Edison, Christmas lights, and wicked behaviour

This day in London history: On 22 December 1882, Thomas Edison created the first string of Christmas tree lights. In January that year, Edison had switched on the first steam-generating power station at Holborn Viaduct in London.

There are at least two possibilities for the derivation of Holborn’s name. It could be from the Middle English ‘hol’ (hollow), and ‘bourne’ (a brook), in this case the Fleet River. The London historian John Stow attributes the name to the Old Bourne, or old brook, a stream that he said ran into the Fleet at Holborn Bridge.

Holborn Viaduct 1869
A royal procession under Holborn Viaduct in 1869

Holborn Viaduct, which replaced Holborn Bridge, was built between 1863 and 1869. When the Viaduct was built, it bisected Turnagain Lane, which originally ran from Snow Hill to the Fleet river and was once called Windagain Lane. According to says Stow it was so called, “for that it goeth down west to Fleet dike, from whence men must turn again the same way they came, for there it stopped”.

There was an old proverb: ‘He must take him a house in Turnagain lane’, applied to those bent on a path of wicked and destructive behaviour, and who needed to make dramatic changes to their way of life.