From Amen Court to Watling Street: more Ingoldsby-related streets

One last post for February (and it may be a few days before I have the chance to write another post). Before we leave the legend of Bleeding Heart Yard, the writer of The Ingoldsby Legends deserves a mention all of his own. The collection was originally printed in 1837 as a regular series for the magazine Bentley’s Miscellany, which was edited by Charles Dickens. The legends were, supposedly, written by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, a haunted stately home in Kent.

In fact, Ingoldsby was the a pen name of an English clergyman named Richard Harris Barham, a cleric of the Church of England, a novelist, comic poet, and friend of Richard Bentley, publisher of Bentley’s Miscellany. Tappington Hall was the small estate bequeathed to Barham by his father. Barham was the rector of St Augustine’s, Watling Street, and of St Mary Magdalen, Knightrider Street (where he is buried). He was also a minor canon and elder cardinal of St Paul’s, and so resided, as did scribes and other minor canons of the cathedral, in Amen Court.

Amen Court takes its name, as do other streets in the St Paul’s area, from the fact that, before the Reformation, there was a regular procession of the clergy around the cathedral; this involved reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Paternoster Row, the Hail Mary in Ave Maria Lane, the Credo in Creed Lane, and the Amen in Amen Corner or Court. (The 60s group called Amen Corner took its name from The Amen Corner, a weekly disc spin at the Victoria Ballroom in Cardiff.)

Knightrider Street was part of the route for knights riding from the Tower Royal to jousting tournaments at Smithfield. Simple, eh? However, some wet-blanket scholars dispute the theory on the grounds that there is no recorded instance of the word ‘knightrider’. It could be, the argument goes, that the street was really called ‘Riderstrete’ – rider being a Middle English synonym for knight, and that ‘knight’ was added to the street name in general use.

Watling Street was once the most important street in Roman London, running from Richborough on the coast of Kent, through Canterbury and London, and on to Chester. It’s best if I leave the explanation to our friend Habben: “It pleased the Saxons to connect this with one of their own mythic personages, Waetla, an aptheosised Atheling, or noble and to name it Waetlinga Street, or the road of the Waetlings.” Or Atheling could have meant ‘noble’ and so it was the street of the nobles.

Mary Poppins, lanes, and a horse ferry

This day in London history: on 13 December 1925, the American actor Dick Van Dyke was born Richard Wayne Van Dyke in West Plains, Missouri.
One of Van Dyke’s most iconic roles was that of Bert in the movie Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins was the magical nanny to the Banks family who lived at Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane in London. While there is no real Cherry Tree Lane in central London, there is one in Romford in Essex.
In the capital itself, there are at least one each of a a Cherry Tree Close, a Cherry Tree Drive, a Cherry Tree Road, and a Cherry Tree Way. Other types of streets include Alley, Arcade, Avenue, Buildings, Circle, Circus, Close, Court, Crescent, Gardens, Grove, Hill, Mews, Place, Rents, Row, Square, Street, Terrace, Walk, and Yard.
Nowadays many of these are interchangeable, or used arbitrarily, but one time different types of roads or streets had specific meanings. A lane had only to be wide enough for two men to roll a barrel along it, which gave rise to the name Five Foot, or Fyefoot (Five Foot) Lane.
Road, derived from ‘ride’, was originally a route for those travelling by horse and became the term for a route between destinations. For instance, there is a Horseferry Road, which was named for the route to the horse ferry, supposedly older than London Bridge, and the only one of its kind allowed in London, which aided transportation across the river.
EAS_3903A street was, to the Romans, a ‘via strata’, or a paved way, such as Watling Street, which is said to be the oldest street in England. Henry I decreed that a street had to be paved and be wide enough for sixteen knights to ride abreast. (In the 19th century that was changed to be seven feet.)
A street gradually became to mean a paved way lined with houses, so where the Banks family lived was probably more of a Cherry Tree Street than a Cherry Tree Lane.
The Mary Poppins books were published over a period from 1934 to 1988, and the movie was released in 1964. Now, of course, Mary Poppins has been given new life and exposure to a whole new audience with the recently released film, Saving Mr Banks, about the author PL Travers, her life, her father – the inspiration for Mr Banks – and her encounters with Walt Disney as he strove to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen.

Dick Van Dyke, photo by Alan Light
Saving Mr Banks, photo copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.