1904 to 1921. The name derives from Kitcott, a place name in Devon.

Ok, the connection is tenuous enough that she doesn’t really have a connection with the terrace, but rather with the Kit-Kat Club, founded in 1700 by a bookseller called Jacob Tonson. The club was comprised of Whig Patriots dedicated to ensuring that Protestants would continue on the throne after the reign of William III, and also to encouraging the fine arts.

The club had a yearly toast to honour a lady of the day whom the members wished to honour. The toast was elected by ballot and the lady’s name was written on the club’s drinking glasses with a diamond. (Presumably they got through an awful lot of drinking glasses.)

Lady Mary’s father, Evelyn Pierrepont, 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, took her to the club when she was a child, and she was made the toast for the year. Apparently, in her old age, she said that it had been the happiest day of her life: “Petted, praised, fondled, and fed with sweetmeats.”

Toasts and sweetmeats notwithstanding, Lady Mary is perhaps best known for the letters she wrote when she was in Turkey, wife to Edward Wortley Montagu, the British Ambassador in Istanbul.

And a little sidenote to history: apparently, at the time of her marriage, Mary was in love with another man but eloped with Wortley to avoid marriage to her father’s choice of suitor. The rejected suitor rejoiced in the name of Clotworthy Skeffington.