Everyone in this town recognises the names of the tube stations. Shepherd's Bush, Chalk Farm, Elephant & Castle – these names are part of the fabric of this city, existing not just on the map but in the great unconscious, part of our collective image of What This City Is Like.
Other transport infrastructure, though, is a different matter. Even if you've noticed the name of your local bus stop, it probably takes you a second to recall it, and names from areas you rarely pass through will be as unfamiliar as those of the craters of Mars. Partly, that's because naming the things at all is a relatively new innovation; partly, too, because they don't appear on maps. But mostly it's because so many of them are lumbered with such brain-numbingly tedious labels as "Percy Street" or "Ponders End Police Station".
A handful of London's 18,000 named bus stops, though, have the sort of intriguing monikers that can compete with the more evocative bits of tube map. So we've decided to tell you about them. In a new series (appearing, frankly, whenever we feel like it), we'll pick out a divertingly named bus stop, tell you where it is, and explain how it got its name. If you’re lucky, our explanations might even be true.
Number 1: Stoats Nest Village
Stoats Nest Village bus stop takes its name from a street, which took its name in turn from, well, a village. Note the Finnegans Wake-style lack of apostrophe: this is not 'a nest belonging to some stoats', but something verb-ier.
At one point, this Surrey hamlet actually had its own railway station, Stoats Nest & Cane Hill, just south of Purley. This closed in 1983, but fans of elongated mammalia didn't much care, because some spoilsport had changed its name years ago (first to Coulsdon & Smitham Downs, then to Coulsdon West, and then, after all of three weeks, to Coulsdon North).
How the village itself got its name we're not entirely sure (our trusty Brewer's is silent). But we've got a lovely mental image of property developers buying up some narrow tunnels in the ground, converting them into fashionable yuppie flats, then selling them for a fortune. Presumably this process involved evicting the actual stoats, thus forcing them to seek cheaper accommodation in nearby Addington.
So, in the absence of more accurate information, we're sticking to that. Take the 466 south from East Croydon and you can still find an industrious community of commuters, living out their days in some narrow holes in the ground. Amazing. Full of wonder, London, isn't it?
If there are any bus stop names you'd like Londonist to explain – or, failing that, fabricate an explanation for – then let us know, and we’ll give it our best shot.
Image courtesy of Sergey Pisarevskiy, taken from Flickr under a creative commons licence