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 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”.

43 thoughts on “London East End Street Names”

    1. Hello Anthea,

      In the 1911 Census it seems there were two address numbers for Albion Cottages Redmans Road. They were only 2 small houses but they were separated into 4 family dwelling quarters, today we would probably call them flats. There was 2 families for number 1: and 2 families for number 3:

      No.1 Albion Cottages – Mary Ellen King age 40 Widow (Head) and family / 2 rooms
      No. 1 Albion Cottages – Sarah Pushee age 67 Widow (Head) and family / 2 rooms

      No. 3 Albion Cottages – James Pedley age 48 Married (Head) and family / 2 rooms
      No. 3 Albion Cottages – James Coor age 57 Married (Head) and family / 2 rooms

      These two cottages were at the beginning of Redmans Road which was before the actual No. 1 Redmans road which was after No. 3 Albion Cottages.

      It appears that the house No. 1 Redmans Road had 2 families also.
      No.1 Redmans Road Sarah Muscovitch age 29 Married (Head) and family / 3 rooms
      No.1 Redmans Road Lizzie Clummer age 42 Widow (Head) living on her own / 1 room

      Each different family were entered on their own separate 1911 Census forms. All the house numbers on this north side of the street were progressing odd numbers.

  1. Lots of streets named after people: Scott St, Mary St. Burke St. Any photos of them I’d be glad to see.

    1. Emma Grace Aldons

      Hi Roger, are you interested with street names as a hobby or is it for a particular purpose? Thank you.

    1. Hello Brian,
      I think you are looking for where Hassard Street Bethnal Green is in 1887 ( not Hansard Street ). It is still there but the area looks very different now to what it was 1887. It was off the Hackney Road and ran centre parallel between Diss Street and Ravenscroft Street.
      Now it is a short type of cul-de-sac about 50 yards long and not a through road as it was 1887.
      At that time it linked from Hackney Road down to Columbia Road ( Previously named Crabtree Row up to 1874 ).
      The famous Columbia Market and Columbia Square built in 1869 and demolished in the 1950s was there coming off at the end of Hassard Street into Columbia Road ( Crabtree Row )

  2. Mrs Christine Miller

    I am trying to find the current name of White Yard, Whitechapel.
    It is in the birth registry of St Mary Whitechapel as the address of John and Mary Summers in July 1742, parents of Ann.

    1. Charles Parker

      Hello Christine,
      White’s yard in the 18th century was a glassmaking site in Glasshouse Street (now John Fisher Street) a few yards up from Flank Street on the other side of the road. In the 1880s It became Peabody Buildings a Victorian estate and they are still there. Today it is called – The Whitechapel Estate. John Fisher Street. Tower Hamlets.
      E1 8HA

  3. Am looking for anything about Massingham St, formerly Norfolk St in Stepney. Have found the Duke of Norfolk Pub on the corner – but anything else appreciated – Thanks.

  4. 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

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