Thursday, 10 April 2008

12th October 2007 - What's in a Name - Part II - Streets south of High Holborn

It's Friday, so it's history lesson day! Today's walk was "What's in a Name - Part II" - for streets south of High Holborn.

Click here for a map of the area. We started at usual from Holborn tube station, with our friendly guide Aly leading us again.

Our first stop is Gate Street - which is named simply from the guarded gates that were erected at the entrance to Lincoln's Inn Fields, to protect the residents of the new houses built in 1638. We walk past Little Turnstile of which more later.

We then turn into Whetstone Park. This road which runs parallel to High Holborn and Lincoln's Inn Fields is now not much more than a service road behind the Chancery Court Hotel. However, it is in fact a very old road, with an extremely dubious history. Ali would not expand on this - all is revealed on the "Horrible Holborn" walk! Having checked up a little, I have discovered it was "a place of very bad reputation, attacked by the London Apprentices in 1602. The loose character of Whetstone Park and its inhabitants is a frequent subject of allusion in the plays of Dryden and Shadwell, and occasionally in Butler's "Hudibras" and Ned Ward's London Spy." See here to learn more on Lincoln's Inn Fields

Onwards then into Great Turnstile. This together with Little Turnstile are narrow foot entrances leading into Holborn, these names date from the days when turnstiles were put up to let pedestrians pass through, whilst they stopped the cattle that grazed on Lincoln's Inn Fields from straying.

We then walked down High Holborn until we reached Chancery Lane. Turning right we walk down Chancery Lane towards Lincoln's Inn. There are three theories as to how Chancery Lane got it's name.

(1) The Keeper of the Rolls of Chancery was based in a building built in 1377. This became the Public Record Office which is now situated in a huge new building out at Kew.

(2) The Courts of Chancery were near by

(3) Bishop Ralph Neville of Chichester who became Henry III's Chancellor in 1226, built a house in Chancery Lane in 1228. Some people believe Chancery could be a corruption of Chancellor - Chancellor's Lane became Chancery Lane. See here for an Introduction to the Inns of Chancery.

Also with a connection to the Bishop of Chichester is a little lane called Chichester Rents.

We then proceeded to Carey Street. Built in the late 17th century this was originally a lane leading to the home of Sir George Carey (1547-1603). Carey's grandmother was Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn. Carey served the Queen (Elizabeth I) helping to crush the Scottish Rebellion in 1569 and the Irish Rebellion in 1599. He was in Ireland with Deveraux (the Earl of Essex) and while there embezzled a fortune from the army. However at that time this sort of thing was not particularly frowned on as long as it was not done blatantly!

There is another theory that it was named for Nicholas Carey a wealthy nobleman but this is unlikely.

Carey street once held the Court of Chancery which dealt with all the bankruptcies. This led to the saying "Going to Carey Street" which meant you were headed for bankruptcy! :o

From The Phrase Finder: Carey Street


Euphemism for being bankrupt or in debt.

This phrase originates from the London street where the UK bankruptcy court used to be located. The court moved to Carey Street in the 1840s but the phrase didn't emerge as a synonym for bankrupt until much later. The first reference I can find is a piece by James Agate, in The Saturday Review from 1922:

"The melancholy gentleman in direful Carey Street."

We then walked into Portugal Street. This was so named in honour of Catherine of Branganza, from Portugal who married Charles II. It is a little known fact that Catherine introduced the habit of drinking tea to the English! :tea:

(The Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, Portugal Street from The Illustrated London News)

We passed Portsmouth Street which Aly has a pet theory was named as Charles and Catherine were married iin Portsmouth, but there is no proof of that! :lol:

We walked past Dicken's Old Curiosity Shop and into Lincoln's Inn Fields. To our left is Sardinia Street, so named as the Sardinian Embassy was once in the building on the corner of Sardinia Street and Lincoln's Inn Fields. In the 18th Century Sardinia was an independent country - now it is part of Italy. It was at that time one of the few places in London where Roman Catholics could go to worship and attend mass, as in London it was still very dangerous to be a practising catholic at that time.

In fact, a Roman artesian well was discovered under this building when renovations began last year to the building. It has been bought by the London School of Economics who will use the water from the well to supply the building and will be entirely powered by solar power.

And so to Lincoln's Inn Fields. Again there are another couple of theories as to where the name comes from.

(1) It was named for Henry de Lacey, the third Earl Lincoln in 1311. The lion in the family crest is the same as that which appears in the coat of arms of Lincoln's Inn. He was also the Inn's Patron and lived in a house in Shoe Lane.

(2) Thomas de Lincoln, who was a Law Officer who took in trainee lawyers in the mid 14th century.

The central fields were, as mentioned earlier, used for grazing. The great architect Inigo Jones decided to build a square of houses, and in 1638 he built 32 houses around three sides of the square. The fourth end holds Lincoln's Inn itself. Click HERE for information on Lincoln's Inn. There are only two of the original houses left - number 59 and 60 which just happen to be part of the building where I work! We actually have numbers 57-60, four houses knocked into one building, but which maintain the individual fascias. The Cromwell Society have a very interesting history of Nos. 59 & 60 with photos here and click here for a link to pictures of some of our interiors including the two amazing staircases we have in our buildings.

Also in the square is the wonderful Sir John Soane's Museum, which is fascinating and holds many interesting treasures. See HERE for Wikipedia on Lincoln's Inn Fields

Finally, we returned to Kingsway, which was only built in 1905, and named for King Edward VII who opened this new road.

An interesting "Walk Around Holborn" in black and white photos can be found HERE

So there we are - the end of this week's history lesson. I hope you enjoyed it!

Until next week....(Very Old Holborn - Buildings from before the Great Fire of London)

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