Sunday, June 07, 2009

Place Names

At his new site Humphrey with His Flail, folklorist Paul Cowdell mentions that Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park by the Imperial War Museum was, up until at least the 1970s, known to many locals as Bedlam Park, on account of it being the site of the Bethlehem Mental Hospital from 1815 to 1930. This is a good example of an unofficial place name preserving the memory of old names and places.

Can you think of any other examples of South East London places where the names people use (or have used) for them differ from the official names given on maps and street signs?

The best example I can think of is The Blue in Bermondsey, a name still commonly used to describe the market and a specific stretch of Southwark Park Road near to the Blue Anchor pub. There has been a pub with this name there since at least the 17th century and the road by it was actually only renamed from Blue Anchor Lane to Southwark Park Road in 1878. It was originally a raised causeway aross the marshy ground.

Another minor example is East Street, home to the well-known market in Walworth. I have heard people refer to it as East Lane, its previous moniker.

15 comments:

Brockley Nick said...

When I was a kid, the part of Blackheath nearest Westcombe Park was known fairly widely as The Dips (on account of the quarrying). I'm not street enough to be able to tell you if the name endures.

fabhat said...

They were still called the dips when I was at school (up to 1990 at least) and we were banned from going into them...

Brockley Nick said...

Fabhat, I like the way you assume you are younger than me! ;)

fabhat said...

Did I? I was just putting a date on the last time I knew they were called the dips - were you just a whippersnapper in short shorts in 1990, while I was a louch 15 yr old being banned from unsuitable areas of blackheath?

Brockley Nick said...

At that time, I was a 15-year old, cultivating a greasy, floppy fringe in 1990, in order to seduce the sort of girls who were banned from the dips. It never worked.

Transpontine said...

Keep it up, there's not enough flirting on this site (sorry if I am totally misinterpreting not knowing the gender let alone sexuality of parties to the conversation). Anyway you are uncovering a whole slice of hidden social history - what was happening down in the dips that was so unsuitable? And what sort of girls were banned? And surely even in 1990 it had been established that floppy fringes can be cute but not if they are greasy?

Brockley Nick said...

Transpontine, I am not suggesting for a second that my fringe was ever a good idea.

As for the dips, fabhat may know better, but I don't think anything more exciting than illicit smoking happened there.

Point Hill in Greenwich was more lively.

fabhat said...

The reason we were banned was not about smoking, but definitely about BOYS.I don't know about other local schools, but I was at Aske's (which always had private schoolish ideas) - but the really serious ban (involving suspensions) was for girls at Blackheath High. It was the hidden nature of the dips and the IMMORAL behaviour that could potentially happen there that concerned our deputy head.
They shouldn't have worried - we were too lazy to go to the dips - instead either underage drinking outside the Hare and Billet or the church on Blackheath, or going to slightly mad all night parties on One Tree Hill with floppy haired boys from Aske's and Dulwich College.

IMR said...

A lot of older south-east Londoners still refer to Surrey 'Quays' as Surrey Docks.

Transpontine said...

Good point IMR, this is an example of people holding on to the name of a place that has been officially abolished by some bureaucratic gentrification committee. Sure there aren't docks there now, but there aren't really quays either. A sad Thatcherite erasure of historical memory and place. Surrey Docks Farm still has the correct name!

IMR said...

Not south-east London, but estate agents have tried to invent a curious new place called 'South Chelsea', better known to most as Battersea.

Some swear blind they've heard unfortunate individuals pronounce 'Clapham' to sound like 'Clarm', but this might be apocryphal, like 'St Reatham' for Streatham.

You're right, Transpontine, the reality of Surrey 'Quays' (not to mention Heron Quays) is not quite up to the Roger Moore/Monte Carlo image that probably appeared in some 'artist's impression'.

But one upmarket development where you will see very large 'Lady Ghislaine' type yachts moored is . . . St Katharine Docks.

Brockley Nick said...

I had no idea that Surrey Docks didn't have official status.

Transpontine said...

I'm not sure what official status means, but obviously the shopping centre and tube station are both called Surrey Quays rather than Surrey Docks - am I right in thinking that the tube station was actually renamed from Surrey Docks?

IMR said...

I worked on a London Underground project in the mid-1990s to strengthen the Brunel tunnel, by which the East London Line passes under the Thames.

Am pretty sure that before the line was temporarily closed, the station was 'Surrey Docks'. This work also coincided with the Jubilee Line extension and I would *guess* that the name changed to Surrey Quays for the line's re-opening.

Transpontine said...

According to Wikipedia: £The station was built by the East London Railway Company in 1884 and was known as Deptford Road until 1911. It was renamed Surrey Docks in reference to the nearby, now closed, Surrey Commercial Docks, and further renamed Surrey Quays in 1989, following the construction of the nearby Surrey Quays shopping centre. This was a somewhat controversial move and was unpopular with many of the local community, who felt that their heritage was being erased. However, the name stuck and the Surrey Docks area is now widely known as Surrey Quays".

Probably in 1911 my counterpart was moaning about them changing the name from Deptford Rd. because they thought Surrey sounded posher!