The Origin of London Place Names

By Tim Lambert

Acton 

Acton comes from ac tun meaning oak farm or village

Barking 

Barking was Berica ingas, which means Berica’s people

Bermondsey 

Bermondsey takes its name from a Saxon landowner. It was Beormund’s eg. The word eg meant an island, a promontory of land, or in this case an ‘island’ of dry land surrounded by marsh.

Bexley 

Bexley comes from byxe leah, which means box tree clearing

Blackfriars Lane 

This street takes its name from Dominican friars. They were called blackfriars because of the colour of their costumes

Bromley 

It was broom leah or clearing where broom grew

Brixton 

Brixton was Brixi’s tun, Brixi’s farm or hamlet

Camden Town 

Camden Town is named after the first earl of Camden who began development there

Catford 

It was the ford of wild cats

Chelsea 

The name Chelsea is derived from Saxon words cealc hythe. The word hythe meant a landing place for boats. The word cealc meant chalk so perhaps it was a chalky landing place for boats.

Chiswick 

The word wick sometimes meant a specialised farm. Chiswick was the cheese farm.

Clapham 

Its name was originally clopp ham, which meant the village (ham) by the short hill (clopp)

Clerkenwell 

It was the clerk’s well. It stood on the site of Farringdon Road

Cricklewood It was a wood with an uneven edge

Crutched Friars 

This street takes its name from friars who lived there in the Middle Ages. The word crutched is a corruption of crouche, the old English word for cross. Their proper name was Friars of the Holy Cross.

Croydon 

Croydon probably takes its name from crog denu, which means saffron valley

Dagenham 

Dagenham was Daecca’s ham or village

Deptford 

Deptford was the deep ford

Downing Street 

Downing Street was built by George Downing in the late 17th century

Dulwich It was dill wics. Wics means a wet meadow

Ealing 

Ealing was Gilla ingas the people of Gilla

Edgware Its name comes from the words Ecgi’s Weir

Eltham 

Eltham may have been Elta’s ham, Elta’s village

Enfield 

The Saxon word feld meant open land. Enfield was Eana’s feld.

Finchley 

Finchley was finch leah or the clearing with finches

Golders Green 

It takes its name from the Godyer family who lived here in the Middle Ages

Fulham 

Fulham was Fulla’s hamm or Fulla’s land by a river

Hackney 

Hackney was Hacca’s ey, an ‘island’ of dry land surrounded by marsh

Hammersmith 

It was the place where a smith made hammers

Hampstead 

Its name meant homestead

Harrow 

Harrow takes its name from the Saxon word haerg which means a temple to pagan gods

Havering 

Havering was Haefer ingas or Haefer’s people

Hillingdon 

It may have been the dun, meaning hill of a man named Hille

Hounslow Hounslow probably comes from Hund’s hluew meaning Hund’s slope or hill

Islington 

Islington was Gisla inga dun, which means the hill (dun) belonging to Gisla

Kingston 

Kingston Upon Thames was once the king’s tun or estate

Lambeth 

The name Lambeth is derived from the Saxon word hythe meaning a landing place for boats. It was a landing place where lambs were landed.

Lewisham 

Its name was probably Leofsa’s ham (ham meant village)

Merton Its name comes from the words mere meaning pool and tun meaning farm or village

Minories 

This street takes its name from an abbey dedicated to St Clare. The nuns were called sorores minores or little sisters of St Clare

Muswell Hill 

Muswell is derived from words meaning mossy spring

Old Jewry 

This was the district of the city of London where Jews lived in the Middle Ages. In 1290 Jews were expelled from England. In the 17th century Jews were allowed to return and they gave Jewry Street its name.

Pall Mall 

Pall Mall takes its name from a game similar to croquet that was once played here

Plumstead 

The Saxon word stede meant place or farm

Purley 

Purley was pear leah or pear (tree) clearing

Richmond 

Richmond used to be called Shene. Henry VII renamed it after Richmond in Yorkshire

Soho 

Soho is believed to get its name from an old hunting cry

Southwark 

It was called the south work and became known as Southwark

Streatham 

The Saxons called a Roman road a straet and their word for village was ham. So it was straet ham, the village by the Roman road.

Surbiton 

Surbiton may have been sud bere tun, which means south barley farm

Sutton It was sud tun or south farm

Teddington 

This place name comes from the words Tedd inga tun, which means the farm or hamlet belonging to Tedd

Towers Hamlets 

In the 17th century there were hamlets round the Tower of London

Walthamstow 

Walthamstow comes from 3 Saxon words – weald meaning forest, ham meaning village and stowe meaning place.

Wanstead 

The second part of the name comes from the Saxon word stede meaning place. The first part of the name is probably from wen meaning hill. So it was the place by the hill.

Wembley 

Wembley was Wemba’s leah or Wemba’s clearing

Willesden 

Willesden was once wella’s dun, which means spring hill

Wood Street 

Firewood was sold in this street

Woolwich 

Wick meant port so it was the wool port

Published
Categorised as Articles