Cockney: The Distinctive Accent and Culture of London’s East End

It is thought that the word Cockney originates from the Norman word for a sugar cake, cocaigne. The Normans called London the ‘Land of Sugar Cake’, and the name has stuck with some variations over the years. In the 1360s, the writer William Langland also used the term ‘cockeney’ to mean cock’s egg.

Pearly Kings and Queens in modern London.
Pearly Kings and Queens of London
CreativeCommons

Although some foreigners and people living in other places in the UK assume that all Londoners are cockneys, this isn’t technically 100% true.

What does it take to be a Cockney?

What is a true Cockney?

You can technically only be a Cockney if you were born in the city’s East End. Specifically, you must have been born within the sound of Bow bells. These are the bells of St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside. A survey of the bells and how far their ringing might have carried was done in 2000.

How Far Away Can Bow Bells Be Heard?

Historically it was assumed to be a radius of approximately 5 miles from St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside. This area would have included neighbourhoods such as Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Hackney, and parts of Poplar and Stepney. However, urban development and noise pollution mean that the bells can’t be heard that far today.

It’s also worth noting that in 2012, experts from the University of London conducted a study and found that the bells could only be heard approximately 2 miles away. However, this study was conducted in modern conditions, with all the noise pollution of a busy city.

This gives more scope to be a Cockney than you might think, as they would have been heard six miles to the east, four miles to the west, five miles to the north and three miles to the south. Dick Whittington, according to legend, heard the bells in Highgate in North London before he turned back and came home.

This disputes that Cockneys are all from the East End, but only some people born outside the area will take their claim to fame.

According to their rural counterparts, this phrase described lazy city dwellers who didn’t have to work hard for a living. Neither explanation may make a lot of sense, but both tell us that Cockneys have been around for a fair amount of time!

Bow Bells and Cockneys: A Unique Connection in London’s Cultural Heritage

The iconic Bow Bells and their association with Cockney culture have been integral to London’s rich history. A true Cockney is said to be born within the sound of these famous bells housed at the St. Mary-le-Bow Church in the City of London. The unique connection between Bow Bells and Cockneys is worth exploring, and this article delves into their history and the cultural significance of this fascinating relationship.

The present ring of bells, with the Great Bell of Bow centre left.
Great Bell of Bow centre left.
Bellminsterboy, CC BY-SA 4.0
https://creativecommons.org

The Origin of Bow Bells and St. Mary-le-Bow Church

Located in the heart of the City of London’s Cheapside district, the St. Mary-le-Bow Church dates back to the 11th century. The original structure was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren later rebuilt it. The church now stands as a testament to the resilience and beauty of London’s architectural heritage.

Bow Bells: The Defining Sound of Cockney Culture

The term “Cockney” is typically used to describe the working-class residents of the East End of London, known for their distinctive accents and dialect, including the famous rhyming slang. The sound of Bow Bells has long been associated with Cockney’s identity, as it was traditionally believed that a person could only be considered a true Cockney if they were born within earshot of these iconic bells.

This unique criterion for Cockney identity has led to a deep connection between the Bow Bells and the Cockney community, making them an essential part of London’s cultural fabric.

Bow Bells and Cockneys in Literature and Popular Culture

The influence of Bow Bells and Cockney culture has extended far beyond the boundaries of London’s East End. Famous literary figures, such as Charles Dickens, have featured Cockney characters in their works, highlighting their distinct dialect and the importance of the Bow Bells in defining their identity.

St Mary-le-Bow Church, built 1671-1680, one of Wren's "City Churches" built after the Great Fire of London.
St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside London
CreativeCommons

In addition, the Bow Bells have been immortalised in nursery rhymes and songs, including the well-known “Oranges and Lemons,” which mentions St. Mary-le-Bow and other London churches.

Preserving the Legacy of Bow Bells and Cockney Culture

As London continues to grow and evolve, efforts have been made to preserve the unique heritage of the Bow Bells and Cockney culture. The St. Mary-le-Bow Church remains a popular tourist destination, allowing visitors to experience the historic bells firsthand and learn more about their connection to London’s Cockney community.

Moreover, various organisations, museums, and events celebrate Cockney’s history and traditions, ensuring that the unique bond between the Bow Bells and Cockneys remains a cherished aspect of London’s cultural landscape.

Conclusion

The Bow Bells and their connection to Cockney’s identity are essential to London’s history and cultural heritage. The enduring legacy of the Bow Bells serves as a testament to the resilience and spirit of the Cockney community, as well as a fascinating element of London’s past that continues to captivate visitors and residents alike.

The East London Cockney.

If you ask anyone outside the East End what defines a Cockney, most will tell you about Cockney Rhyming slang.

This language is specific to the East End and is now used by many other regions of the country. It needs to be clarified when rhyming slang started and why and various explanations exist for where it could have come from.

