10 Well-Known London Street Names And What They Mean
1. Pall Mall
Pall Mall is named after a popular game, not unlike an extended version of croquet, which was played on the site of the present thoroughfare. In Pall Mall, a mallet was Piccadilly Grand Price used to drive a ball down a course, several hundred yards long, towards a hoop at the end. Whoever took the fewest shots to reach the hoop and propel the ball through it was the winner. The name derives from the Italian words ‘palla’ (‘ball’) and ‘maglio’ (‘mallet’). Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary for 2 April 1661: ‘So I went into St James’s Park, where I saw the Duke of York playing at Pelemele, the first time that ever I saw the sport.’ Pepys saw the game being played on the site of the present Pall Mall but, soon after he wrote in his diary, the course was moved, allegedly because the dust from the carriages passing by disrupted play too often. The phrase ‘pell-mell’ is sometimes said to have derived from the game, referring to the speed with which players moved to strike the ball with their mallets, but the derivation is an invented one. ‘Pell-mell’ actually comes from the old French ‘pele-mele’, meaning ‘mixed together’.
‘Pickadils’ were small squares of material used in Tudor costumes either to disguise the stitching around the armholes of doublets and bodices or to help support the stiff, starched collars known as ruffs. In 1612 a wealthy London tailor called Robert Baker built a house on what was then open country to the west of the city. The house was mockingly nicknamed Piccadilly Hall, in reference to the pickadils which had helped to make Baker his fortune. As the city expanded and buildings spread westwards, Baker’s house was soon surrounded by others and eventually demolished, but the name ‘Piccadilly’ was retained for the new thoroughfare.
Today this is a street running between Bishopsgate and St Botolph Street but, in the Middle Ages, it was the name given to the ditch that ran beneath the city walls from the Tower to the old River Fleet. First recorded in the thirteenth century as ‘Hondesdich’, it was said by the Tudor chronicler John Stow to take its name from the dead dogs that were so often thrown into it. Others have suggested that it simply refer