London Misnomers: A Poem About Street Names

By M@ Last edited 131 months ago
London Misnomers: A Poem About Street Names

Continuing today's accidental theme of London place names, we recently chanced across this quirky old poem about the streets of London. The rhyme, attributed to James Smith, was originally published in Rejected Addresses (1840), but we found it reprinted in London Stories Old and New by John O'London (1926).

UPDATE: This poem has now been put to music by Eoin Query. Listen to the last few minutes of this Londonist Out Loud episode.

From Park Lane to Wapping, by day and by night,
I've many a year been a roamer,
And find that no lawyer can London indict,
Each street, ev'ry lane's a misnomer.
I find Broad Street, St. Giles's, a poor narrow nook,
Battle Bridge is unconcious of slaughter,
Cuke's Place cannot muster the ghost of a duke,
And Brook Street is wanting in water.

I went to Cornhill for a bushel of wheat,
And sought it in vain ev'ry shop in,
The Hermitage offered a tranquil retreat,
For the jolly Jack hermits of Wapping.
Spring Gardens, all wintry, appear on the wane,
Sun Alley's an absolute blinder,
Mount Street is a level, and Bearbinder Lane
Has neither a bear nor a binder.

No football is kicked up and down in Pall Mall,
Change Alley, alas ! never varies,
The Serpentine river's a straightened canal,
Milk Street is denuded of dairies.
Knightsbridge, void of tournaments, lies calm and still
Butcher Row cannot boast a cleaver,
And (tho' it abuts on his garden) Hay Hill
Won't give Devon's duke the hay fever.

The Cockpit's the focus of law, not of sport,
Water Lane is affected with dryness,
And, spite of its gorgeous approach, Prince's Court
Is a sorry abode for his highness.
From Baker Street North all the bakers have fled,
So, in verse not quite equal to Homer ,
Methinks I have proved what at starting I said,
That London's one mighty misnomer.

Clever stuff, even if you do have to ignore the obvious point that many of these names were not misnomers when originally coined.

Last Updated 28 September 2011