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 http://www.streatsoflondon.com

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.

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London’s culinary streets: Cat and Mutton Bridge to Garlick Hill

Cat & Mutton
The Cat and Mutton pub

Ok, I’m cheating (because it’s out of alphabetical order): I forgot Cat and Mutton Bridge. There is a pub here, and given the number of pub names in London streets, it is likely that the pub gave its name to the bridge.

There are two main theories about the name, the first being 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; there is also a Sheep Lane nearby that ties in with the mutton side of things.

Another version 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”.

Coley Street (it’s a kind of fish, and there was a fish-related streets post a while ago; you can read it here) is named for a person rather than a fish: Henry Coley was a 17th-century astrologer and mathematician. That name comes from ‘colig’, meaning dark or swarthy.

And on to Crisp Road in Hammersmith which is also cheating slightly as ‘crisp’ really only has the connotation of potato chip in the UK. It is, naturally, not anything to do with food: it takes its name from Sir Nicholas Crisp. Sir Nicholas was a remarkable man; Samuel Johnson said of him that he was “a man of loyalty that deserves perpetual remembrance”.

Crisp was a native of Hammersmith, and his loyalty was to Charles I – he was a dedicated Royalist and spent over £100,000 in the cause of his king. Crisp managed to escape too dire a fate at the hands of Cromwell, but was severely fined for the mere fact of his existence and affiliation.

Crisp built Grand House, later known as Brandenburgh House (at one point the home of Caroline of Brunswick, consort of George IV), and paid for the east window in St Mildred’s church in Bread Street (the church was destroyed during the Second World War). The window was divided into five parts, depicting the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, Elizabeth I, the 1625 plague and the Crisp family with their coat of arms.

Crisp monument
The Crisp monument. Photo courtesy of Bob Speel

Another of the Crisp monuments is a bust of Charles I in the Hammersmith parish church of St Paul’s. The bust sits atop a black and white marble column and is marked by an inscription which reads:

“This effigy was erected by the special appointment of Sir Nicholas Crispe, Knight and Baronet, in a grateful commemoration of that glorious martyr, King Charles the First, of blessed memory.”

Not being content with this token of loyalty, Crisp also directed that his heart be placed in an urn under the effigy of his king. The heart was to be refreshed annually with a glass of wine; this service was performed for around a century until the heart became too much decayed. And what then? Let us hope that a century of wine provided enough alcohol for the spirit of Sir Nicholas.

Incidentally, Crisp’s body was buried under a tomb at the aforementioned church in Bread Street; in the 19th century it was removed and reunited with his heart in Hammersmith. I learned this from a charming website with a wealth of information about the church of St Paul’s and its monuments.

FIsh Street Hill EC3Fish Street Hill was once the main road leading to London Bridge, and brings us back to street names that do have a food connection. (Oh, yes, it was called New Fish Street as opposed to Old Fish Street, which was demolished in 1870.)

In the 13th century the hill became the centre for fishmongers who settled there because of its proximity to the main fish market of Billingsgate; the street was one of the authorized spots for retail fish sales. Samuel Pepys mentions it in his description of the Great Fire of 1666:

“By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it was now burning down all Fishstreet by London Bridge.”

This was once the main road leading to London Bridge, and. In the 13th century it became the centre for fishmongers who settled there because of its proximity to the main fish market of Billingsgate; the street was one of the authorized spots for retail fish sales.

Stow said that Edward, the Black Prince, son of Edward III, had a house there, though not many modern sources appear convinced of that fact. Oliver Goldsmith did lodge here. Edward, whose name is likely to have come from the colour of his armour, makes an appearance as Sir William Colville in the movie A Knight’s Tale, though historical accuracy takes second place to drama.

Another main feature of Fish Street Hill is that it leads past the Monument; the reminder for everyone of the Great Fire. It is 202 feet high (202 feet said to be the distance to the spot where the fire broke out) and, unfortunately, until the balcony was enclosed in an iron cage, it was a favoured spot for suicide leaps.

Garlick HillGarlick Hill also delivers a culinary connection: this hill was named for the hythe, or wharf, where shipments of garlic were landed on the Thames. Or, if you prefer, from the hythe, or hill, at the foot of which garlic was sold in vast quantities. It is not unlikely that enough garlic would have been sold in medieval times to warrant an entire parish being called Garlickhythe.

Seasoning was important both for the rich, who ate lavishly of beef and venison; and for the poor, who had a rather less interesting diet in need of spicing up. Strong spices also played their part on the frequent occasions when meat had begun to spoil before it reached the consumer, a fact that had to be heavily disguised.

