London Rebranded

By Jonn Last edited 76 months ago
London Rebranded

Have you been over to St Ratford since the redevelopment? Or down into St Reatham? Are you thinking of buying a little pad over in D'Agenham? Very up and coming, they say.

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

2) AbbReVos.

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

Last Updated 27 January 2012

Blodwen

West Norwood as WeNo!

Nicolas Chinardet

I am not convinced that Seven Dials is property developer speak, or at least not from this century or even the previous (18th? when the area was built)

As for a horrible one, we currently have a developpement (featuring housing, student accommodation, a multiplex, a supermarket, shops, restaurants and a "civic space" with market) being built at the back of the Elephant and Castle (along the New Kent Road, between the train station and the Heygate).

That used to be called Oakmayne Plazza (after the developper) but has recently been renamed TriBeCa Square in New London (something to do with a TRIangle (which the site isn't really, even if the project has 3 towers) BEfore the CAStle or some such drivel to reach an anatopoistic (to coin a word myself) reference to a posh area of New York). The New London appellation is apparently older and possibly linked to the redevelopment of the nearby Metro Central Heights building (formerly known as Alexander Flemming House until the late 90s).

Jonn Elledge

On Twitter, @adambienkov just pointed out Greenwich Creekside for Deptford, Greenwich Heights for Woolwich and Blackheath Quarter for Kidbrooke. Euch.

jamesup

I'll challenge your Newington condemnation, seeing as that was the original name of the area, and only lost out due to 'I'll meet you by the the pub on the corner called {name of pub}' renaming strategy that was the developer speak of it's day.

Jonn Elledge

I'm not condemning Newington, I think it's a perfectly good name. But if you tell someone you'll see them in Newington they're likely to give you a blank look and say, "What, Stokie?"

Bowes & Bounds

Great article - and thanks for the recognition! 

As you say in the article areas of London do have fuzzy boundaries however I do think "Bowes and Bounds" (Bowes Park and Bounds Green) are distinct neighbourhoods - north of Wood Green -squeezed up against the interminable North Circular Roadworks!

A local community website http://www.bowesandbounds.org is aiming to celebrate what's great about our area  - rather than define the neighbourhood by what we are not!

I also think there is another category for your list - any thing prefixed by "old ..." or more irritatingly "Olde ... " Claiming historical association with an ancient settlement to disguise the Identikit High Street!

Joel Phillips

Hampstead (i.e. Finchley and Golders Green) Garden Suburb.

Dean Nicholas

The word 'Quarter' is creeping more and more into the lexicon of London developers, for example London Bridge Quarter (or LBQ), Queensbridge Quarter in Hackney, Waterloo Quarter, Regents Quarter in Kings Cross... probably plenty others too.

timothy johnson

When Lily Savage used to perform at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern she would pronounce Vauxhall "Vo-zarl" and declare it was on "the Rue de la Sud Lam-bear"

Iainhscott

I live in South Tottenham, to which I've been casually referring as "SoTo" in the hope that it obtains some kind of chic mystique. But I have seen my area wonderfully described by real estate agents as "Stoke Newington borders", which completely glosses over the fact that Stamford Hill lies inconveniently in the middle.

Sylverp

AArchway also as Lower Highgate... ha!

Jonn Elledge

Personally, I used to live in SoBo, but these days have a little place on the Angel Slopes.

Shell Grayson

I used to live in East FInchley, and the end of the stonkingly rich Bishop's Avenue pops out just south of the tube station, but residents there like to think of themselves as Hampstead Garden Suburbs.

It's an aside, and a sort of anti-poshness, but I have heard of a movement trying to get Windsor renamed as Lower Slough.

No

I'm with the other person who pointed out that Seven Dials is a real, historical area. It was written about by the likes of Dickens and Christie long before the 21st century.

Dean Nicholas

I'm a bit confused as to where exactly SoSho is... surely south of Shoreditch is just the City?

Jonn Elledge

@Dean : Just north of Finsbury Square. It's the name of a bar (ironic, I assume), but I have heard it used as a geographic reference at least once. 

Jonn Elledge

@No Yeah, I realise that, but it's not been in common parlance for a long time, and local business groups have been trying to bring it back for commercial reasons.

