How The Hammersmith & City Line Stations Got Their Names

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By M@ Last edited 6 months ago
How The Hammersmith & City Line Stations Got Their Names

Our series on London etymology continues with a look at the stations of the Hammersmith and City line. Find out how your local station got its name. See also Central, Jubilee, Northern, Victoria.

Hammersmith

Hammersmith Bridge.
Hammersmith: still known for its impressive metal work.

An uneasy beginning on our etymological tube ride, for nobody is quite sure as to the origins of this place name, first recorded in 1294. Some sources suggest it derives from Hammoder's Hythe (a safe haven belonging to Hammoder); others, perhaps more satisfyingly, strike a concatenation of 'hammer' and 'smithy'. Hammersmith may have been an area important for metal working. Can we rename it Thor's Town?

Goldhawk Road

We can be more hawkish with the next station's origins. Goldhawk Road is probably named after a John Goldhawk who owned an enviable amount of land in Fulham during the 15th century.

Shepherd's Bush Market

One of London's newest station names, Shepherd's Bush Market was so anointed in 2008, to avoid confusion with the two other Shepherd's Bush stations (Central line and Overground). The 'Market' part refers to the longstanding market alongside the H&C rail viaduct. The shepherdic origins are more woolly. Shepherd's Bush is likely to have been a rest stop for sheep farmers making their way to Smithfield Market from the west. On the other hand, the name could recall a person by the name of Sheppard. Nobody really knows. The sheep are long gone, unless you're into predictable metaphors regarding people who flock to Westfield.

Wood Lane

A dog with a tube roundel for a head.
About the strangest use of a roundel we've ever seen.

Originally known as Turvens Lane, the former home of the BBC was renamed Wood Lane at some point around 1830. The etymology is very dull, I'm afraid. Wood Lane was named after some nearby woods.

Latimer Road

Another tube stop named after a wealthy gentleman. Edward Latymer was a London merchant in the times of Queen Bess and King Jim. He left much of his fortune to good causes within the Hammersmith area, and founded the Latymer School, which still thrives today. Latimer Road ran through his property and eventually took his name, thence the tube station which opened in 1868.

Ladbroke Grove

Yet another wealthy individual is celebrated at this stop. James Weller Ladbroke built up the local housing in the mid-19th century and chose his own name for the main road (well, wouldn't you?). The family association goes back much further, though. JWL's ancestors had gazed out over this formerly rural land since at least the early 17th century. As a sombre side-note, the station was the scene of an almost totally forgotten tragedy. In 1862, during construction of the line, six workers were killed when a viaduct collapsed. As far as we know, this was the earliest fatal accident on the London Underground, and before its public opening.

Westbourne Park

Known as Westbourne Green from the middle ages, this area takes its name from the long-buried River Westbourne, whose name itself means western river or stream.

Royal Oak

The original Royal Oak was a tree in Boscobel, Shropshire, which served as a hiding place for the future Charles II while fleeing the Roundheads. After Charles gained the throne, many English pubs took on the name of The Royal Oak in commemoration, and it remains the third most popular pub appellation in England. The one in west London gave its name to the tube station in 1871. It is still going strong, though sadly rebranded as The Porchester. This is one of six tube stations to be named after pubs.

Paddington

A Peruvian bear named after a forgotten medieval chieftain.

Named after an immigrant bear with a proclivity for marmalade. Or was it the other way around? Actually, the west-facing station and the wider area carry a name from Anglo-Saxon times, probably after a local land-owner called Padda (the exact name is uncertain), with 'ton' or 'tun' meaning 'the village of'.

Edgware Road

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.

Baker Street

Sherlock's home is named after its builder, William Baker, who laid out the street in the 18th century. We've always had the ambition to open a patisserie here, called Baker's Treat of Baker Street.

Great Portland Street

The station is, of course, called after the street of the same name. This in turn takes its cue from the Second Duke of Portland, who owned the land from 1734.

Euston Square

As many a luggage-burdened tourist has found to their cost, Euston Square tube isn't particularly convenient for Euston station. Though not a long walk, the route follows one of inner London's noisiest roads. If you choose the wrong exit, you must also deal with the dangerously unsignalled crossing outside Wellcome Collection. The station's not even well named, for the Square it denotes is the grassy area immediately in front of the mainline station, now occupied by the HS2 dig and some traumatised trees. We think the station should instead be renamed 'Wellcome' after the Wellcome Trust in whose building the main tube entrance lies. This would celebrate the inestimable contribution that this charity has made to human health; it would also be delightful to see such a homonym on the tube map.

Now to stop dithering, how did Euston get its name? The mainline station was built on land owned by the Dukes of Grafton, whose ancestral home is Euston Hall in Suffolk, situated near the village of Euston. The village name was first recorded in Domesday Book, suggesting an Anglo-Saxon origin, and perhaps deriving from 'Efe's Tun', a farmstead belonging to a person called Efe.

King's Cross St Pancras

The memorial to George IV, which everyone hated, but gave its name to King's Cross.
It doesn't look all that bad, does it?