Some, for example, think it began in the 1840s and that costermongers and salesmen used it as a form of ‘patter’. Others believe it was a secret language used by criminals and people skating close to the edge of the law to deceive police and outsiders. In either case, if you don’t understand the slang, it can be like listening to a foreign language, but it is fun to try and decipher.

The premise of Cockney rhyming slang is that it switches a word or phrase with another that rhymes with the original. So, for example, stairs become apple and pears, the phone becomes dog and bone, the wife becomes trouble and strife, and hair becomes Barnet Fair. Some slang dates back centuries, but the language is still evolving.

Cockney Rhyming Slang Phrases

Cockney rhyming slang is an exciting and unique way of speaking that has been around since the mid-1800s. Believed to have originated in London’s East End, this style of speech utilises creative wordplay to replace common words with others that rhyme. Think you know all there is to know about Cockney rhyming slang?

Take a look at these examples and see for yourself!

  • Apples and pears – stairs. “I’m heading up the apples to bed.”
  • Adam and Eve – believe. “Would you Adam and Eve it?”
  • Trouble and strife – wife. “The trouble’s been on my back all day.”
  • Dog and bone – phone. “Give me a bell on the dog later.”
  • Butcher’s hook – look. “Let’s have a butcher’s at your new car.”
  • Plates of meat – feet. “My plates are killing me after that walk.”
  • Gregory Peck – check. “Can you give me a Gregory for the bill?”
  • Loaf of bread – head. “Use your loaf!”
  • Boat race – face. “He’s got a very kind boat.”
  • Mince pies – eyes. “She’s got beautiful mince.”
  • Rosie Lee – tea. “Fancy a cup of Rosie?”
  • Jam jar – car. “We took a spin in the old jam jar.”
  • Hank Marvin – starving. “I’m absolutely Hank after that workout.”
  • Barnet Fair – hair. “I’m getting my barnet cut tomorrow.”
  • Bubble bath – laugh. “You’re having a bubble if you think that’s true!”
  • Dustbin lids – kids. “The dustbins are driving me mad.”
  • Rabbit and pork – talk. “She can rabbit for England!”
  • Porky pies – lies. “He’s been telling porkies again.”
  • Bread and honey – money. “I’ve spent all my bread on this boat race.”
  • North and south – mouth. “Watch your north and south!”
  • Currant bun – sun. “Haven’t seen the currant in days!”
  • Half Inch – pinch (steal). “He’s half-inched my wallet!”
  • Dicky Bird – word. “I haven’t heard a dicky bird from him.”
  • Frog and toad – road. “I live down that frog and toad.”
  • Uncle Bert – shirt. “Got a new Uncle for the do tonight.”
  • Sky rocket – pocket. “I’ve got a hole in my sky.”
  • Scooby Doo – clue. “I haven’t got a Scooby where we are.”
  • Khyber Pass – arse. “He’s a pain in the Khyber.”
  • Brass tacks – facts. “Let’s get down to the brass tacks.”
  • Brown bread – dead. “He’s brown bread.”

More Rhyming Slang To Learn!

  • China plate – mate. “He’s my old china.”
  • Derby Kelly – belly. “I’ve got a bit of a Derby after that meal.”
  • Lemon squeezy – easy. “It’s lemon squeezy.”
  • Lady Godiva – fiver. “Lend us a Lady, would ya?”
  • Oxford Scholar – dollar. “I need a few Oxfords for the weekend.”
  • Pen and Ink – stink. “This place pen and inks.”
  • Richard the Third – bird. “Look at that Richard over there.”
  • Tin Lid – kid. “The tin lids are playing in the yard.”
  • Whistle and flute – suit. “I’ve got a new whistle for the wedding.”
  • Tom and Dick – sick. “I feel a bit Tom after last night.”
  • Two and eight – state. “You’ve got yourself in a right two and eight!”
  • Ayrton Senna – tenner (a ten-pound note). “Can you lend me an Ayrton?”
  • Baker’s Dozen – cousin. “My baker’s coming over for dinner tonight.”
  • Battle Cruiser – boozer (pub). “Let’s meet at the battle after work.”
  • Tea leaf – thief. “Watch out for the tea leafs around here.”
  • Bristol City – pretty. “She’s a Bristol city, isn’t she?”
  • Lionel Blairs – flares (as in flared trousers). “Check out his Lionels!”
  • Ruby Murray – curry. “Fancy a Ruby tonight?”
  • Sherbet Dab – cab. “Let’s get a sherbet home.”
  • Tod Sloan – alone. “I’ve been left on me tod.”

One of the most recognisable features of cockney culture is its language. Cockneys speak a dialect of English that is influenced by their East End origins and their diverse ethnic backgrounds. They also use a form of rhyming slang, which involves replacing a word with a phrase that rhymes with it, and then often dropping the second part of the phrase. For example, “stairs” becomes “apples and pears”, and then just “apples”. Rhyming slang is a way of communicating in code, hiding the meaning from outsiders or authority figures. It is also a way of showing off one’s wit and inventiveness.

