You probably know this view. We're looking downhill from St Paul's towards the Millennium Bridge. But can you name the road?
I always thought it was Peter's Hill, as the name plate on the left of the photo confirms. But it's not that simple. The sign on the right side of the photo above carries a different name, Sermon Lane. What's going on?
To complicate things further, the Peter's Hill sign also suggests a THIRD name. St Pauls' Vista appears below in parentheses, suggesting this is a sobriquet for the hill. I'm a bit confused, to be honest.
It gets even weirder a little down the hill. Here, a fourth name is introduced, as the western section of the street buds off into the tiny, 80s-invoking Knightrider Court (foreshadowed as a 'leading to' on the Sermon Lane sign). We can capture all three names in one confusing photograph:
Let's see if local maps can help us sort out this tangle. First up, here's the view from a nearby Legible London TfL street map. It suggests that Sermon Lane occupies the western portion of the street, becoming Knightrider Court to the south, while Peter's Hill runs along the eastern side and continues down toward the Thames.
That sort of reflects reality on the ground, where the western bit (Sermon Lane) is on specially raised ground. But... but... why does this raised ground also carry a sign for Peter's Hill, as shown in the photo above the map?
We can also turn to online maps. Here's how Google and OpenStreetMap present the area:
The waters are muddied further here. Google (left) agrees that Sermon Lane is to the west and Peter's Hill to the east. But it also suggests that the two roads merrily elope to the south. Rather than "leading to" Knightrider Court, Sermon Lane is now repelled by it. OpenStreetMap (right) has even less respect for the court. It's not labelled at all, at any zoom level. And, curiously, this map has Peter's Hill intruding into Sermon territory, as well as branching off into two continuations north of Carter Lane.
Apple Maps and Bing Maps don't bother with any labels (hey, it's pedestrianised, who cares?).
The whole thing is a cartographic mess.
All three streets are ancient. Reference to old maps shows that Sermon Lane was once the most northerly street, with Peter's Hill to its south, and Knightrider Court unexpectedly doing its own thing, off to the east.
What seems to have happened is that the trio were consolidated into one thoroughfare (Peter's Hill) when the wide approach to Millennium Bridge was created in the late 20th century. But presumably the City didn't want to expunge any of these evocative, historic names, so all three got a share of the new route. Sermon Lane is retained as the raised area along the west side, while Knightrider Court has ridden from its traditional location to serve as the appendix to Sermon Lane's colon.
But where did "St Pauls' Vista" come from? Obviously, there's a vista of St Paul's from this hill... but why has it been added to the street sign? We don't see signs for "Tooley Street (Shard's shadow)", or "Westminster Bridge (Big Ben ahoy!)".
I wrote to the City of London to see if they could provide any further details about this nominative abundance. The press office didn't have any ready answers and instead directed me towards the London Metropolitan Archives. Which is fair enough.
But before I get stuck into the archive, I thought I'd open up this whole morass to Londonist readers, to see if anybody has an insight. Comments below...
Apologies to anybody who lived through the 80s and now has the theme to Knightrider in their head.