From Ham Yard to Poultry: renaming London’s streets

Cockspur Street signI think it’s time for another PETA-inspired blog post. The last one was when the animal rights group said that Britain’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, should change its name to Ye Olde Clever Cocks, “in recognition of society’s growing compassion for animals and in celebration of intelligent, sensitive chickens”. You can read that post here, in which we run through the names of Cockspur Street, Bear Gardens, and Birdcage Walk, with a nod at Soho.

Since that post I have learned that the group uses the Trump tactics of saying outrageous things to get the media attention. As with their claim a little while ago that the village of Wool should be renamed Vegan Wool. (The name comes from an old word meaning ‘well’ and is nothing to do with wool.)

Today we will jump on that bandwagon and propose some animal-friendly changes to existing London street names.

EAS_4080First off is Poultry, which was once called Scalding Alley, from the poulterers who lived there and scalded the poultry they sold. Scalding, either with hot water or steam, was a way of treating the carcasses to make the removal of feathers easier. The poulterers were eventually joined by grocers, haberdashers, and upholsterers and, by the time of the Great Fire of 1666, Poultry had become famous more for taverns than anything else.

Let’s change Poultry to Poetry to commemorate the poet Thomas Hood. The house where Hood was born was at what is now number 31 Poulty, and was immortalised in his most famous poem, ‘I Remember, I Remember’.

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

Another possible name change is from Poultry to Reform. Poultry was also home to Elizabeth Fry, a notable prison reformer, who lived there from 1800 to 1809. Mrs Fry, of an old Quaker family, was horrified at the conditions under which as many as 300 women and children could be packed into Newgate. She worked hard at improving conditions but was forced to give up philanthropy when her husband became bankrupt.

We move on to Dog Kennel Hill in East Dulwich, which I propose we change to De Canel Hill.

One theory for the name is that Prince George of Denmark had kennels for his hounds here. However, Edward Alleyn, the Elizabethan 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. That means a more likely theory is that an earlier landowner (date unknown), one Monsieur de Canel, resided there, and Dog Kennel is a heavily anglicized version of his name. 

Haunch of Venison Yard cropHaunch of Venison Yard in Mayfair takes its name from a tavern that stood at the entrance of the yard from the 1720s to the early part of the 20th century. The sign is one that was more commonly found near royal hunting forests: though ‘venison’ now means only deer meat, the word derives from the Latin venari, to hunt, and was originally used for the edible flesh of any animal that had been captured and killed in a hunt.

Perhaps, instead of Haunch of Venison, this could be named Running Deer Yard.

Ham YardA bit further east, in the heart of the West End, is Ham Yard. Food played a large part in the naming of taverns – and hence London streets; often the speciality of the house would be featured in the sign. There was a Ham tavern in this small yard in the heart of the theatre district as early as 1739 and there was also once a Tudor mill in this area (commemorated in Great Windmill Street). The Ham tavern became the Ham and Windmill, was renamed the Lyric in 1890 and still stands there today.

Instead of Ham, we could hark back to Lyric and it could become Lyric Yard.

Still on food and pub specialities, there is Cat and Mutton Bridge in East London. There is still a Cat and Mutton pub located here, but which came first and what the original name was is not clear. 

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; there is also a Sheep Lane nearby that ties in with the mutton side of things. 

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

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

and

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

Another theory behind the name 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”.

It would seem, whatever inspired the name, that a shoulder of mutton featured in there somewhere. We could rename it Cat and Mouse, but anyone who has seen a cat in action will know that cruelty to animals features prominently in that combination. How about Clever Cat?

Let’s draw a line under the renaming of London streets for now. I am off to investigate Europe-inspired street names…

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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.

London’s Duke of Monmouth street names

Today’s random fact: there is a chemist’s shop in Monmouth; apparently the bow window of this shop, according to John Betjeman, “must never be demolished”.

Never let it be said that I miss the opportunity for tenuous links, so on to James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (and other titles), illegitimate son of King Charles II, who has connections with a number of London streets and their names.

