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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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.

Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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