26 of the most stupidly named council wards in Greater London (and the City, too)

I will literally start filing formal complaint's to Sadiq's office, soon. Honestly, I despair. Image: Arpingstone.

Names are fun. We like names.

But London has a lot of stupid ones, from tube stations that are nowhere near the things they're named after, to main thoroughfares named after rivers that are now basically just drainage pipes. 

So in the name of public service, here are 26 of the most badly, boringly, unimaginatively, or lamely named council wards in London's boroughs. You're welcome. 

1) Nonsuch, Sutton

Click any of the following to expand. All images: Ordnance Survey's amazing Election Maps.

Represented by three Liberal Democrats, obviously. Nonsuch’s name is a bit like when people these days ask, Isn’t there a third party? There’s the Tories and Labour, but I vaguely remember another one?, to which you reply: There is nonsuch. This is the the ward that treats ‘em mean and keeps ‘em (North) Cheam.

2) Darwin, Bromley

Back in 2011, it was the safest ward in Greater London, which is probably mostly because there’s nothing there.

Its biggest settlement is probably the collection of houses outside Biggin Hill for the RAF lot to sleep in at night, and its largest roads are called Main Road and Leaves Green. Which says a lot. It’s so devoid of stuff that they had to name the thing after Downe House, where Charles Darwin lived from 1842 until his death in 1882. That's great, and that's lovely for the residents of this pointlessly rural part of London, but your honour shes reaching.

3) Chelsfield and Pratts Bottom, Bromley

Pratts Bottom. I mean, come on. We all enjoy laughing at silly place names with the word ‘bottom’ in them, but you can’t name local government administrative divisions after them. Stop it.

4) Copers Cope, Bromley

Sometimes even the most coping of copers need to have a breakdown, OK? Stop being so prescriptive.

5) Squirrel’s Heath, Havering

Three Tory councillors, no heath, and no singularly exceptional squirrel population. Cute name, though. (Editor’s note: I grew up in this one. I also attended Squirrel’s Heath Infants School. I’ll be having words about this.)

6) Seven Kings, Redbridge

In theory, logical, as there could have been seven kings in the place. Maybe the heptarchy had a team away-day here?

In practice, not so much. In the Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names (now there’s a book to put on your Christmas wish list), we find that the earliest record of the name is as ‘Sevekyngges’ or ‘Sevekyngg’, from 1285, which means ‘settlement of the family or followers of a man called Seofoca’. Stop singing ‘We Seven Kings of Orient are,’ back there.

7) Lansbury, Tower Hamlets

I mean, I love Angela as much as the next guy, but naming a council ward after her in East London? Bit much.

8) Forest, Waltham Forest

There’s a green patch of Epping Forest in one corner, sure, and a nice-looking pond, granted, but the vast bulk of this ward is taken up by terraced streets and Whipps Cross University Hospital. But hey, advertise yourself optimistically.  

9) Hoe Street, Waltham Forest

*Sniggers*. What with this and Queens Road in the award, I’m surprised this hasn’t already become the next venue for the time-honoured process of gentrify-gay-tion.

10) Chaucer, Southwark

A plaque was put up in 2003 at Talbot Yard, SE1 – right by the King’s College London Guy’s Campus – to commemorate Geoffrey Chaucer, the English poet extraordinaire of the Middle Ages. Allegedly it sits on the site of The Tabard Inn, which was the starting point of his pilgrims’ journey to Canterbury in his best-loved (or most obsessively studied) work, The Canterbury Tales. All very well, but, you know – Chaucer? Really?

11) Vassal, Lambeth

Named after one of the most ridiculously named aristocrats and property developers of the early nineteenth centuries. Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, was a Whig politician in the House of Lords (a rare breed at that point), and served in the cabinets of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne. Local roads like Holland Grove, Foxley Square, Vassall Road and Lord Holland Lane are all named after him. Silly name, though, right?

12) Tudor, Kingston-upon-Thames

There was some Tudor stuff nearby so they named a road Tudor Drive and named the ward Tudor. The imaginative power kills me.

13) Askew, Hammersmith & Fulham

There was a family called Askew who owned lots of land and so they named a road after them. Personally I prefer to imagine that the whole thing is slightly wonky.

14) Bread Street, City of London

Now we get into the fertile ground of the City of London’s ward names. This was the site of the bread market, back in the day, and the bakers of London were once ordered to “sell no bread at their houses but in the open market at Bread Street”. Enjoyably, both John Donne and John Milton were born here.Told you it was fertile ground. (Further editor’s note: CityMetric Towers is just next door in Farringdon Within. Wave!)

15) Cheap, City of London

Nothing in the City of London is cheap. This is a vile, vicious, and slanderously misleading lie.

16) Cordwainer, City of London

Sounds like a playground insult used by children in the early stages of secondary school.

17) Townfield, Hillingdon

Take your pick – either it’s a town, or it’s a field. You can’t have it all.

18) North End, Bexley

Possibly the most illogical name going. It’s on the south side of the river, at the eastern end of London. Nothing about it is a north end at all.

19) Town, Enfield

And now we enter the legion of unimaginative ward names of London. Town, unsurprisingly, contains Enfield Town.

20) Chase, Enfield

The same, but Enfield Chase. They’re not even trying.

21) College, Southwark

Containing Dulwich College, because naming things after Nigel Farage’s alma mater is definitely how life should be lived.

22) River, Barking and Dagenham,

Other people have the river too, Barking and Dagenham.

23) Thames, Barking and Dagenham

See above. Also, surely the Thames is the River? What?

24) Village, Southwark

Here, down at the very end of this nonsense, is a collection of three villages, none of which are villages, and all of which could have had more exciting names. This one covers Dulwich Village. Maybe they could have called it, I don’t know, Dulwich?

25) Village, Merton

This one covers Wimbledon Common. Maybe they could have called it Wimbledon Common. Or, to keep it funky, Crooked Billet.

26) Village, Barking and Dagenham

Not a village. Degenham is not a village. Its just not.

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.

So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?

And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.