Bits Of London That Aren't In The Bit Of London They Say They Are In, But In Another Bit Of London

By M@

Last Updated 02 April 2024

Bits Of London That Aren't In The Bit Of London They Say They Are In, But In Another Bit Of London
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Charing Cross hospital is not in Charing Cross. It is in Hammersmith.

Meanwhile, Hammersmith Hospital is not in Hammersmith, but over two miles away near Wormwood Scrubs. It's like a cruel joke to haze rookie ambulance drivers.

Clapham Junction, as everybody who lives there is fond of pointing out in an exasperated voice, is in Battersea, not Clapham.

It got us thinking: how many other places in London are not where they say they are? And, more importantly, why? As we started mapping, we noticed that the same types of location cropped up time and again: football clubs, cemeteries, hospitals, markets. We've attempted to explain their geographical ambiguities in the text below.

We've not included small-scale stuff like, for example Soho Coffee, which has branches all over central London (and beyond), but none in Soho itself. See also Neal's Yard Remedies, Camden Food Co., Vauxhall Motors and many others.

We might also have included certain airports like London Stansted, London Gatwick, London Luton and (ha) London Southend, none of which are in London... but that's a slightly different thing.

Football clubs

Come on you arse
London's most-moved club. Image: Matt Brown

Football clubs move more often than you might think. Take Queens Park Rangers. They've had around 20 home grounds over the years. Their current (and relatively long-standing) home is at Loftus Road, more than two and a half miles from your actual Queens Park.

That's practically next door compared to some club moves. The ultimate decampment came in 2003, when Wimbledon F.C. shifted 50 miles to Milton Keynes. The club even played under the name Wimbledon for a year, before facing up to the new reality as the MK Dons. As this shift was outside London and no longer carries the Wimbledon name, it's not on our map. One we have included, however, is the 11 mile hike of Arsenal from their original home at Woolwich Arsenal up to Highbury.

Numerous other clubs can be found on the map. We might also add West Ham, who now play in the Olympic Park rather than actual West Ham... although the distance is pretty minimal, and their old ground was arguably even further away in East Ham. For similar "close enough" reasons, we've left off Chelsea even though their ground is closer to the centre of Fulham.


Charing Cross Hospital
Lies, all lies. Image: Matt Brown

As mentioned up top, our hospitals also have a habit of moving somewhere you wouldn't expect. Charing Cross Hospital was originally in Charing Cross, but it outgrew its constrained site. When it moved to Hammersmith, it kept the traditional, well-known name despite the geographic estrangement.

Hammersmith Hospital, meanwhile, was never moved from elsewhere. Its name was established about a century ago, when it served the old Metropolitan borough of Hammersmith. It remains in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, even if it's some distance from the 'town' of Hammersmith.

As if things couldn't get any more confusing, Hammersmith Hospital (not in Hammersmith) shares its site on Du Cane Road with Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital... not in Chelsea.


A cemetery in woods
Lots of cemeteries aren't where they say they are. Image: Matt Brown

It's easier to explain the tendency for burial grounds to carry the names of distant areas. Here's what happens. A small area of inner-London finds that it has run out of local space for burials, so it buys land much further out for a new cemetery. That cemetery then carries the name of the originating parish/area. A good example is the City of London Cemetery. By 1852 the City's graveyards were overflowing — quite literally it some horrific cases. Burials in the Square Mile were banned and a new plot of land was purchased some seven miles away near Wanstead Flats. The City of London Cemetery, as it's called, has been in continual use ever since, both for new burials and for reinterments of some of existing City burials.

Something similar happened with Camberwell's churchyards. A fresh cemetery was established some way from Camberwell near Honor Oak in 1855. This was itself full by the turn of the 20th century and a second large plot was established in 1902. These are today Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. They're roughly three miles from Camberwell proper though, at the time of their creation, they did fall within the old Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell.


New Billingsgate Market
Billingsgate will soon move again. Image: Matt Brown

Our final broad class of 'not-where-they-say-they-ares' is London's great markets. The story here is similar to that of the cemeteries. Come the 20th century, the markets of Billingsgate (fish), Spitalfields (fruit and veg) and Covent Garden (fruit, veg, flowers) found themselves fatally constrained. London's population had grown massively since their establishment, and the markets' central locations were not a sensible place for modern HGV deliveries. Each moved out to roomier quarters: Billingsgate to Poplar, Spitalfields to Leyton and Covent Garden to Nine Elms. Each kept their traditional name, with the addition of 'New' to help distinguish from their original sites.

For now, Smithfield's ancient meat market remains in its ancestral home, but it is all but certain to move to a new site in Dagenham later this decade. The plans also envisage New Spitalfields and New Billingsgate cuddling up together in this new Mega-Marketopolis, as we hope no one dubs it.

The peculiar case of Finsbury Park

Read Finsbury Park backwards and you get Krapy Rub Snif
Krapy Rub Snif. Image: Matt Brown

Finsbury Park is named after the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury, whose residents had long been crying out for more open space. They eventually got it in 1869 after years of saga. Problem was, the park was over three miles from Finsbury — well out of reach of many of the local poor. As the Illustrated Times said on the park's opening in 1869: "Almost the only connection it has with Finsbury is that it is on the same side of the Thames".

Finsbury ceased to be a borough in 1965. The term is still in use for the areas around Old Street, but it's fallen into relative obscurity. Finsbury Park, meanwhile, is much better known thanks to its name taking hold on the tube and rail maps.

Note for pedants: "What about Leicester Square? That's not in Leicester?" "You forgot Canada Water, Buckingham Palace, York Way, Trafalgar Square, blah, blah, wah, wah..." Nice try, but no, we didn't. Go back and read that long confusing title again. The whole point is to find bits of London named confusingly after other bits of London.