Some slang is not immediately have obvious to meaning;

Kettle and hob is a cockney rhyming slang term for watch. It comes from the phrase kettle and hob, which refers to the oven range in an old-fashioned house, where a kettle would boil on the hob. The word hob rhymes with fob, a pocket watch attached to the body by a small chain. The word fob is then dropped, leaving only kettle as the slang word for watch. For example, someone might say, “Nice new kettle you’re wearing, mate”, to compliment someone’s watch.

An Evolving Cockney Language

In recent years, additions to slang have included Tony Blairs for flares, Ruby Murray for curry and Britney Spears for beers. You can hear these phrases nationwide, though they will, ideally, not be delivered in a Mockney accent. Mockney accents are usually adopted by people who want to look working class when they are pretty posh.

It’s best not to do Mockney when you meet a Cockney because they will laugh and may get quite irritable if they think you are showing off.

Similarly, don’t take Cockney lessons from Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. That didn’t work on any level, and no self-respecting Cockney will ever talk like that. Michael Caine did a much better job than Dick in the film Alfie. Technically, he isn’t a Cockney either, as he was born in South London, but I guess that is close enough.

East London Pearly Kings and Queens

Cockneys also have their own alternative royal family: the pearly kings and queens. These cockneys wear suits covered with mother-of-pearl buttons, forming elaborate patterns and symbols. They are the descendants or successors of the costermongers, the street traders who sold fruits and vegetables in London’s markets in the 19th century.

The costermongers had their kings and queens, who their peers elected to represent and protect their interests. The pearly kings and queens continue this tradition by raising money for various charities and causes and celebrating their cockney culture and heritage.

Pearly King and Queen, 1961
Pearly King and Queen
Jack de Nijs for Anefo / Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people think Pearly Kings and Queens are all East Enders, but this isn’t true. Many of them are, but this tradition covers all Londoners. Pearly Kings and Queens, or Pearlies, are a working-class London tradition – they wear clothes intricately decorated with pearl buttons and do much good work for charity.

Pearly Kings and Queens, also known as pearlies, are an organised charitable tradition of working-class culture in London, England. Henry Croft, an orphan and street sweeper, started the practice. He covered his suit in mother-of-pearl buttons to draw attention to himself when collecting money for orphanages and hospitals. The Pearly Kings and Queens have become icons of London life and maintain a lifelong commitment to raising money for charity.

Henry Croft (24 May 1861 — 1 January 1930) was a road sweeper in London and founder of the working class tradition of Pearly Kings and Queens. He was born at the St Pancras Workhouse in Somers Town, London, and baptised there on 5 June 1861. Following his father’s death, Croft was sent to the St Pancras orphanage and, in 1876, began work as a road sweeper at the Barnaby Street department of the St Pancras vestry.

In the mid-to-late 1870s, Croft covered his suit in mother-of-pearl buttons, creating the first pearly ‘smother’ suit. He did this to draw attention to himself when collecting money for orphanages and hospitals, so the pearly mission to support charitable organisations was born.

Pearly Kings and Queens of London
Pearly Kings and Queens of London

They are so well known in London that a group even appeared in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. Of course, not every East Ender can be a Pearly King or Queen – these are particular jobs, and local groups and dynasties are operating all over the city.

So, given the original reach of the sound of Bow Bells, you don’t need to be born in the East End to qualify as a Cockney – any working-class Londoner near the area may consider themselves one. But, to get a natural feel for the Cockney way of life, visit the East End and look for local market traders, shop owners and cabbies. If you’re lucky, they’ll treat you to rhyming slang!

The Role and History of Costermongers in London’s Working-Class Culture

Costermongers, or “costers” for short, were street vendors who sold fresh fruits, vegetables, and other goods in London and other British cities, particularly during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They were essential to the urban working class, particularly in the East End of London, where many Cockneys lived.

Costermongers typically conducted their trade from barrows or carts, pushing or pulling through the streets and setting up temporary stalls in busy areas or near street markets. They were known for their lively sales techniques, often using loud calls or chants to attract customers and promote their goods.

Coster culture was closely intertwined with the Cockney community, as many costermongers were Cockneys themselves. They contributed to developing and spreading the distinctive Cockney dialect and rhyming slang. In addition, costermongers were often associated with the Pearly Kings and Queens, who were Londoners known for their elaborate outfits adorned with mother-of-pearl buttons, as they often came from costermonger backgrounds.

Although the traditional costermonger trade has disappeared mainly due to modern retail and supermarkets, their impact on London’s working-class culture and history remains significant.

