London’s place names have always been fluid. Old names are squeezed out by the new and, without fixed borders to work from, your views on where one place ends and another begins are as likely to be about age and class as they are about geography.
All the same, though, deliberate attempts at rebranding are, like most things to do with marketing, horrible, and whenever they start popping up in the papers, we tend to suspect someone enterprising hack is trying to sell their flat. What’s more, most of these efforts will come to naught: the only time London place names actually seem to change is when a station gets an odd name. There’s a reason why you may have never heard of Battlebridge, Newington or Hatcham*, even though you’ve very probably been to all of them. This is likely why a Tower Hamlets councilor has spent rather a lot of time trying to get Shoreditch High Street station rebranded as ‘Banglatown’.
But Londonist is nothing if not dedicated to its city. So, in the name of science, we decided to track down these painful formulations, and come up with some sort of taxonomy. After some investigation, we’ve identified more than twenty, that seem to slot into four broad categories.
1) Property developer speak
• Portman Village – an attempt by local businesses to get more people to venture north of Marble Arch
• Connaught Village – the same, only the other side of Edgware road
• Seven Dials – the posher bit of Covent Garden
• Midtown – everything between the City and the West End, in what looks like a desperate attempt to attract Americans
• NoHo – Fitzrovia
• SoBo – the Bricklayer’s Arms roundabout (it’s south of Borough, y’see)
• SoSho – south of Shoreditch
• NoDa and SoDa – north and south Dalston
• NoGo – our personal favourite, for a no-man’s-land somewhere north of Goldhawk Road
3) Attempts to make desolate bits of marsh and industrial estate sound more appealing than they actually are
• Barking Riverside
• Barking Reach
• Havering Riverside
• Dagenham Reach
4) Simple, shameless snobbery
• Blackheath Approach – Lewisham
• Lower Chelsea – Battersea
• Bowes and Bounds – Wood Green
• Herne Hill Borders – Brixton
• Steele’s Village – Chalk Farm (the residents association has stuck up banners and everything)
• ‘Highgate Slopes’ and ‘Archgate’ – ‘It isn’t Archway, honest’
This isn’t a comprehensive list, we’re sure, so do let us know if you’ve spotted any others. There’s a prize for the greatest monstrosity: specifically, a sense of lingering shame.
*King’s Cross, Elephant & Castle and New Cross Gate respectively, since you wondered