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.

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.

Marx, Mozart, and a philanthropic dean

Communist Manifesto21 February 1848 saw the publication in London of Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei or, in English, Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx. Marx, who spent the last years of his life in London, a few of them in Soho’s Dean Street.

The street is generally agreed to have been named as a compliment to Bishop Henry Compton, Dean of the Chapel Royal. The sixth and youngest son of an earl, Compton was educated at Oxford, spent several years travelling abroad – mainly in Italy, though he was a dedicated anti-papist – and did not return to his native land until the Restoration of Charles II. Compton became Bishop of Oxford in 1674 and then at the end of 1675 was translated to the See of London.

Compton’s rapid promotion within the church and his influence in Charles II’s court (he was responsible for the education of the king’s nieces, the princesses Mary and Anne and also performed their wedding ceremonies) were attributed to his hostility towards Catholics.

Above all, however, Compton was noted for his philanthropy: he spent his own money aiding those who were refugees from persecution in foreign countries, helping poor children and rebuilding hospitals and churches. The generous bishop died a poor man himself, having spent all his money on these acts of charity. Old Compton Street, which intersects Dean Street, is also named after him.

Mozart as a boy
Mozart as a boy

Dean Street has many associations with the fine arts world: in 1746, at number 21 Dean Street, the seven-year-old Mozart played the harpsichord, accompanied by his four-year-old sister. Number 33 was the site of a coffee house known as Jack’s, which was frequented by artists and writers such as Johnson, Reynolds, and Goldsmith. It later became Walker’s hotel, where it is alleged that Nelson slept the night before he sailed to the battle of Trafalgar.

Karl Marx lived at number 28 from 1850 (or 1851) to 1856, where he began to write Das Kapital. (A Greater London Plaque was erected on the site and some sources claim that the date of 1851 on the plaque is incorrect.)

Karl Marx
Karl Marx

Marx and his family – wife Jenny, children, and maidservant Helene – lived there in grinding poverty. Most of the money they did have was contributed by Marx’s friend Engels, and Marx seldom went outside because his clothes were often in the pawnshop rather than on his back. When one of his daughters died, the family had to borrow £2 for the coffin.

The question as to whether, or how, they could afford to pay a maidservant may perhaps be best addressed, if not answered, by one who said, somewhat acidly, that Marx “further complicated his struggles against capitalism by making his servant pregnant”.

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