London Remembers

Back in Sloane Ranger days, those living in Clapham would pronounce it "Cl'am".  Isn't there an area of Ealing known to estate agent's as Poets Corner (after the street names)?  And I see the Haringey Ladder (near Turnpike Lane) has been honoured by GoogleMaps.

Sean O'Halloran

Don't forget Cockfosters, which residents often refer to as Co'Fosters.

jdh

You missed out the biggest one of all - 'Canary Wharf' and 'Docklands' - both to avoid saying 'Isle of Dogs'!

Robbie

Clap Newington - the area which is really Upper Clapton, but looks to Stoke Newington for aspirational identifcation.

Fohoboo

I used to live in Forest Hill and we all called it FoHo.

Sdafsdaf

Enfield Island Village. Both an island and a village so surely it must be a beautiful area.

Pablo

The one I don't really like is the rebranding of London to LDN.

Guy Leonard

What about the awful 'trendy' names people give to places, e.g. SheBu (but pronounced Che as in Guevara)  for Shepherd's Bush and I've even heard Chiswee for Chiswick. 

BethPH

I saw SoWo for South Woodford on Twitter this morning.

Spignal

Amwell for the bit between King's X and Finsbury. Absolutely definitely undeniably crafted by estate agents not keen on the Pentonville moniker.

James

Kensal Borders – Harlesden
Queen's Park or Brondesbury – Kilburn
Brackenbury Village – Shepherd's Bush/Hammersmith

Steve

Surrey Docks becoming Surrey Quays. It even changed on the Tube map.

Mark Walley

I see a lot of developers round here call stuff on Great Portland Street and Great Titchfield Street "East Marylebone" despite the fact that they're both clearly in Fitzrovia. Also, Villandry and some other shops have attempted to make themselves classier by adopting the name. Shame on them.

Also, occasionally the Regent's Park Estate gets called Cumberland Market because no-one wants the word Estate in their area.

Marc

Years ago, I saw a newspaper ad for loft apartments in 'the City's Upper East Side'. aka Shoreditch.

Neighborhoodist

This is just fantastic, as are all the comments. I love this stuff and, having lived in London, L.A., Chicago, and now New York, have seen many truly horrible ones - among the worst outside of London: "SoNo" in Chicago for 'South of North' [Avenue]; and currently "ProCro" in Brooklyn for 'Prospect Heights-Crown Heights border' or something like that.

A recent AtlanticCities piece looked at some similar themes of neighborhood branding:
http://www.theatlanticcities.c...

And, regarding the (very true!) point made in the article about tube stations impacting neighborhood identity, the truly interested/nerdy on here might check out an article of my own on that topic in the Journal of Urban Design: http://gcdouglas.blogspot.com/...

Andy

As a born Covent Garden lad from the late-fifties, Seven Dials has always been a proper area to locals.

The 3) category actually seems fairly inoffensive, though anywhere labelled as 'Heights'  or '-Side' is always suspect, as is the entire dreadful 2) category: trying to sell American-wannabee names (including Midtown, Downtown and the like) sets my teeth on edge. Chinatown isn't particularly great either, for Gerrard St, though racially it has some accuracy, if racial designations are going to be the future...

'De Beauvoir Village' (three sides agreeable houses, one side grim estate) was one I saw in an estate agents' magazine a while back  - it was in an article extolling Kingsland Road (its length almost a history of London immigration and aspirations, from Shoreditch-to-Tottenham) which stubbornly refused to use the word Dalston anywhere, except mentioning, in passing, Dalston Snooker Club (who, totally co-incidentally, happened to have paid for an advert further along in the mag)!

'Croosh En' is of course the ironic name for those residents who have second-homes in France...

Badenmorgan

Bat-er-sia - Battersea

Carrie

Le Chapel Blanc (Whitechapel)

Metrication

West Wimbledon to the very wealthy, Raynes Park to everyone else.

Me

L'île des chiens, if you please!

Madeleinfrost

Qui meurt pour le pays vit éternellement. Eminem Quotes

Alphaville

I like St. Reaham for Streatham, or Crouchon (with a slight French intonation) for Crouch End

Kay

please delete

Al

Totally wrong on Seven Dials. That's a real historic area which you have, as you mention further up the article, just lumped with Covent Garden as that's the nearest tube