Seven London place names explained

No-one who has even the slightest knowledge about the United Kingdom’s historic capital would argue that London isn’t one of the most fascinating place to live, work or visit.

What’s more, for those who take an interest in language, London has some truly weird and wonderful place names.

Have you ever wondered where they come from?

[M]any of the capital’s quirkier landmarks and street names are the result of a rich tapestry of historical and cultural influences from all over the world that’s been intricately woven throughout the ages.

Let’s take a look at seven well known geographical locations and see if we can shed some light on their origins.

London Underground’s Bakerloo Line opened in 1906 and was originally called the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway. It was given the nickname ‘Bakerloo Line’ by the Evening Standard since it originally ran from Baker Street to Waterloo. When the name was made official, many people found it undignified and vulgar – it was not a popular name. Nowadays, tube trains on the Bakerloo line carry more than 110 million passengers a year.

Canary Wharf
You might be thinking that there’s a history of birds in Canary Wharf but you’d be wrong! And despite the ostentatious office developments that have sprung up there in recent years, the area actually has very modest origins. In fact, it obtained its name from a fruit factory which was built there in 1937 to process Spanish fruit from the Canary Islands. Interestingly, the name of the largest of the islands, Gran Canaria, has its origins in the Latin Canaria insula, which literally translates as ‘Isle of Dogs’!

Elephant & Castle
It is often said that this name is a corruption of the Spanish Infanta de Castile, a reference to the wife of Edward I, Eleanor of Castile. In Spanish and Portuguese history, the infanta is the monarch’s eldest daughter who has no claim to the throne. However, this is not the real story. The name actually refers to an old inn, The Elephant & Castle, which even gets a mention in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: ‘In the south suburbs, at the Elephant, is best to lodge.’ The pub was built on the site of a former smithy of the same name, with the heraldic sign used by the smithy as well as London’s Cutler’s Company who made knives, scissors and surgical instruments.

Dating back to around 1050 when it was called Cnihtebricge, the name means ‘bridge of the young men’. Hard to imagine now but there was a bridge which stood where the main road towards the west crossed over the Westbourne stream. Knight meant ‘lad’, especially one employed as a retainer. The allusion is that this was a meeting place for young men, long before the area became famous for a certain large corner shop!

This name makes a first appearance in 1623 as Pickadilly Hall. It would appear that it is the nickname for a house belonging to successful tailor Robert Baker who made a lot of money from the sale of piccadills or piccadillies. These were collars for both men and women and extremely on trend at the time. The name of the house was later used for the district and the street which we now know as Piccadilly. When Regent Street was built in 1819, Piccadilly Circus was created at the junction.

The name Pimlico derives from Ben Pimlico who owned a public house in Hoxton of the same name. The inn was part of the theatre scene and a favourite meeting place for playwrights; it is mentioned in plays by Ben Jonson and Thomas Dekker. The word Pimlico is a corrupted version from the name of the North American Pamlico Indians and is most likely the first native American place name to have made it all the way to England!

Pudding Lane
Not as straightforward as it might seem, this lane has no connection with desserts. The old English word pudding means entrails. Pudding Lane is the place where London’s Eastcheap based butchers would slaughter their animals, letting the entrails slide down the steep hill all the way down into the River Thames!

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry. For the information in this post, London-based office renting specialist Stuart Neils, who were consulted.

CabbieBlog-cabThis is a sponsored guest post for which CabbieBlog has received a fee. Proceeds from these articles help keep the wheels turning on this site offering free content for anybody with an interest in London. All links here conform with guidelines set out in Write a Post.

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