There is an Allgood Street in London, formerly named Henrietta Street after Henrietta, 6th Baroness Wentworth. Although she was due to marry Richard Tufton, 5th Earl of Thanet, she took up with the already-married Monmouth, and used her jewels and wealth to help fund his unsuccessful attempts to capture the throne.

Monmouth was beheaded for treason in July 1685 and Henrietta died the following year, supposedly from a broken heart. Her mother had an elaborate monument built to Henrietta’s memory in the church at Toddington, the Wentworth’s estate in Bedfordshire. However, a more personal and touching memorial existed in the form of her name, carved by Monmouth, on an oak tree in the Toddington estate. The tree became known locally as the Monmouth Oak.

Then there is Orange Street in the West End. Building of the street was begun in the 1670s and the area at that time was a favoured spot for stabling of courtiers’ horses. There were several mews there, including the Green and Blue Mews. Monmouth’s stables, partly on the site of Orange Street, were probably called Orange Mews (from the colour of his coat of arms).

The development of the street was finished in the 1690s; by then the unfortunate Monmouth would have had no interest in his horses, having been messily beheaded five years before.

We mentioned Soho briefly in yesterday’s post; it was where John Logie Baird first demonstrated the principles of the television. By coincidence, Mozart, who was born on this day in 1756, lived in Frith Street as a youngster.

Soho Square, which was built in the late 17th century, was originally called King’s Square, after Charles II. When building began in 1681, apparently there were only a few residents, one of whom was the Duke of Monmouth. The word ‘soho’ comes from an ancient battle cry; Monmouth used ‘Soho!’ as a rallying cry for his troops at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the final battle in his rebellion.

London’s Australia streets: from Batman Close to Sydney Street

On Australia Day it makes sense to look at a couple of streets with (mostly tenuous, what else?) connections with Australia, starting with Batman Close in White City. It is named for John Batman, the Australian who founded a settlement on the River Yarra; that settlement later became the city of Melbourne.

Australia Road is nearby, and there is a Melbourne Place off the Strand, presumably so named because it is the centre for the Australian government and business centres. Melbourne Grove in Dulwich, on the other hand, takes its name from a group of Derbyshire place names. Sydney Street in Chelsea off the King’s Road (and Sydney Place) are named for Viscount Sydney.

These and other streets were part of a 84-acre site left in trust in 1627 by Alderman Henry Smith of the City of London for “the relief and ransom of poor captives being slaves under Turkish pirates”. The trustees of the estate, largely aristocratic, named many of the streets after themselves.

There is also a Sidney Street (yes, that’s cheating as is is spelled differently), and that was the scene of the Sidney Street riots, during which Winston Churchill, Home Secretary of the time, narrowly missed being shot.

Speaking of Churchill, two days ago marked the anniversary of his death at his house in Kensington Gore, marked by a blue plaque. This comes from nothing gruesome, but from the Old English word ‘gara’, which was a triangular piece of land left after irregularly shaped fields had been ploughed.

Triangles notwithstanding, a retired British pharmacist, John Tinegate, used to make fake blood for the stage and screen; it was later trademarked Kensington Gore and that became a generic term for fake blood.

Nothing to do with Australia, but on this day in 1926, Scottish engineer and inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the first working television system in a laboratory in Soho’s Frith Street. The street takes its name from 17th-century property developer Richard Frith.

The name Soho itself 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.

Horse & Dolphin Yard: inns, boxers and hangmen

Horse & Dolphin Yard2 cropIt may not be the year of the horse, but it is the Chinese New Year and we were in Soho yesterday, so where better to go than Horse & Dolphin Yard in Chinatown, just a few minutes’ walk from Soho Square?

This tiny passageway, with its sign showing the name in Chinese characters as well as English, takes its name from a coaching inn that was built in 1685 (it was later named the Macclesfield Arms, Macclesfield Street being just around the corner, and later still De Hems after a retired Dutch captain who leased it and ran it as an oyster house).