How to Master the Cockney Accent in 5 Easy Steps

Do you want to sound like a faithful East Ender? Then it would be best to learn to speak with a Cockney accent. The Cockney accent is one of the most distinctive and recognisable accents in the English language, and it has a long and rich history. But how can you master the Cockney accent in 5 easy steps? Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Drop the Hs and T’s. One of the most noticeable features of the Cockney accent is the omission of certain consonants, especially H and T. For example, instead of saying “hello”, you would say “ello”. Instead of saying “water”, you would say “wa’er”. This gives the accent a more relaxed and casual feel.
  • Use glottal stops. Another characteristic of the Cockney accent is glottal stops, which are abrupt sounds made by closing and opening the vocal cords. Glottal stops often replace T sounds in the middle or end of words. For example, instead of saying “butter”, you would say “bu’er”. Instead of saying “city”, you would say “ci’y”.
  • Learn some Cockney rhyming slang. Cockney rhyming slang is a form of expression that uses words or phrases that rhyme with other words to replace them. For example, instead of saying “phone”, you would say “dog and bone”. Instead of saying “stairs”, you would say “apples and pears”. Cockney rhyming slang can be creative, fun, and confusing for outsiders. You can find a list of standard Cockney rhyming slang terms further up this page.
  • Imitate some famous Cockneys. One of the best ways to learn any accent is to listen to and imitate native speakers. Many famous people speak with a Cockney accent, such as actors Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Danny Dyer, singers Adele and Lily Allen, and comedian Russell Brand. You can watch their movies, shows, interviews, or songs and try to copy their pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary.
  • Practice with a friend or online. Finally, the only way to master any accent is to practice it as much as possible. You can find a friend who is also interested in learning the Cockney accent and practise together, or you can join an online community or forum to chat with other learners or native speakers. You can also use apps or websites that can help you improve your accent.

Cockney culture: a proud and vibrant part of London’s heritage?

Cockney culture is a rich and vibrant expression of London’s working-class heritage. It is a culture that celebrates humour, resilience, creativity and community. It is a culture that has its own distinctive voice, style and taste.

Another aspect of cockney culture is its cuisine. Cockneys have a fondness for traditional dishes that reflect their humble roots and their proximity to the river Thames. Some of the most popular cockney foods are pie and mash, jellied eels, stewed eels and liquor (a green parsley sauce). These dishes are often served in pie and mash shops, which are cosy and nostalgic places where cockneys can enjoy a hearty meal and a chat.

Chas and Dave Rockney

Chas and Dave were proud of their cockney roots and celebrated the culture and humour of the working-class people of London in their songs. They used cockney rhyming slang, such as ‘rabbit’ for ‘talk’, ‘apples and pears’ for ‘stairs’ and ‘china plate’ for ‘mate’, to create catchy and witty lyrics that resonated with their fans.

They also sang about everyday topics, such as football, beer, love and family, with a cheeky and upbeat tone. Their music was influenced by the old music hall tradition, which featured songs with catchy choruses that invited audience participation. Chas and Dave’s live performances were often like a pub singalong, where everyone joined in and had a good time.

Cockney culture is an integral part of London’s history and identity. It is a culture that has survived and adapted to the changes and challenges of the city. It is a culture that values loyalty, generosity and solidarity. It is a culture that has a lot to teach us about how to live with humour, dignity and joy.

Conclusion:

Whether you’re an English native or just someone who loves wordplay, cockney rhymes can be fun and challenging to learn—which is why they remain popular today even though they have been around for centuries! With these famous examples, you should better understand this unique style of speech, allowing you to add some flavour to your conversations with family, friends, or colleagues! Try out some new rhymes the next time you find yourself in London—they may surprise you!

81 thoughts on “Cockney: The Distinctive Accent and Culture of London’s East End”

    • I was born in Mile End hospital 1949 my dad had a fish and chip shop in valence road how it’s all changed but that’s something we can’t do anything about ( but fond memories)

    • My late mother was born in Bethnal Green in 1923 and according to her , since no-one was being born in the City, being a Cockney was redefined as being born within the sound of the bells of Bow Church, otherwise known as St Mary at Bow. I think she was a Cockney by either definition, but can anyone corroborate her assertion?
      Alan

    • Depends where you think the East End begins and ends. Historically starts at Aldgate and ends at Isle of Dogs. Residents of Romford, Barking, East Ham Bromley by Bow are all Wannabees.

  1. Most “accents” come from pronunciations common in other languages spoken by antecedents, or nearby peoples’ languages.
    Has no one tried to trace Cockney”s sounds back to any of Britain’s many earlier languages?

    Reply
  2. Sandra. 25th October 2020. I was born in Barking, in Essex which as some said earlier is in the sound of bow bells on a quiet day. It’s only 8 miles away and I used to hear the guns on 11th November,Remembrance Day when I was little too.

