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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