This North American City Is Basically A Big Old Copy-And-Paste Of London

This North American City Is Basically A Big Old Copy-And-Paste Of London
A photograph of a city street at dusk
Richmond Street in downtown London, Ontario, Canada. Image: benedek/iStock

So you find yourself in the centre of London. Step out of Covent Garden Market, and walk a couple of blocks north-east for a stroll through Victoria Park. Head north to Oxford Street and cross the Thames, before wandering south along the river, through Blackfriars Community Garden and crossing the Thames again over Blackfriars Bridge. From here, you're a short distance from Museum London and London Children's Museum, while a longer stroll will get you to Hyde Park, Lambeth, or Westminster.

Are those directions not sounding quite right, but also very, very familiar? That's because we're not talking about London, England, but the city of London in Ontario, Canada.

Exterior of an airport building with 'London' written in red on the control tower
London International Airport in Ontario. Wonder how many tourists have landed here expecting to see Big Ben? Image: The Bold Bureau/iStock

As we've touched on before, the two homonymous cities are rather similar — freakishly so, some might say. Canada's London has an Oxford Street, Covent Garden Market, Vauxhall Park, and districts called Hyde Park, Lambeth and Westminster. Oh, and London sits geographically within Middlesex County, although it's politically separate. Meanwhile, back here in the UK, Middlesex County has been swallowed up by London.

In fact, the more we pore over a map of Canada's London, the more our brains itch because HOW CAN IT BE?

Interior of a market with stalls and counters selling various food products
Covent Garden Market... but not as you know it. Image: AlbertPego/iStock

Turns out, Canada's London was named after our own London. According to the Macmillan Book Of Canadian Place Names, in 1793, British General John Graves Simcoe declared a settlement at the fork of Ontario's Thames River to be named London, after the English capital.

Let's take a look at some of the twinned landmarks and how they got their names.

Covent Garden Market, Ontario, Canada

Covent Garden in England is a corruption of 'Convent', having first emerged as a fruit and veg wholesale market belonging to 'the garden of the Abbot and Convent of Westminster'. Almost 200 years later, the food market now known as Covent Garden Market was established in Ontario, though the etymology is unknown. Interestingly, like the UK's own Covent Garden Market, a road called King Street runs alongside one side of the market.

Victoria Park, Ontario, Canada

An 18-acre park in downtown, originally the site of a British Garrison, and later a cricket ground, it's now used as a general recreation spot and site of events including annual folk music and food festivals. It was named after Queen Victoria, but we won't hold that against Canada, given how much of our own London is also named after Victoria (Park, Station, Embankment...). It's even got a replica of the Cenotaph found in Whitehall, complete with three flagpoles on each side and wreath decoration on the ends. Not to be confused with Victoria Park in Kitchener, a larger park 100km away, which is also named after the monarch. London in Ontario also has a Victoria Hospital, named after... yep, her.

Oxford Street, Ontario, Canada

Our own Oxford Street is so named because it's part of the historic route linking London to Oxford. Sound etymology, that, and it's possible that Ontario's Oxford Street got its name in a similar way. Oxford County lies to the east of London, and Oxford Street is a straight road starting in a western suburb of Ontario, crossing the Thames River twice before running all the way to the airport in the east. It doesn't quite reach Oxford County, though it's possible that it once did before the airport was built, stopping it in its tracks.

Ontario has a Regent Street too, but it doesn't intersect with Oxford Street — nor does it have a huge toy store.

Hyde Park, Ontario, Canada

Hyde Park isn't an uncommon name — in addition to London (UK)'s sprawling green space, there are Hyde Parks in Leeds and Niagara Falls to name just a couple. Ontario's Hyde Park is a neighbourhood rather than a park, though it does encompass plenty of green space in addition to residential streets and a giant Walmart. The origins of the name in this case are uncertain — some claim it was named by English settlers from Cumberland, as a nod to their home country, but this is unproven. Another Hyde Park, in upstate New York, is named after Edward Hyde, former governor of New York, and though we're across the border here, it's possible this area was named after another figure going by the name of Hyde. So, origins unknown, but it's a common enough name that we'll let them have this one.

A park alongside a river with a bridge crossing the river
Blackfriars Bridge. Image: hstiver/iStock

Blackfriars Bridge, Ontario, Canada

Blackfriars Bridge, or Blackfriars Street Bridge, is a bridge spanning the Thames River in Ontario, allowing pedestrians, cyclists and a single lane of traffic to cross it. It's an impressive construction, if that sort of thing floats your boat, being the oldest wrought iron bridge in North America still used for vehicles. It has its own TripAdvisor page, with 37 reviews. That's 37 people who've taken time out of their busy lives to rate a bridge. What do you mean our own Blackfriars Bridge has its own TripAdvisor page too? With 183 reviews? Oh, never mind then. Anyway, we haven't been able to track down the etymology of this one, so maybe it was inspired by our own Blackfriars Bridge?

Lambeth, Ontario

Our own Lambeth takes its name from a 'landing place for lambs', and according to the Macmillan Book of Canadian Place Names, Ontario's Lambeth was named for "a borough of the city of London, England". A clearcut case of copycat naming on Canada's part.

Westminster, Ontario, Canada

We haven't been able to find the etymology for this one, but the town of New Westminster, in British Columbia on the other side of Canada, was given its name from a suggestion by Queen Victoria herself. It's possible that this Westminster was named after that one, or took its inspiration from our own Westminster.

Just a quick zoom around Google Maps reveals lots more similarities between London UK and London Ontario, including Regent Street, Cheapside Street, Harley Street, Piccadilly Street, Highbury Avenue, Richmond Street, Kensington Avenue, Kensington Bridge, Kingsway Avenue, a neighbourhood called Brockley, and Thames Valley Golf Club.

A river from above, with red and orange leafed trees on either side
The Thames never looked so good. Image: mynewturtle/iStock

So, what's Canada's London got that we haven't? Well, Labatt Memorial Park, located at the fork of the Thames River, is the world's longest continuously operating baseball ground, as recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records. It's been going for 144 years.

More importantly though, the nearest airport is London International Airport. In the UK, six airports claim to be in London, but only two of them truly are — and none of them have the iconic name of London International Airport. Wonder how many tourists have deplaned there expecting to find themselves in London, England — and actually, given the similarities between the two, whether they actually realised their error?

And no, there are no direct flights between London and London. We checked.

Last Updated 29 January 2024

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