    Reply
    • Hi Stan
      I was born in Stepney 1947…I have recently written and recorded a song called ‘ Let’s go Parker Cockney ‘ is there anywhere I can post it for the Cockney community. Thanks…All the best. Anthony

  3. Cockneys and the bells of St. Mary Le Bow. Cockneys are described as being born within the sound of the bells of StMary Le Bow. Ringing or not., as one subscriber has noted. The church and it’s bell, are recorded as a being destroyed
    during the great fire of London in1666? New bells cast in White Chapel ?
    Every “ working class” person born within the square mile was called a Cockney. The square mile is north of the River Thames. Any person born south of the river, was therefore not a cockney, neither were those born to the north, east or west, outride of the square mile. Not yet.
    How far could the bells be heard outside the City of London?
    Dick Whittington says he heard the bells Ringing when was leaving London ( meaning the City of London? The City was the only place recorded as London.
    The population grew and expanded mainly to the EAST and they took their Cockney language with them.
    The first boroughs to the EAST were. Bethnal Green, Whitechapel Spitalfields, Stepney, Wapping LimeHouse, Poplar, Haggerston, Aldgate,Shoreditch, Millwall, CubittTown, Hackney, Hoxton, Bow. Mile End. Not necessarily in that order. The new arrivals took the title Cockney as including them and past that onto their children. Movement from the north ,west and south. was the same. But if you follow that logic, almost everyone will eventually be a Cockney.Those of us that were born in the East end ( boroughs as above ) is a Cockney. I was born in Bethnal Green in 1938, my Dad was born in Bethnal Green in 1908, my grandfather, his father as far as I can check we’re all born in Bethnal Green. My Mum Was born in 1918 in Stepney as were her several generations, before her. I conclude therefore that any person born in the Boroughs above is a Cockney..If your grandma was born in the boroughs above and married a Scotsman and had a child in Scotland the child is not a Cockney.
    Good fortune to all Cockney or not,
    Regards Stan Marshall

    Reply
  4. I was born 2 miles west of St Mary le Bow in Dec 61. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered I am not a Cockney as the bells were not replaced later that month. 😣😣😣

    Reply
    • Being born in the Mile End Rd.
      Yes you are a Cockney. No contest.
      You need however to work on your back slang , which is not rhyming slang.
      Congrats on your 50 + years of marriage, we had our 55 th last December. And togetherness outways all languages.
      Regards
      Stan

      slang.
      Congratulations

    • My dad’s people were from Mile End… they came there from Yorkshire in 1820. The family had 22 children quite a number of which survived. 14 to be exact. I grew up in Middlesex but like so many others in my area there were accents from all parts of London and all parts of Britain in those days. Not too many people from other countries though.

  5. I was born in Wandsworth in 1931, but my family had a business in Gutter Lane and I spent a lot of time growing up in Cockneydom until the bombs started. I now live in Australia and before I left used to use a pub “The Watling” in Watling Street that was built by Sir Christopher Wren as a coffee house for the workers building St Paul’s. (sister East Minster to St Peter’s in Westminster) Of course learned the rhyming slang but only use bits of it through habit: “minces, mutton, Barnet (my South African wife always uses this), Germans and rory.”

    Reply
    • Sorry, moderation? I left the UK in 1980. St Paul’s was built as a Minster, St Peter’s was built as a Minster and if your readers know the lingo shouldn’t need translation but this was current when I lived in London: Mince pies -eyes, Mutt and Jeff – deaf, Barnet Fair – hair, German bands – hands,
      Rory O’More – door.

    • Terry,
      A pub called “Ye Olde Watling” is listed on the internet, could be the same pub you remember.
      I have had a natter with the trouble and strife, she say “ Go up the apples,and look at all those skyscrapers you’ve got, in the cupboard., you have the names of all the rubber dubs you’ve been too, whenyou used to come Brahms and Litz.
      Stay well.
      PS. If I came home Brahmased I hardly think we would have celebrated 55 years of marriage, last
      Stan

    • All.
      Apart from the rhyming slang there is Cockney back slang, is there anybody out there who can speak this?
      Stan.
      A clue.
      Here is a clue. My mates would call me tansa . It sends the spell check barmy or armyba

    • Ona amIa otna.
      Were are you from Terry?
      We will have to watch what we are saying, otherwise the scousers will join in with their waygo pago lingo.
      And don’t get the Geordies at it.
      Stan

    • My husband and his family spoke backslang fluently, As did my mum. It was usually used by tradesmen, shopkeepers etc who didn’t want their customers to know what they were talking about (like upping the price) As a born and bred cockney- born in the Mile End road you’d have thought that id’ve been taught it but I wasn’t.After over 50 years of marriage I have at last got the hang of it. I kniht.

