Our series on London etymology continues with a look at the stations of the Bakerloo line. Find out how your local station got its name. See also Central, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Northern, Victoria.
Harrow & Wealdstone
We begin with a double-header. Harrow, also the name of the London Borough, is thought to come from the Old English word 'hearg', meaning a heathen temple. The long-lost mystical landmark was probably sited where today you'll find St Mary's church (the prominent steeple on Harrow hill). The Wealdstone, by contrast, still exists. Look outside the Bombay Central restaurant and you'll find an ancient stone that marked the boundary between the parishes of Harrow and Harrow Weald. The word 'weald' is Old English for woodland, distinguishing this parish in medieval times from the more built-up Harrow proper.
Kenton and South Kenton
Two stations on this line bear the name of Kenton. Much like Kensington and Kennington, Kenton was named after a local landowner with a Ken-ish name, probably Coena.
North Wembley and Wembley Central
Wembley's name is also Anglo Saxon and means the open space or clearing (lea) belonging to someone called Wemba. When football fans chant Wemba-lea, Wemba-lea, Wemba-lea, they are bang on the nail.
Was there ever a stone bridge at Stonebridge? Why yes. The sturdy span, built in the 17th century, once carried Harrow Road over the River Brent. That still happens, but the road is today supported on a massive concrete slab.
Another ancient name stemming from a medieval landowner. Harlesden was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Herulvestune, and recalls a local fellow called something like Heoruwulf.
Willesden is first recorded in the 10th century as Willesdune, meaning 'spring on the hill'. The site of that spring is now lost but, bizarrely, the area did boast an oil well in the 1940s, as this Pathe film shows.
Today, the area is perhaps most famous for its cemetery, but this was once all woods. And that's where the name comes from. Kensal is first recorded in the 13th century and derives from King's holt (wood). Which king? Nobody knows. The Green was once sited south of the station, now eaten up by the cemetery.
The park, tube station and residential area are all named for Queen Victoria, who was keeping the throne warm during the area's construction.
'-burn' and its variants usually denote a river (Holborn, Ravensbourne, Tyburn). Here, it is a reference to the River Westbourne, which flows beneath the streets of Kilburn through some rather obvious valleys. The name is first recorded in 1134 as Cuneburna, although many variations are known. Kilburn grew up around a priory where the old Roman road crossed the Westbourne. The first part of the name indicates a relationship with either a king or cattle. Local estate agents probably favour the former. Curiously, that's three stops in a row with a possible connection to the Sovereign.
One of six underground stations named after pubs. The Hero of Maida pub stood by the Regent's Canal on Edgware Road from around 1809. Its unusual name commemorates General Sir John Stuart, victor of the Battle of Maida in 1806. It closed in the early 1990s. Today, the building is a skincare clinic.
A rare tube station named after a woman, Warwick Avenue recalls Jane Warwick of Warwick Hall, Cumberland. In 1778, she married Sir John Frederick who leased this land from the Bishop of London. He laid out the street and named it in Jane's honour.
The west-facing station and the wider area carry a name that, yet again, comes to us from Anglo-Saxon times. It probably refers to a local land-owner called Padda (the exact name is uncertain), with 'ton' or 'tun' meaning 'the village of'.
The old Roman route of Watling Street takes many names along its course. Where it twists north at Marble Arch, it likes to be called Edgware Road (because, after miles of light industry and noisy slipways it does eventually reach Edgware). That name recalls an otherwise forgotten Anglo-Saxon chieftain called Ecgi, associated with a fishing pool (weir or ware) in these parts.
Maryburne is first recorded in 1453. It refers to the church of St Mary on the banks of the river Tyburn (a bourne is an old name for river, as with Holborn and Westbourne Park). The church is still there, and so is the river — now covered and used as a sewer. If you go for a wazz in the station toilet, then you're probably contributing to the Tyburn.
Sherlock's home is named after its builder, William Baker, who laid out the street in the 18th century.
This station, the park itself, and Regent Street all commemorate the Prince Regent, later George IV, on whose watch they were first laid out. Before its conversion to a public park, the open space had previously served as royal hunting estates and agricultural land.
You may well have noticed, but there is no circus at Oxford Circus. The word, also used in St Giles Circus and Piccadilly Circus, means a place where traffic circulates — even though you can't exactly U-turn at any of them these days. The 'Oxford' part is confusing. Oxford Street does sort-of lead to Oxford, if you take the right forks later on, but the name is also reflective of the Earl of Oxford, who developed land either side of the street.
The Bakerloo line is perhaps the only way in the world to visit two circuses within two minutes. This one takes its name from the street of Piccadilly, which has a fascinating etymology. It harks back to a 17th century tailor named Roger Baker, who gained his fortune making frilly collars called piccadils. His house and shop on what was then known as Portugal Street soon came to be known as Pickadilly Hall. The peculiar term soon spread to the wider area.
A name of two halves. For the Charing bit, look to the river. It comes to us from the Old English word 'cierring', which means 'turning' — a likely reference to the sharp bend in the Thames at this point. The Cross relates to the final Eleanor Cross, a series of monuments marking the nightly resting places of the eponymous queen's body, following her death near Lincoln in 1290. The original London memorial has long vanished, but a Victorian pastiche can still be seen in the taxi rank of the station. Further references can be found in David Gentleman's wonderful murals down on the Northern Line platforms.
Previously called Charing Cross, then Charing Cross (Embankment), then Charing Cross Embankment, this station finally settled on its current name of Embankment in 1976. Its origins are fairly obvious. This was one of the stations built within Joseph Bazalgette's Victoria Embankment in the 1860s.
The mainline station opened to the public in 1848, when the area was already known as Waterloo. The nearby bridge was under construction at the time of the battle (1815). It was to have been called Strand Bridge, but the military victory immediately prompted calls for a 'Bridge of Waterloo'. The span opened two years later as the slightly snappier Waterloo Bridge, begetting Waterloo Road, the name of the wider area and, eventually in 1898, a tube station.
Rather satisfyingly, Lambeth means 'landing place for lambs', and it's a shortened version of the earlier Lambehitha (hitha being a common ending for riverside landing places like Rotherhithe).
Elephant & Castle
And the animal theme continues at our final stop. Any number of spurious explanations for the name have been offered (Infanta da Castilla, anyone?), but in all probability Elephant and Castle is simply named after a pub. We've got more detail here.
Other etymological explorations on Londonist:
- How the Victoria line stations got their names
- How London got its name
- How London's terminal stations got their names
- How the tube lines got their names
- How London's parks got their names
- How London's rivers got their names
- How London's bridges got their names
- How London's odd suburbs got their names
- How London's churches got their names
- How London's markets got their names
- How London's alleyways got their names
- How London's castles and palaces got their names
- How London's squares got their names
- How London's hills got their names
- How London's football teams got their names
- How London's airports got their names