The derivation of the name is unclear: the horse is a common emblem on tavern signs, nearly always either qualified (Trotting Horse, Galloping Horse, Pack Horse) or in conjunction with something else (Horse and Groom, Horse and Hounds, Horse and Jockey). Dolphin is also not uncommon in signs, either as the friendly creature who brought luck to sailors, or as the dauphin, the eldest son of the king of France.

Unless there is some special and now unknown significance behind the horse and dolphin combination, it could have been an example of two pub signs being combined to keep two sets of customers happy.

When the inn was still the Horse and Dolphin, in the early 19th century, it was owned by the American bare-knuckle boxer Bill ‘The Black Terror’ Richmond. Apart from his boxing prowess, he is also noted in history as being one of the hangmen who executed Nathan Hale. Richmond was only 13 at the time.

Nathan Hale, considered a spy by the British and a hero by the Americans, ranks among those people with the most famous of dying words, his being, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

Soho: hunting cries, Manhattan, and a house of charity

House of St Barnabas
The House of St Barnabas

I was just watching a programme about the Crossrail project in London; Soho Square was mentioned, so of course, that was a great cue to mention Soho and its name.

The 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.

There is also a SoHo district in Manhattan; that comes from the fact that the area is South of Houston. And here’s an interesting thing about pronunciation: Houston, Texas is pronounced ‘hugh-ston’ (or, if you’re British, ‘hoo-ston’); Houston Street in Manhattan is pronounced ‘how-ston’

But back to Soho Square, which was built in the late 17th century and was originally called King’s Square, after Charles II. When building began in 1681, apparently there were only a few residents, one of whom was the Duke of Monmouth – one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons. The square eventually took its name from the area, known previously as Soho or Sohoe.

Interestingly, the Duke of Monmouth used ‘Soho!’ as a rallying cry for his troops at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the final battle in his rebellion.

The square is home to the House of St Barnabas, a charitable organization was founded in 1846 and was “the only Home in London gratuitously afforded to such distressed persons as are of good character, upon a recommendation from some one who knows them”.

In 1859, Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was published and immortalized the garden and a plane tree beneath which Dr Manette and Lucy were portrayed entertaining.

Ham sandwiches and the Hellfire Club

Ham Yard Cherish London
Photo: Cherish London

Following on from yesterday’s exchange with Twitter buddy Cherish London (@Cherish_London), who posted a photo of the Lyric pub, let’s take a look at Ham Yard in the Soho district.

Gastronomy played a large part in the naming of taverns – and hence London streets: often the speciality of the house would be featured in the sign. There was a Ham tavern here as early as 1739 and there was also once a Tudor mill in this area (commemorated in Great Windmill Street, which intersects Ham Yard).

The Ham tavern became the Ham and Windmill and was renamed the Lyric in 1890.

London_human_billboards_Scharf
19th century sandwich men

By happy coincidence, Ham Yard was once the congregation point for London’s ‘sandwich men’. Nothing to do with ham sandwiches, however: these were the walking billboards of the 19th century, described by Charles Dickens as “a piece of human flesh between two slices of paste board”.

These hardy souls, a result of a tax on advertising posters, would “walk the principal thoroughfares from morning to night with their boards high above their heads, secured to their shoulders by iron slips and a strap”. It was not an easy life, especially when high winds would pose a serious threat to their wellbeing. The sandwich men generally worked from 10am to 10pm with one break.

Before we leave Ham Yard and sandwich men, we should point out the most famous of sandwich men: John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, popularly believed to have created the sandwich because he did not want to move from his gaming table and so ordered some meat between two slices of bread so that it would be easier to eat.

Hellfire Caves
Modern entrance to the Hellfire Caves

Montagu was a member of the notorious Knights of St. Francis of Wycombe, also known as the Hellfire Club or the Medmenham Monks and founded by founded by Sir Francis Dashwood. The caves where the club would meet to drink and dine lavishly are still open as a tourist attraction and party venue.