    • G Day from Melbourne Aus, my grandfather was a Cockney, born in the Minories back in 1904. i am 60 now, but remember as a little bloke, my G/Dad would speak this crazy Lingo with some of his BRS mates, we had no idea what he was on about… great days and fond memories

      Bob

  6. i was born on highgate hill in the whittington hospital in 1949, and i came out talking like a cockney, weird, cos my older sister talks ‘posh’
    across the road from the hospital is a cat surrounded by a metal rail, actually saw it mentioned recently, although for so many people history, especially of london and its real people and their culture, is not important.
    my dad was born in hoxton above a shop and my mum was born in bow in a house.

    to me a cockney is part of a culture – a word not recognised for its importance these days.
    you know, the attitudes and behaviour that were taught to me by my kith and kin – based on what they were taught by their kith and kin – and so on – that’s culture
    experience of life and other people over time is what gives one their culture – but also most importantly their environment, both built and otherwise – the green stuff and other associated creatures.
    country people and town/city people are different with their understanding, although human decency runs through all cultures

    to me rhyming slang was a game of words that people used to entertain themselves – not just about talking in a way that rich and posh people couldn’t understand, and as a child i was constantly told – use your loaf.
    i actually thought loaf was another word for head and i would find it in the dictionary

    let’s not forget that living in cities was and still is a grim place to live and love for poor working people – with little natural romance – the feel of the wind and the sun on the face – the sounds of life and nature – read the great animal orchestra by bernie kraus if you think that built up areas of people with all their damn noise is important or healthy.

    cities – as old cockneys knew – were run by people who thought that they knew better than the rest of us – the aristocrats, the church establishment, the traders of goods made by others!!!

    as a child it was quite obvious to me in london that, although the government made laws, on the ground, ordinary people did what they thought was sensible in that situation (using their culture) and so often did exactly the opposite of what the law said

    this was broken in the 60’s by so-called political people like blair who came to a cockney area and put the indigenous londoner behind the new british immigrants using a term like ‘positive discrimination – even though the indigenous londoner was poor having been targeted by hitlers bombers (he thought he could destroy english people’s moral by bombing the poor areas in all the island’s big cities!!!
    after the war people had little and so when the wicked witch of the west came along with her ‘there are no such thing as communities, we are all individuals’ she made people think they were wealthy by owning their own homes!! and destroying the financial system into fairyland

    i live in essex and the only thing that saves it for me is the fact that there are many creatures (i live on a third of an acre) but both country people and london descent people seem to have lost their way and are mostly money orientated

    cockney people were wonderful when i was small – they were a community and as they saw so many people in their lifetimes they could suss you out with one look in your eyes (seat of the soul)- trustworthy or a con man – and treated you accordingly
    that’s why the kray twins got spat out by the public – they started killing people in public and the public weren’t happy
    shame the present londoners don’t behave that way now!!! but it seems to have become a ‘let’s have a party’ city. london was quiet by nine pm when i was a kid
    don’t think that young people can blame us anymore for the destruction of our world – they are doing a good job all on their own within their own lifetimes!
    all ordinary cultures within this great island were amazingly sensible in the way they treated life and individual people
    there are still some places i have found in my life where people are sound humans – but i shan’t say where cos people will move there and destroy it.
    shame all the cockneys are no longer connected – although i usually know when i meet one – not just because of their language but by their attitude
    long live human decency!!

    Reply
    • “Use your loaf”.
      Loaf is short for loaf of bread. Loaf of bread rhymes with head.
      Hence “ Use your loaf “ Use your head,
      I,m up the apples now for a kip

    • How well put..Yes, they try so very hard to put cockneys off of the map…Constantly belittling them and portraying them in masses as crafty conniving fools……..Depicting them on TV as grabbing thick parasites…..I’m a smart kind reserved Cockney.Was raised with many morals and values ..Empathy was given and installed by my parents. Whom were born,as was I..In the eastend ofLondon. …!

    • Hello Penny. You’ve just about nailed it here. Decent and in some cases descent. I play with words, accents, keyboards, and reeds and learn other languages easily and fast.

      I was brought up in Peckham, not far from the Old Kent Road. Google maps 2.6 miles. I am almost 80 and remember as it was with fond feelings for the closeness and kindness of past generations. Wealth had not morphed into stealth.

      South “Sarf” in cockney, London was distinguishable from the East End variety by “tonal” inflection. The area was originally meadowland feeding the City, to the “Norf” of the “Riva”. And a stones “Frow” from the Sit-i

      There was a kind of inverted snobbery, but you can see from Michael Caine he is from the “Sarf and locals like me can catch the subtleties. The speed of delivery was a good clue to birthright. And gruffness or softness of tone.

      Rudeness, and Frankness would describe the lurking sarcastic humour, behind for example, Chas and Dave’s Gertcha Cowson Gertcha,

      We woz sometimes seen as posh geezers. And we were responsible for rhetorical phrases such as “ennit?” and dunnit? But there was nowhere to hide behind RP received pronunciation. Cockneys were the salt of the earth and simple truth was paramount to social cohesion.

      Go awry and you will soon find yerself disenfranchised with a direct “Aint yer go- no ‘ome?