The derivation of King's Cross is well known. Until the 19th century, the area was called Battle Bridge after a local crossing of the River Fleet. The modern name comes from an unpopular memorial to the reviled George IV, which blighted the area between 183o and 1845. St Pancras, meanwhile, was an early Roman saint, martyred for impersonating a glandular organ of the endocrine system (we like to imagine). Augustine supposedly brought relics of the martyr to England, inspiring several churches dedicated to the saint. London's St Pancras church still stands (though much rebuilt) and is often said to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in the country.

Farringdon

A common name across the country, Farringdon usually means a fern-covered hill. Here, the link isn't so direct. The land took its name from Nicholas and William de Faringdon, aldermen who owned the land in the early 13th century. They may well have come from another place called Faringdon, with a fern-covered hill at its origin. Two City wards (Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without) took on the name, followed by the later street, road and Underground station (one of the originals to open in 1863).

Barbican

The Barbican still has a whiff of fortification about it. Here's Frobisher Court, viewed from above.

One of the few London place names left to us by the Romans, Barbican recalls part of the fortifications of Londinium. This was revived as burgh kennin in Anglo-Saxon times, meaning the town watchtower. The brutalist Barbican Centre and estate continue the theme of defensive walls and raised viewpoints.

Moorgate

Named after a small gateway or postern in the city walls hereabouts. The 'moor' part indicates marshy ground. This was possibly caused by the wall itself, which interrupted the flow of the River Walbrook, backing up the water.

Liverpool Street

The mainline station dates back to 1864 and takes its name from the local road. This itself was only named in 1827, in honour of Prime Minister Lord Liverpool. If we trace further back, the PM's title obviously comes from the city of Liverpool. This was first recorded in 1190 as Liuerpul, which probably means a pool or creek of muddy water. Hence, this station is the only tube stop to be named after a Scouse bog.

Aldgate East

The Aldgate Pump.
Aldgate Pump, looking east towards the site of Aldgate and the two eponymous tube stations.

The station is clearly named after Aldgate, one of the ancient entrances to the City of London, with the 'East' bit merely a label to differentiate this station from the Met line's Aldgate station. But how did Aldgate get its name? The short answer is 'nobody knows'. The long answer is 'Perhaps it's simply the old gate into the city, or maybe it's from Ale Gate because it had a tavern attached to it. Then again, it could be named after an Anglo-Saxon called Ealh, or maybe it's a corruption of East Gate. Could it derive from Aelgate, which would have meant a gate that is open to all?'. Feel free to make your own speculation in the comments.

Whitechapel

Unlike its neighbour at Aldgate, the nominative origins of Whitechapel are undisputed and recorded. The church of St Mary Matfelon, whose remains can be found in Altab Ali Park, was initially built of white chalk rubble. The distinctive shine led to its nickname of the 'white chapel' which was applied to the local area as early as the 13th century.

Stepney Green

Look, look, a gasholder in a stained glass window.
St Dunstan's church has a remarkable stained glass window of historic Stepney, including a stained glass gasholder.

The East End name is first recorded around 1000 CE, as Stybbanhythe. It's thought to come from the personal name of an Anglo-Saxon (Stebben), who had a landing place (hythe) on the river. In addition, the only Womble to appear on the tube map.

Mile End

Known thus since the 13th century, Mile End is a mile from Aldgate pump, the traditional starting point of the East End.

Bow Road

The road and tube station are named after a bow-shaped (that is to say, arched) bridge that once spanned the River Lea hereabouts.

Bromley-by-Bow

For Bow, see above. The Bromley bit derives from the plant called broom, which must have grown sufficiently thick in these parts to constitute a large wood (leah). Broom-leah eventually became Bromley. The 'by-Bow' helps us distinguish it from the London town and borough of Bromley, which has a different etymology.

West Ham

A wall painted in the colours of West Ham. Or perhaps Aston Villa. Or maybe Ribena.
Obviously a Spurs fan.

In the beginning, there was Hamme. This common place name, meaning a dry area of land between rivers (here, the Lea, Thames and Roding), was first recorded in these parts a century before the Normans came over. In the 12th century, the land was partitioned into East Ham and West Ham.

Plaistow

One of the more unusual London place names, it's pronounced as Plahr-stow, not Play-stow. The name recalls Sir Hugh De Plaitz, who married into the land-owning Mountfitchet family. A 'stow' was a meeting place within a manor. Some have alternatively suggested a connection to miracle plays — so Plai-stow was a 'play meetup spot'.

Upton Park

The name of this district, later adopted by West Ham FC for its (now former) ground, goes back only to the 1880s. It was used as a marketing term for new housing built near the hamlet of Upton. That name simply means a farm or homestead on higher ground.

East Ham

Everything we wrote under West Ham, above, applies here.

Barking

Centre of Barking.
Squint your eyes and they could be birch trees.

Barking is an Anglo-Saxon phrase, first recorded as Berecingas. It derives from a local chieftain called Bereca or means 'the settlement by the birch trees'.

See also Central, Jubilee, Northern, Victoria.

Other etymological explorations on Londonist:

Last Updated 26 October 2018