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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Academics are mapping the legacy of slavery in Britain’s cities

A detail of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership map showing central Bristol. Image: LBS/UCL.

For 125 years, a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston stood in the centre of Bristol, ostensibly to commemorate the philanthropy he’d used his blood money to fund. Then, on 7 June, Black Lives Matter protesters pulled it down and threw it into the harbour

The incident has served to shine a light on the benefits Bristol and other British cities reaped from the Atlantic slave trade. Grand houses and public buildings in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and beyond were also funded by the profits made from ferrying enslaved Africans across the ocean. But because the horrors of that trade happened elsewhere, the role it played in building modern Britain is not something we tend to discuss.

Now a team at University College London is trying to change that. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project is mapping every British address linked to a slave-owner. In all, its database contains 5,229 addresses, linked to 5,586 individuals (some addresses are linked to more than one slave owner; some slave owners had more than one home). 

The map is not exact. Streets have often been renumbered; for some individuals, only a city is known, not necessarily an address; and at time of writing, only around 60% of known addresses (3,294 out of 5,229) have been added to the map. But by showing how many addresses it has recorded in each area, it gives some sense of which bits of the UK benefited most from the slave trade; the blue pins, meanwhile, reflect individual addresses, which you can click for more details.

The map shows, for example, that although it’s Glasgow that’s been noisily grappling with this history of late, there were probably actually more slave owners in neighbouring Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish political and financial power.

Liverpool, as an Atlantic port, benefited far more from the trade than any other northern English city.

But the numbers were higher in Bristol and Bath; and much, much higher in and around London.


Other major UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle – barely appear. Which is not to say they didn’t also benefit from the Triangular Trade (with its iron and weaponry industries, Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said in 2007, “Birmingham armed the slave trade”) – merely that they benefited in a less direct way.

The LBS map, researcher Rachel Lang explained via email, is “a never-ending task – we’re always adding new people to the database and finding out more about them”. Nonetheless, “The map shows broadly what we expected to find... We haven’t focused on specific areas of Britain so I think the addresses we’ve mapped so far are broadly representative.” 

The large number in London, she says, reflect its importance as a financial centre. Where more specific addresses are available, “you can see patterns that reflect the broader social geography”. The high numbers of slave-owners in Bloomsbury, for example, reflects merchants’ desire for property convenient to the City of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the district was being developed. Meanwhile, “there are widows and spinsters with slave property living in suburbs and outlying villages such as Chelsea and Hampstead. Country villas surround London.” 

“What we perhaps didn’t expect to see was that no areas are entirely without slave owners,” Lang adds. “They are everywhere from the Orkney Islands to Penzance. It also revealed clusters in unexpected places – around Inverness and Cromarty, for example, and the Isle of Wight.” No area of Britain was entirely free of links to the slave trade.

 You can explore the map here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

All images courtesy of LBS/UCL