The parish church of St James Garlickhythe had a somewhat chequered career. It was built in 1326, later destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt by Wren (at a cost of under £5,500). Although suffering some damage during the blitz of the Second World War, it was again restored. In 1984 remains of a 1st-century timber building were discovered near the church.

Through all this, one of the church’s occupants remained virtually unscathed – an unidentified person known as Jimmy Garlick. Jimmy is an almost perfectly mummified corpse, discovered in 1839 when workmen were closing up the old vaults. It is possible that he is (or, rather, was) either Richard Rothing, who built the original church, or one of the six early Lord Mayors of London who were buried there.

In any case, Jimmy Garlick was somewhat unceremoniously relegated to a small closet until his coffin was jolted by a bomb and his spirit began to roam around, frightening the tourists. He was, for a time, rehoused in a glass-fronted coffin in the vestibule of the church and he then ceased his practice of appearing to unwary visitors.

In 2004, Jimmy Garlick featured in the Discovery TV documentary series ‘Mummy Autopsy’ which used modern analytical techniques including carbon dating and x-ray analysis, establishing that he died between 1641 and 1801 and that he suffered from osteoarthritis, a disease that afflicts older people. Physical examination by the Discovery team showed that the mummy appeared to be balding and suffered tooth decay at the time of death, both consistent with an older person. The mummy now sits in the tower in a newly made case.

Pudding Lane: fire and culinary London streets

FIsh Street Hill EC3“By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it was now burning down all Fishstreet by London Bridge.” So wrote Samuel Pepys on 2 September 1666, following the start of the Great Fire of London in the early hours of that morning.The fire started in the house of the king’s baker, in Pudding Lane, which we have looked at in a recent post on the grosser names of London’s streets. It does lead to another category – that of culinary London, with comestibles and potables from seafood in Albacore Cresent to herbs in Yarrow Cresent by way of Milk Street.

Old Fish StSurprisingly, when it comes to these culinary names, they are often logical. More logical than so many of London’s street names, in any case. The Fish Street that Pepys writes about was once the main road leading to London Bridge, and was called New Fish Street (as opposed to Old Fish Street, which was demolished in 1870). In the 13th century it became the centre for fishmongers who settled there because of its proximity to the main fish market of Billingsgate; the street was one of the authorized spots for retail fish sales.

Today’s Fish Street Hill leads past the Monument; the reminder for everyone of the Great Fire. It is 202 feet high (202 feet said to be the distance to the spot where the fire broke out).

Monument 2The streets that lead off of Cheapside also say exactly what they were. Cheapside was an early shopping street: it was one of the busiest thoroughfares in London and the city’s main food market. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘ceap’, to buy or barter and it was originally known as West Cheap to distinguish it from Eastcheap. The medieval grocery shopper would have gone there for staples such as bread, milk, honey, poultry, and fish, and the streets that lead off Cheapside were named for their specialities.

Edward I decreed in 1302 that bakers could sell bread only from Bread Street. Before that, the “leprous women of St James’s” were allowed a tenement here in 1204; part of the street was later destroyed by fire in 1263. The street also became famous (or infamous) for its prison, or compter. The warden was so harsh on his prisoners that he was sent to Newgate Prison. The poet John Milton was born in this street and one entrance of the famous Mermaid Tavern led onto Bread Street while the other was on Friday Street.

Bread StArtichoke Hill, east of Tower Bridge, has a name that derives from an inn sign; the artichoke was adopted because of its comparative rarity and unusual shape, which lent itself well to signs. Artichokes were introduced in England in the 16th century, during the reign of Henry VIII, and the sign of the artichoke became a symbol for gardeners and was a common one for inns in garden areas.

Camomile StreetIn the 12th and 13th centuries, houses were built no closer than about five metres from the old London Wall and the land along the line of the wall was allowed to grow wild. Two of the wild flowers that grew here were camomile and wormwood, and this is reflected in the two streets of this name that still exist. Wormwood, used to flavour vermouth and absinthe, was said to have gained its name because it grew up in the path followed by the serpent when he was evicted from Paradise.

Saffron Hill was given its name because, among other things, it was grown in the gardens here belonging to John Kirkby, who had been awarded the bishopric of Ely and bequeathed his estate to the see of Ely to be used as a palace. Saffron was the main source of the spice for the City dwellers: apart from its colour, it was useful for disguising meat that may have seen its best.

Continuing the herbs and spices theme, Cinnamon Street is a name that appears at the end of the 17th century and probably comes from the fact that the spice was sold there. It was in this street, at the culinarily appropriately named Pear Tree Inn, that John Williams was staying when blood-stained knife was discovered among his belongings and suspicion fell upon him in relation to the Ratcliff Highway Murders.