      Oh yes, my name is Derek. Mother vaguely thought it was a bit posh. But soon it hurt her ears when everyone began calling me De-w (Del).

      All the best

      Delboy

    • Hi Del

      Chas and Dave were both born in Middlesex, so “Mockney” is the correct term to use to describe their music.

      Best wishes

      Alex

  7. War damage payments.
    Money paid by Germany for all the damage they caused. This I believe was for property.
    We the suffering population got SFA.
    Stan

    Reply
  8. Oh !you wonderful cockneys, actual, near or could be.
    St. Mary – le Bow bells is correct.
    The bells may have been silent ( they were not when I was born in 1938) But it is not just the bells, it is a culture a way of recognising a fellow Londoner.
    You want here anybody in or near Liverpool who is not a scouser. Manchs are the same if they support United.
    You are a Brummy if your adenoids are blocked.
    Want mention Norwich, or the whole of east Kent with their Men of Kent or Kentish men.
    Go cockneys .

    Reply
  9. I was born at home in John Fisher Street E1 in 1951 well inside cockney land. It was just off Dock Street at the end of Cable Street. The Royal Mint and Tower of London were 5 minutes away from home.

    As a boy I grew up around the docks and played in bombed out buildings.

    Lots of memories good and even!

    For our overseas Rhyming Slang fans – a tip – when used in a conversation it is intended to be understood only by fellow cockneys and not those “non believers” in earshot. Therefore you only use the first word in the rhyme. So you would take a “butchers” at something – you wouldn’t say “butchers hook” (normally).

    Reply
  10. My dad was born in Christmas street in 1929. Within the sound of bow bells. It dooexist any more bit I’d love to find out where it was if anyone knows

    Reply
    • The Mother`s Hospital was in the Lower Clapton road E5.. Pehaps we in “Ackney” were Eastenders but, we were just as good Cookneys as the Mileend buuch!

    • If you were born in “Ackney” . You are a Cockney.. The first sixteen Boroughs of east London, are deemed to be an extension to the City of London, square mile, when The City of London become overcrowded.
      New the hospital well, used to ride my bike to work and back past the “ Orspital.
      I lived in the flats in Ferron Rd. Worked in Whitechapel.
      Regards.
      Stan Marshall

  11. I was eighty years old in February this year.
    So St Mary – le- Bow bells were ringing.
    I was born in Bethnal Green hospital E2., in 1938. The bells could be heard from there.
    My father his father and his father were born in either Bethnal Green or Bow.
    My mothers parents were born in Stepney..Her grandfather was born in Soho, you could hear the bells from there.
    So am I cockney.? Yes, but I,m not a stall holder, or wear pearl suits, neither do a drop my aitches. A cockney is more than where you were born, or speak. It’s about being just that bit different. Scousers , Manks etc all feel like that

    Reply
  12. I was born in 1963 in the old Charing Cross Hospital that I believe was located on Agar Street, West Strand, WC2N 4JP (before it moved to its current location in 1973). Agar Street is 1.7 miles to the west of the sound of Bow Bells so should I assume I’m a cockney? I’ve always thought I was but would love to know!

    Reply
  13. My father John (Jack) Feacey and his father before him John Charles Feacey had a family butchers shop at 76 Dale Road E16. This was from about 1920s through to late 1970s when the shop was compulsory purchased and the are was developed. Does anyone remember the shop and my family?

    Reply
    • You can claim to be born within the sound of the bells of St Mary and the Holy Trinity at Bow, the only church “in” the Mile End Road. Not the right Bow Bells, but in a survey carried out in about 2000, the Bells of St Mary le Bow, just of Cheapside were heard farther out than St Andrew’s, so you might just qualify as those are the only Bells that count. If you remember seeing it, St Mary’s actually sits in the middle of the road so is, in truth, the only church “in” the Mile End Road.
      There used to be a pub with a similar claim, “The Old Vine” which was up around the old Ggardners Corner area of the Mile End Road. Have a looks the top of the spitalfieldslifecom. The picture at the top is the said pub.

    • David, I’m in a quandary..I’ve always told my daughter she couldbe a pearly princess by birthright….but today shes told me I’m wrong…. her Dad was born while visiting grandparents on old Kent road… his Mum gave birth at the hospital on Mile End Rd and was told her baby was a born cockney…
      I remember my daughters paternal great Nan telling me her grandson could be a pearly king if he wanted to and his kids could be pearly princess and prince…that’s the story that stuck for years n years…..now i dont know…… her great Nan was a Mrs Dudley who was widowed young and then remarried to becomes Hawkins….

  14. Although Im a South Londoner (wrongly referred to as a cockney in some quarters) my paternal great grand parents were from Shoreditch and Hackney, definitely East Londoners but were they cockneys?

