London East End Street Names

Like all of London, the East End is rich in history. Despite modernisation and rebuilding initiatives over the years, you can still find older hidden gems in the area. This isn’t just about historic buildings, streets and scary small alleyways where Jack the Ripper probably walked.

Old Street Names of London
Old Street Names of London

Odd East End Street Names

The East End also still retains some curious old street names with interesting stories behind them that teach us something about the area.

Artillery Lane

Henry VIII set up an artillery ground in Spitalfields to give local men a place to practice their longbow, crossbow and handgun skills. Although the ground moved in the 1650s, it is still remembered in many local street names, including Artillery Passage.

Brick Lane

Originally called Whitechapel Street, this street’s name changed to Brick Lane because it was a local centre for tile and brick manufacturers in the 15th century.

Cable Street

As you might expect, the main industry in Limehouse’s Cable Street was cable, or rope, making. What is interesting about this street is that it runs straight for the length of an average ship’s cable. This allowed people to lay out the ropes as they made them.

Frying Pan Alley

Situated close to Middlesex Street and Petticoat Lane market, the quaintly named Frying Pan Alley gives us an indication of the businesses that used to operate in this street. Ironmongers and braziers used the frying pan as the emblem of their trade and they would hang a pan outside their shop so people could see what their business was. Over time, the name stuck, even if the frying pans are long gone.

Goodmans Fields

Goodmans Fields in Stepney doesn’t describe the nice nature of the locals, but it does give us an indication of what went on in the area in the past. This street is named after a local farmer, Roland Goodman, who used to farm land here for a nunnery in Elizabethan times.

Houndsditch

Houndsditch runs through part of the East End. It is thought to be located alongside a ditch that the Romans built as part of their city defences. This ditch was filled in, but others were built on the site over the years. The first recorded reference to the road as Houndsditch was in the 13th century. It is likely that the name came from the number of dead dogs thrown into the ditch, which was used as a bit of a rubbish tip. An excavation in the late 1980s did, indeed, unearth a fair few dog skeletons.

King Henry’s Stairs

Nobody is sure if Henry VII actually used these stairs or not, but they do have a connection. They lead down to King Henry’s wharf. They were named after a cannon foundry that he set up in Wapping to make guns for his warships.

Kitcat Terrace

Unfortunately, Kitcat Terrace in Bow has nothing to do with the chocolate bar. The road was named after the Reverend Henry Kitcat, but its name still makes passers-by smile.

Mile End Road

Mile End Road is an ancient road that links London with the East of the country. Its name was first recorded formally in the 1200s as “La Mile ende”. It basically means the small place that is a mile away, marking the distance from the City of London to Mile End on the way to Colchester.

Nanking Street

Before London’s Chinese population set up base in the current Chinatown, it was based in Poplar. You can still see references to the Chinese community that settled here in street names like Nanking Street.

Petticoat Lane

Home to one of the East End’s best-known and biggest markets, Petticoat Lane is located in the Spitalfields area of the East End. Although the market is still known by this name, the lane has been renamed Middlesex Street. It was renamed in Victorian times because prudish Londoners didn’t like the fact that a street was named after women’s undergarments.

The street was probably originally called Petticoat Lane as it sold lace products and petticoats made by local Spitalfields weavers. Over time, the notoriety of the area came into play. People used to say that the street got its name from the fact that people would steal your petticoat at one end of the lane and then sell it back to you at the other.

Roman Road

Bethnal Green‘s Roman Road does relate to a road built by the Romans leading out of London to Colchester. This road got its name later, however, in Victorian times. Archaeologists discovered the original Roman road in the 1840s – this road runs parallel to it. This is one of the most significant ancient roads in British history, as it was the route used by Queen Boadicea on her way to take on the Romans in London.

Tenter Ground

Tenter Ground was originally an open space used by Huguenot weavers who moved into the Spitalfields area. They used the space to dry the cloths they made on frames called tenters, which had hooks to pull cloth tightly so that it dried evenly, and without creasing. There may be no space left here, but the name remains in the street name. This process also gave us the well-known phrase “on tenterhooks”.

London Street Names Books & Maps

30 thoughts on “London East End Street Names”

  1. Anthony Spencer

    Looking for No 8 Forest View Avenue Waltham Forest.