Garlick HillGarlick Hill also has a slightly gruesome history, but first the name: yes, indeed, garlic features here. The hill was named for the hythe, or wharf, where shipments of garlic were landed on the Thames. It is not unlikely that enough garlic would have been sold in medieval times to warrant an entire parish being called Garlickhythe and the parish church is St James Garlickhythe. During some building work in the church in 1839, an almost perfectly mummified corpse was discovered, and nicknamed Jimmy Garlick.

Pineapple Christchurch GreyfriarsFinally, Pineapple Court. The fruit was introduced to England in the 17th century; like the artichoke, its shape and novelty made it popular on signs, especially those of confectioners. Christopher Wren was said to be so taken with the shape that he adopted it in the decorations of all his buildings (though many of them resemble acorns more than pineapples).

This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list of London’s culinary street names; it is more just to give a flavour of how important food was in early London.

However, for a complete list of London’s culinary street names, there is a great website called Streats of London, which identifies 495 London streets and images of 147 street signs. It provides not only a comprehensive list but a great graphic representation of the culinary street names of London and is the work of Mykal Shaw, who cycled 3,000 miles throughout London to photograph the signs.

Steam engines, Dickens, and television

Today’s post follows on from yours truly having read and enjoyed Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovich’s delightful and quirky novel. One area that features heavily in the book is Covent Garden, in particular Long Acre, so let’s take a brief look at them. Covent Garden (or the convent garden) was an area of seven acres of land that once belonged to the Abbots of Westminster and may have been used for both of the seemingly at odds purposes of kitchen garden and burial place.

The first purpose seems obvious from the name; the second was presumed following the 19th-century discovery of human bones. Part of the Abbots’ land was Long Acre; this, like Bow Street, was named for its shape, which was long and narrow. It was originally called The Elms, Elm Close, and then The Seven Acres, and an avenue of tall elms was reported to have stood on the line taken by the current road.

Building began on Long Acre in the early 17th century, and, like the Covent Garden area in general, the street became a fashionable place to live. One of its residents was Oliver Cromwell, who lived there from 1637 to 1643.

The aristocrat and writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was baptised at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, also lived there; according to a newspaper of 1731, “A few days ago the Right Hon. the Lady Mary Wortley Montague set out from her house in Covent Garden for the Bath”.

Long Acre was also key to some important industries: it was once a centre for coach makers, one of whose customers in 1668 was Samuel Pepys, and it was later the home of Merryweather & Sons, builders of steam fire engines and steam tram engines. St Martin’s Hall, a theatre with an entrance in Long Acre, is where Charles Dickens made his first appearance as a public speaker; he appeared on behalf of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children.

More recently, the first television broadcast in Great Britain was made from Long Acre on 30 September 1929. It was a triumphant moment for John Logie Baird, after experimenting with a television set that consisted of projection lamps in an old biscuit tin and a motor in a tea chest.

Streets that link Samuel Pepys, a hymn, and a comedian

Eleanor Farjeon
Eleanor Farjeon

On 13 February 1881 the writer Eleanor Farjeon, best remembered for writing children’s books, was born at 12 Buckingham Street in London. Perhaps her most famous work was the hymn ‘Morning has broken’, popularized in the 70s by the singer known then as Cat Stevens.

Buckingham Street takes its name from George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, who also gave his name to Of Alley (now York Place). The duke’s father was the original owner of York House (once the palace of the Archbishop of York) and the surrounding land; the son was forced to sell his inheritance after he ran up debts. In 1674 a property developer acquired it on the condition that the streets built on the land were given Villers’ full name. That meant five streets, called George Street, Villiers Street, Duke Street (now gone), Of Alley, and Buckingham Street.

Samuel Pepys lived first at number 12, where Farjeon was born, and then at the grander number 14, which was a newly rebuilt house facing the river.

Eleanor Farjeon later lived, and died, in Perrins Walk in Hampstead; the walk takes its name from John Perrin, a local tavern owner whose descendants owned land in the area until 1882. The comedian Peter Cook also had his final home in Perrins Walk.

Mother Goose, wild geese, and London Bridge

Charles PerraultThis day in London history: on 12 January 1628 Charles Perrault was born in Paris. Perrault wrote many stories, based on folk tales, which were later rewritten by the Brothers Grimm. Among these were the stories that would become known as Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella.

Mother Goose
Mother Goose frontispiece

These were contained in a book published in 1697 and called ‘Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals’; the additional title on the frontispiece was Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye, or, ‘Tales of Mother Goose’.