    Reply
  15. My Dad and his family were true cockneys and I was born in Queen Charlotte hospital in London but I am proud to be part of a cockney family and most people do take me for one because of how I talk. After living in New Zealand for the last 43 years I still sound the same.

    Reply
  16. My Grandfather was born the east end in 1888, a true cockney, However, my Father was born in Kennington in1910 and claims you could hear bow bell then as their was no traffic at that time

    Reply
    • I can believe that. I can remember as a kid in the mid ’70s hearing the guns of the salute on remembrance Sunday, we lived in Ilford. There was no traffic and no sound at 11am on the 11th.

      So in 1910 it would have been quiet at times too!

  17. My mother in law claims to be a cockney she was born in portabello rd in royal borough of chelsea and Westminster in May 1950. Could someone please let me know if shes a wannabe as my father seems to think she is

    Reply
    • I was born in the Golborne ( Top of Portobello Road ) Lived in West London 30 Years & then East London but in No way am I a Cockney – Londoner Yes Cockney No Way – If your Mother in law could hear Bow Bells from W10 she’s pretty amazing – Cockney No Mockney Maybe

    • hi i was born in chelsea in may 1950 and i am not a cockney londoner yes but not a cockney,also 1n 1950 the royal borough of chelsea and westminster did not exsist it was the metropolitan borough of chelsea 3rd smallest borough.

  18. i was born in peckham and my mum came from east end and i miss it all is there any bar in pattaya thailand I COULD MEET UP AND RINGH OUT THE BARRELS

    Reply
  19. I am 67. Born in Westland Place Shoreditch 1949. Very proud to be a true Cockney. Now live in Nottingham but have very fond memories of life in Tsplow Street and school in Hoxton Square.
    I have to laugh when Essex folk talk of being Cockneys but proud they see it as a status. !!!
    Not many of us left !😄

    Reply
    • any of us in nottingham jim,im now in essex and there aint none here they like to think they are cockneys but these people aint got a clue i tell you.no community spirit what ever,no one speaks to you unless they have to,like oi what you looking at f,,, face,no mate,life out of london is finished,and londons finished,might join you up there mate..

  20. the bells were silent from 1940 to 1961. so anyone born within that period are not true ‘Cockneys’ as they could not have heard the bells.

    Reply
    • Sorry you translate it that way. On that basis only people born at 9 o’clock were ever Cockneys then.
      The reality was being born within the sound of Bow bells not that they were ringing at the time.
      Anyway I trust you are a Cockney so Respect to you.

    • Thanks. I was born within the sound but before the bells were replaced in late 61. Hopefully I can still consider myself a true Cockney.

    • This is not strictly true as many Cockney dads used to play a 1926 BBC recording of the Bow Bells when their kids were born during the 1950s. Alfie Shine’s pawnshop on the Globe Road was one of the places that used to hire out the old reel-to-reel tape recorders.

    • The bells ringing at the time of a birth. Rather the reference is a generic term meaning that if they could be heard to ring during the time of a birth then the person is considered a Cockney. As mentioned, the bells could not and did not ring between 1940 and 196i as they were down. You obviously understand but just want your 15 minutes to play the Devli’s advocate.
      ‘nuf sed.

    • Clive,
      I believe the words are “ Born within the sound of Bow bells.” .Come on Clive, church bells ringIng 24/7 for 400+ years.
      Regards Stan Marshall

    • Here is an interesting thought. The Bells at St Mary le Bow were cast at the Bow Foundry. In 2002 the City of London commissioned a bell to be made to be presented to the City of New York to commemorate the first anniversary of the devastation to the Twin Towers. Called “The Bell of Hope” it now hangs in the Trinity Church in Wall St. Can any New Yorker born within the sound of that Bow Bell claim to be a Cockney ?

  21. Cockneys were born within the sound of bow bells, bow bells is in cheapside the same bells that said turn again dick Whittington Lord mayor of London. The bells are called the bells of st Mary let bow, not bow bells in bow, so cockneys originated in the city of london
    This information can be found in the city livery halls I and around the city of London

    Reply
  22. Cockneys were born within the sound of bow bells, bow bells is in eastcheap the same bells that said turn again dick Whittington Lord mare of London. The bells are called the bells of st Mary let bow, not bow bells in bow, so cockneys originated in the city of london
    This information can be found in the city livery halls I and around the city of London

    Reply
    • The actual address is 1, Bow Lane which is on Cheapside

      St Mary-le-Bow
      Historic Church
      St Mary-le-Bow
      St Mary-le-Bow is a historic church rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren in the City of London on the main east–west thoroughfare, Cheapside. According to tradition a true Cockney must be born within earshot of the sound of Bow Bells.

  23. I am an 87 year old British American. Only this year did I discover that both my parents were Cockneys. They never mentioned this, nor did they speak the lingo. I, on the other hand, enjoy mimicking quite a few dialects. All the best of swan and duck to you . . . Terry

    Reply

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