Here’s everything we learned from this list of alternative names considered for London’s boroughs

The predecessor authorities. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The LCC Municipal blog – which publishes all sorts of fascinating stuff about the history of London government – has just begun a new series on the naming of the London boroughs. The first instalment is online here, and if you're reading this, you'll probably enjoy it.

But wait! Don't click away yet, because the article includes an extensive round-up of the borough names that never were, and I’ve written a round up of the best ones, and what I learned from them. Here it is now.

Only seven boroughs were always certain of their names

They were: Croydon, Ealing, Haringey, Harrow, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

With some of these, the reasons why are obvious. Harrow, the only borough that didn't change its boundaries in 1965, was already called Harrow. Why change it?

With others, the reasons are not obvious. The borough name “Haringey” is a typo for the area around the district of Harringay, and has been confusing Londoners for 50 years. God knows why they were so attached to it.

Three different boroughs could have been called Riverside

They were Hammersmith & Fulham, Barking & Dagenham and – leftfield choice this – Waltham Forest. Which isn't on the Thames. It did also consider Leaside and Lea Valley, though.

Barking, incidentally, also considered Thameside. Which makes sense, given it was one of only 15 boroughs which border the Thames.

The City of Westminster briefly considered Maryminston

No. The logic here presumably is that it was formed from Westminster, Marylebone, and Paddington, but all the same: no.

By the same logic, Camden considered St Holstead, St Bornstead and St Hamborn; Merton considered Wimmercham; Fordingham and Barham were possible names for Barking; and Sutton briefly discussed Carwalton. Lucky escapes all round, there.

Enfield seems to have considered having a number rather than a name

To quote the blog:

Enfield Chace, Edmonton, North Middlesex, Northborough, Edengate, St Andrews, Thirty Two (and variants)

Once upon a time I wanted to call CityMetric Three53, you know. Perhaps Enfield was desperately searching for a unique URL, too.

Several boroughs considered names based on counties

Bromley, which has still not come to terms with being in Greater London even now, considered West Kent, Nort West Kent and Kentgate, as well as Ravensbourne (it's a river). Waltham Forest considered Wessex – an in no way confusing name that was presumably intended to reflect the way it was previously in West Essex.

And no fewer than four boroughs considered names that included Middlesex: Enfield (“North Middlesex”), Barnet (“North Middlesex” again, plus “Central Middlesex & Barnet”), Hillingdon (“West Middlesex”) and Hounslow (“South Middlesex”). It's all very reminiscent of Thomas Hardy's attempt to rename most of the counties of southern England to be variants on Wessex.

But no borough wanted Surrey in its name

Proof, if proof be needed, that Surrey is the worst home county.

Barnet was particularly indecisive

I quote:


The large number of suggestions is on account of a detailed memo by RH Williams, the Town Clerk of Hendon which presented all of the options considered by the five authorities concerned.

Hendon, Hendon & Barnet, Northgate or Northgates, North Hills, Northern Heights, Northiam, Finchenbarne, Finchley, Whetstone, Barfindon, Dollis, Grimsdyke, Norbrook, Norgate, Noresex, Northsex, Northlands, Norlon, Dollis Bar, Dolbrook, Finchenbar, Finbardon, Finchendon, Finchelee, Brent/Braynte, Brentlea, Brent Bar, North Ridges, Great North, Great Northern, Brookways, Ossulton Gore, Central Middlesex & Barnet, Greater Hendon, Brent Valley, Henbarnley, North Middlesex, Hendon with Finchley, Norborough, Templewood

By my count, that's 42 different options. That seems to be asking for trouble, to me.

Bexley could have been greater

The name Greater Bexley was considered, presumably to reflect the fact that Bexley was one of just four councils that went into the new borough. (Bexley, Erith, Crayford and part of Chislehurst & Sidcup.)

The public aren't funny

The entries listed for Newham – result of merger between the county boroughs of East Ham and West Ham – included Hamstrung, Hamsandwich, Smoked Ham and Hamsweetham. “It will come as no surprise to learn that items marked (b) were not official suggestions,” writes LCC Municipal. I assume this means that these were the Boaty McBoatface of their day.

Some of the names are just lovely

I don't really have a joke to make about these ones, I just really like them. So here they are as a map:

Honestly, I really think my life would have been improved loads if I'd grown up not in Havering but in Liberty.

Some of them really aren't

One of the names listed for Waltham Forest is “Sorensen Spread”. The mind boggles.

Anyway, now you’ve read my nonsense, you should read LCC Municipal’s blog here. Can’t wait for part two.

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

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Older people need better homes – but then, so does everybody else

Colne, Lancashire. Image: Getty.

Towards the end of last year, I started as an associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, working particularly on our goal around safe and accessible homes. Before I arrived, Ageing Better had established some ambitious goals for this work: by 2030, we want the number of homes classed as decent to increase by a million, and by the same date to ensure that at least half of all new homes are built to be fully accessible.

We’ve all heard the statistics about the huge growth in the number of households headed by someone over 65, and the exponential growth in the number of households of people over 85. Frustratingly, this is often presented as a problem to be solved rather than a major success story of post war social and health policy. Older people, like everyone else, have ambitions for the future, opportunities to make a full contribution to their communities and to continue to work in fulfilling jobs.

It is also essential that older people, again like everyone else, should live in decent and accessible homes. In the last 50 years we have made real progress in improving the quality of our homes, but we still have a lot to do. Our new research shows that over 4 million homes across England fail to meet the government’s basic standards of decency. And a higher proportion of older people live in these homes than the population more generally, with over a million people over the age of 55 living in conditions that pose a risk to their health or safety.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to ensure all our homes meet a decent standard. A small number of homes require major and expensive remedial work, but the overwhelming majority need less than £3,000 to hit the mark. We know how to do it. We now need the political will to make it a priority. Apart from the benefits to the people living in the homes, investment of this kind is great for the economy, especially when so many of our skilled tradespeople are older. Imagine if they were part of training young people to learn these skills.

At a recent staff away day, we explored where we would ideally want to live in our later lives. This was not a stretch for me, although for some of our younger colleagues it is a long way into the future.

The point at which the conversation really took off for me was when we moved away from government definitions of decency and accessibility and began to explore the principles of what great homes for older people would be like. We agreed they needed light and space (by which we meant real space – our national obsession with number of bedrooms as opposed to space has led to us building the smallest new homes in Europe).

We agreed, too, that they needed to be as flexible as possible so that the space could be used differently as our needs change. We thought access to safe outdoor space was essential and that the homes should be digitally connected and in places that maximise the potential for social connection.

Of course, it took us just a few seconds to realise that this is true for virtually everyone. As a nation we have been dismal at moving away from three-bed boxes to thinking differently about what our homes should look like. In a world of technology and factory building, and as we build the new generation of homes we desperately need, we have a real chance to be bold.

Great, flexible homes with light and space, in the places where people want to live. Surely it’s not too much to ask?

David Orr is associate director – homes at the Centre for Ageing Better.