Bizarrely, Mother Goose is buried at the church of St Olave Hart Street, and there is a plaque that confirms this fact. Animals play a large part in the naming of London streets, largely from pub names.

St Olave's plaqueThere is a Wild Goose Drive in London’s New Cross, but finding an explanation for the name is, in itself, something of a wild goose chase. Although the term ‘wild goose chase’ now means a fruitless or absurd mission, it originally implied an erratic course. The drive is indeed, not straight, which may have suggested the name.

The expression itself could have either have stemmed from the fact that wild geese are difficult to catch or from an old game, a horseback form of ‘follow the leader’. In this game, two riders and their horses started off together; the rider who established the lead then set the path and the pace, and the other was obliged to follow.

St Olave gave his name to Tooley Street, is a corruption of St Olave’s Street – which is how it was recorded at the end of the 16th century; it then became St Tooley’s Street and later Towles Street. Olaf (995-1030) was king of Norway and later became a saint. He may be the inspiration for the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is falling down’.

Samuel Pepys was a regular worshipper at the church; he refers to it in his diary as “our own church’”, a line also commemorated in the church’s plaque. Pepys and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the church.

Seething Lane signSt Olave Hart Street is on the corner of (not surprisingly) Hart Street and Seething Lane. Seething name comes from the corn market that used to be at nearby Fenchurch Street. Chaff would blow across the lane and the word ‘seething’ is a corruption of Old English ‘ceafen’, meaning chaff. One of the earliest names was ‘Shyvethenestrat’ in the 13th century; it then became Sidon Lane and Sything Lane; by the 17th century it was Seething Lane.

There is another, less savoury but – as is so often the case – more interesting theory behind the name. The area was also said to be a centre for making soap and glue; this involved the boiling of animal skins and the smelly, steaming cauldrons gave rise to the name of Seething.

Pepys Seething Lane plaqueThere is a plaque in Seething Lane to commemorate the fact that the Navy Office, where Samuel Pepys worked, was located here. Pepys also had a house in the lane; he was living here in 1666 when his maid woke him to tell him of a fire that was raging to the west. That, of course, was the Great Fire of London.

Lotteries, rhubarb, and rude stockbrokers

This day in London history: on 11 January 1569, the world’s first national lottery was held to raise money for public works in England. In addition to money, one of the prizes included immunity from arrest for one week (but not if a serious crime was involved).

Lottery ticket
The original lottery ticket

Elizabeth I decided against introducing a tax, which might well have proved unpopular; instead she went for the lottery option. Tickets were sold three years beforehand, giving the government effectively an interest-free loan from the people. The ticket price of ten shillings was beyond the reach of the average person, but apparently the lottery was a huge success socially, and less successful financially.

According to the official ticket, it was “A very rich Lotterie generall, without any Blanckes, contayning a great number of good Prices, aswel of redy Money as of Plate and certaine sorts of Marchaundizes, having ben valued and priced by the commaundment of the Queenes most excellent Majestie, by men expert and skilfull.”

On 11 January 1668/69, Samuel Pepys notes in his diary that he went “with W. Hewer, my guard, to White Hall, where no Committee of Tangier met, so up and down the House talking with this and that man, and so home, calling at the New Exchange for a book or two to send to Mr. Shepley and thence home, and thence to the ‘Change”.

The ‘Change’ to which he refers is the Royal Exchange, founded in 1565 by Sir Thomas Gresham to act as a centre of commerce for the city, and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I, who awarded the building its Royal title, in 1571.

EAS_4102There is a Change Alley in London, which is nothing to do with metamorphosis, but is an abbreviation of ‘Exchange Alley’ – from the Royal Exchange. Towards the end of the 17th century, the Exchange was so crowded that many stockbrokers transacted their business in local coffee houses, Jonathan’s Coffee House in particular. [Some sources say that stockbrokers’ were banned from operating in the Royal Exchange because of their rude manners.]

EAS_4088
The current Royal Exchange with the Shard and Gherkin in the background

In any event, Jonathan’s was also the scene of the disastrous ‘South Sea Bubble’ scheme, speculation that ruined the purses and lives of thousands of investors. It started with the South Sea Company, given exclusive trading rights first with South America and then the South Seas. The company originally planned to convert the National Debt to a lower rate of interest and then take it over completely. Money poured into the scheme, resulting in gross over-speculation and the eventual bursting of the bubble. It was not just the unwary investors who were ruined financially: Members of Parliament were shown to have taken bribes and the bubble was a national scandal.

And also on this day in 1770, the first shipment of rhubarb went from London to the US: when Benjamin Franklin sent a plant to a botanist friend, John Bartram, in Philadelphia.