Why Are So Many Stations Named After Oak Trees?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 20 months ago
Why Are So Many Stations Named After Oak Trees?
Photo: Laura Nolte

Burnt Oak, Royal Oak, Gospel Oak, Honor Oak (Park) — all names of stations on the London transport system. But why does the humble oak tree have so many stations named after it — and are they all linked? We take a look at the etymology behind the station names.

Honor Oak Park (London Overground)

Legend has it that Elizabeth I was in the area in 1602 and sat down to have a picnic with Welsh politician Sir Richard Bulkeley. The tree under which they sat became known as the Oak Of Honor, and the hill became known as the Oak Of Honor Hill — now One Tree Hill.

In 1905, a new oak tree was planted on the site of the original one.

Why it's Honor Oak, not Honour Oak, isn't completely clear, but unformalised spelling systems at the time are widely blamed.

The Honor Oak. Photo: Paul Wood

Burnt Oak (Northern line)

Even Barnet Council isn't 100% sure of the etymology of this one, although many people accept it was due to the presence of a burnt oak tree.

The earliest known use of the name Burnt Oak for the area is 1754, when it was no more than a field to the east of Edgware Road. In May 1844, a Mr Essex bought Burnt Oak Field, and by the 1860s there were plans to build a residential estate there, which then assumed the name.

Royal Oak (Circle and Hammersmith & City lines)

Royal Oak is named after a local pub, which no longer exists. That, like so many Royal Oak pubs, is named after the Royal Oak tree, a tree in the grounds of Boscobel House in Shropshire. The future King Charles II hid in the tree to escape the Roundheads in 1651.

Photo: Koichi Enomoto

Gospel Oak (London Overground)

Used by many as the gateway to Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, this Overground station is named after the wider Gospel Oak area. That in turn is named after an oak tree under which the locals and parishioners gathered for gospel readings, a tree which marked the boundary between the parishes of Hampstead and St Pancras.

The tree no longer exists — it was last recorded on a map in 1801.

See also: Which bits of London are named after plants?

Last Updated 28 September 2016