    I am trying to solve the mystery of No 8 Forest View Avenue, Waltham Forest.
    I have my grandmother listed as dying at that address in 1919 on the death certificate, but there now appears to be only houses numbered 1 – 7 Forest View Avenue.
    Further research has found a totally unrelated child dying at the same address withing days of my grandmother so my question is what was No 8 Forest View Avenue and what happened to it

  2. Hi all I lived at number 27 Murray square my name then was mason I had two sisters Tina and Debbie my mum and dads name was Jim and pat would love to hear from anyone who remembers us

  3. Anthony Spencer

    I am trying to find details of “Rosher Row Stratford”
    I have found “Rosher Close” but cannot find any references to Rosher Row.
    I am 99.9% certain it was Rosher Row in the early 1950’s

  4. I moved to Sturry st.Poplar after war.Father was schoolkeeper of George Green Grammar.I went Holy Child School off Grundy St.Taught by nuns(Sisters of Mercy -I think; remember Headmistress Sister Mary).School
    converted to church for Mass,Benediction etc. by opening classroom partitions.I was a Mass server.My mate at the time was Frankie Massingham who lived in Grundy Street – his big sister would take us to the pictures.The bomb sites were our playgrounds.Anyone with recallections

  5. Lottie Alexander

    I would love to know anything about Willow Walk in Bethnal Green, where some of my ancestors lived for many years, working as carpenters, cabinet makers and French polishers

    1. Matthew Hummerstone

      My grandad was carpenter in Bethnal Green in the 50s onwards. We have been looking for information in regard to my grandmother Jean Margaret Merry (or Hummerstone), she may have even had a different surname then. We may be able to help each other.

  6. I am looking for any information on Rosher Row ?
    It was still there in the 1960’s as I remember taking my G/Friend of the time to meet my aunt Ett

  7. I would be grateful if anyone can help with the following: a trade card for Moses Harris (1730-1787) gives his address as the White House, Princes Row. I am trying to find out when he was living there and for how long. I suspect it may have been somewhere between 1771 – early 1780s. The St Mary’s tithe records at the London Metropolitan Archives for 1771-1775 don’t appear to list Princes Row. Does anyone know when Princes Row was built, or when it changed its name (I believe) to Princes Street, or any other source of records that may help.
    Many thanks.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I have ascertained that it was still called Princes Row in 1810. At that time it may have been in the parish of Mile-End New Town, in the parish of St Dunstan, rather than Whitechapel. Does this help?

  8. Kathleen Gordon

    My name is Kathleen Gordon (née Franklin) I lived in east London cemetery as my mum was caretaker. I went to Pretoria school. Does anyone remember me.

  9. I am trying to locate where Pauline Street was, as my great grandparents were residing there when my grandfather and several siblings were born prior to moving with their family to New York.

  10. My father was born in Box Street Bow. I think I have the name of the street right. I have inherited a statue of what I think is the Virgin Mary, it belonged to my great grandma. Looking for some information on it but don’t know where to start. It has the inscription BOW on the back with the letters Reg.

      1. Hi Ann, So I do have the name of the street right. My great grandma was Dapp. Then my nan violet married a Steadman before they all were evacuated to Maidenhead.

  11. Jón Símon Markússon

    I grew up in Bromley Street, Stepney. My grandparents owned a pub called the White Horse on White Horse Road (just two streets away form Bromley Street, with Belgrave Street intervening). The White Horse actually closed its doors less than two weeks ago, but I’ve always wondered how the street got its name. It used to be White Horse Street until it was changed to …Road.

    Another funny street name is Shandy Street, close to Stepney Green Station.

    1. terry o'connor

      hello, i was born in the front room of the bromley hall tavern, in brunswick street, poplar, not only has the pub gone, but the road went years ago, to make way for the tunnel approach.
      if you look at old maps, some of the names seem completely odd.

  12. Good morning from the rainy Belgium.
    I’m researching a Brittish soldier who died in myu hometown Gullegem in 1918.
    HE was born in Horts Yard, Bethnal Green.

    DO you have any idea where this would be today ? I’m planning to visit London on September and East London will be on my list.

    BEst regards,
    BArt Seynaeve

  13. When I was growing up my dad was often working in Thrawl St , but being a kid I always thought it was THroad st, he used to push his barrow all around this area and sometimes over the water across Tower bridge,

  14. I’ve come across the Will of John (or Jean) Tourell, written 1791. He left three houses to his wife, Marguerite, one in Thomas Street and two in Brick Lane, one having “the sign of the Balloon and the other being on the left of said Balloon”.

    I wonder if the Balloon was the name of an inn?

    1. I’ve only just found this website; hence my late response. Yes, ‘The Balloon’ was the name of an inn: a member of my family, Hugh Hopley, apparently was, in the late 18th century, the innkeeper at ‘The Balloon’, which stood on the corner of Thomas Street and Brick Lane. His son, Hugh Samuel Hopley, in a Settlement Examination by the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians on the 13th September 1862, stated that ‘His Father Hugh Hopley kept the Balloon public House. corner of Thomas [Street] Brick Lane was there for several. yrs. he afterward took a public House in Mape [Street – Bethnal Green].’

      [Source: Bethnal Green Board of Guardians Settlement Examinations Aug 1861 – Jan 1862 LMA Ref: BEBG/267/019 folio 62]

  15. I am looking for Carl Street in and around 1911. Not sure how long it existed for as a street but would love to be able to trace where it was and what stands there now

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