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:

Barnet

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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There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.