Wednesday 9 April 2008

5th October 2007 - What's in a Name Part I - Origins of Street Names north of High Holborn

It's been a while since I posted in my journal - so I thought I would give you all another history lesson! :lol:

Today I went on another of the Holborn walks. Today's walk was "What's In A Name - Part I" the origins of street names north of High Holborn. See here for a streetmap

It was a glorious sunny and warm day today, unlike the cold and wet of earlier this week, just right for a nice stroll around Holborn. As usual we met at the Ranger's Hut outside Holborn Tube Station and our guide was Aly.

Our first stop was Southampton Row - this is named for the Earl of Southampton, who at the time of Charles I was a Parliamentarian but during the Civil War changed sides and eventually became a Royalist - so once the monarchy was restored, he was given the honour of having a main thoroughfare named after him.

We then proceeded to Sicilian Avenue - this is a short but very beautiful little avenue joining two main roads. It is so named because it was built in 1905 of Sicilian marble. Click here for a 360 degree panorama.

Thence to Bloomsbury Square. This was the first proper square in London, built in 1660. Although technically Covent Garden and Lincoln's Inn Fields are older, Covent Garden had a church at the centre and Lincoln's Inn Fields was only built around 3 sides. The origins of the name Bloomsbury are not known for certain but there are two main theories. The first is that it was named for Lonesbury, which was the name of the village originally on that site or it was named for William De Blemund who was the landowner. Perhaps it is really a mixture of the two. Bloomsbury Square became the prototype of all London Squares.

We then continued on to Theobalds Road - this road used to connect King James I two hunting grounds in Soho and Theobalds Park. In fact the origin of Soho has a hunting connection. After some research they have discovered that in old French, Soho was the English equivalent of 'Tally-ho", so eventually the name stuck! I suppose there is still hunting of a rather different sort going on in Soho!

On the site of Drake Street and Proctor Street, was an area called King's Gate. The diarist Samuel Pepys tells of how the King's coach was overturned at this place as the coachman was travelling too fast. The King was thrown from the coach into the gutter. No record remains as to what happened to the coachman

We then stopped briefly at Boswell Street. This street is named after James Boswell, a 18th century writer whose biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson is considered to be the finest biography ever written. This street was originally called Devonshire Street, but when this area was severely damaged during the Blitz, when it was re-built it was re-named Boswell Street.

We then walked past Harpur Street, named for Sir William Harpur, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1561, and who owned land here.

Now we come to a wonderful name - Lamb's Conduit Street. (Home of a favourite Italian restaurant of mine). (See Here for Lamb's Conduit Street Blog) At the top end of Lamb's Conduit Street lies an area now known as Coram's Fields (see here for their blog)- it's a pleasant park. This was originally Lamb's Conduit Fields but was named for the founder of Coram's Foundling Hospital. Now the wonderful Great Ormond Street Hospital is just across the road from the original Foundling Hospital. The name Lamb's Conduit Street is in fact named after a William Lambe who was a cloth worker. He renovated the medieval conduit (a water channel) that ran through the area, installing lead water pipe and bringing water all the way to Snow Hill. The new water pipe was opened in 1577 and cost £1500. This was a huge sum of money at that time. However, by 1613 it was already redundant as a new river was opened which stretched from Hertfordshire bringing fresh water to the entire area. (Stow says, “One William Lamb, citizen and clothworker, born at Sutton Valence, Kent, did found near unto Oldbourne a faire conduit and standard; from this conduit, water clear as crystal was conveyed in pipes to a conduit on Snow Hill” (26th March, 1577). The conduit was taken down in 1746.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894)

Down through Lamb's Conduit Passage (with a couple of very nice pubs, The Enterprise and The Dolphin plus cafes) into Red Lion Square. The usual thing is to name a pub after the road it is in - here however, the Square, plus a road are named after a pub, The Red Lion. Originally Red Lion Fields, in 1684 it became Red Lion Square. Built by Nicholas Barber a speculative builder, only Numbers 14 and 15 are still the original houses. A short distance away lies Gray's Inn, one of the Inns of Court. The lawyers based there took a very dim view of Mr Barber, and actually marched on the building site and attacked the builders with bricks - the houses would block their country views. However, as the houses were built, the lawyers protest obviously didn't work! :lol:

Finally then on to High Holborn. Holborn comes from (I) Hol - a derivation from the word 'Hollow' and from Born (Bourne) - meaning a stream or small brook. So literally the stream in the hollow. There was indeed a stream here, and in fact there still is, only it is now a subterranean one, running well below the street level where it runs down into the River Fleet, and thence into the Thames at Blackfriars.

High Holborn is in fact part of a Roman road, but is very unusual in that once past Kingsway, it veers sharply to the left. As most people will probably know, the Romans built lots of long straight roads, they did not usually deviate. However, the area which is now covered by New Oxford Street (built in 1875), was once a very swampy area and so the Romans deviated from their straight line on this occasion.

Next Friday is the second part of this tour - the roads south of High Holborn. If you are not too bored I will continue the history lesson then.

[i]Photo Credits: Edward; Highstone, Russell Davies and me[/i]


Samuel Rodrigues said...

Legal, gostei do blog. Prometo volta mas não sei qdo.



Thanks for one of the best blogs ever

Ahmad Butt said...

Really interesting stuff - thanks
As your blog was written in October I thought you might have also mentioned the origins of October Gallery in Old Gloucester Street