Behind The Names: London Borough of Lambeth

In the second article of this series explaining the story behind the names of areas of South London, we are going to be talking about the London Borough of Lambeth. In the last article we used the wards of Lewisham borough because they were largely relevant to the common names of the areas of the boroughs, the same cannot be said of Lambeth. In this instance we're going to be talking about the districts of the borough, and maybe one or two wards. Maybe. As was the case in the last article, we have not included any names that we could not find an explanation for.


A name that goes back to 1062 when it turned up as 'Brixiges Stan' in an Anglo-Saxon charter, and then in 1086 as 'Brixiestan' in the Domesday Book - which sounds quite like a country in Central Asia. Coming from Old English, it translates as 'stone of a man called Beorhtsige' - Beorht being a personal name and stan meaning stone. As Brixton gave its name to one of the hundreds in ancient Surrey, the stone referred to could possibly have been a meeting place on the hundred.


The first evidence for the origin of the name Clapham comes from 880 when it was referred to by the Anglo-Saxons as 'Cloppaham'. In the Domesday Book 206 years later it was recorded as 'Clopeham'. Surprisingly, unlike a lot of the names in modern usage, the name that appears by 1503 is the modern name - Clapham. The name, like most of the ancient names, comes from Old English and translates as the 'homestead or enclosure near a hill or hills'. It may not come as a surprise that such a general place name appears elsewhere in the UK and all have the exact same origin.


This isn't the only Coldharbour in London, nor is it the original Coldharbour - as one might expect considering it's not by the river. However, the origins for all the Coldharbours is the same. An early reference to a Coldharbour is from 1560 and is about a place near Rainham Marshes called 'Coleherbert'. This is from Old English and translates as 'cold or cheerless shelter', which was a pointed reference to the inhospitable nature of the place. We should bear this in mind because Coldharbour Lane that the Coldharbour ward takes its name from is recorded as 'Coldherbergh' in 1363. This name was likely derived from a property north of the river of the same name, owned by a man named Sir John Abel who also owned the area south of the river. The area continued to be named Coldharbour, and when a debtor's sanctuary was built in the area the original derogatory connotations of the name returned.

Gipsy Hill

The origin of Gipsy Hill and Gipsy Road is quite literal, as it comes from the gypsies that used to regularly frequent what used to be a wooded area from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Samuel Pepys potentially refers to these individuals when he wrote "this afternoon my wife and Mercer and Deb went with Pelling to see the gypsies at Lambeth; but what they did, I did not enquire."

Herne Hill

Recorded as such in 1789, there are two potential origins of this name. The first is that it takes its name from the the Dutch 'Herne' family that were connected to nearby Dulwich during the 17th century. The second is that the name was taken from a type of field called 'la Herne' which translates as 'the angle or corner of land' and comes from the Old English 'hyrne'. The Dutch name in the first instance is likely derived from this also.


Listed as 'Chenintune' in the Domesday Book (1086) and 'Kenintone' in 1289, it comes from Old English and translates as 'farmstead or estate associated with a man called Cena'. Though this man was, in all likelihood, not John Cena, we cannot say that he was nothing like John Cena - one can only hope. The street in the area Black Prince Road comes from when Edward the Black Prince had a residence there during the 14th century.


The name that defines the area, the name that you all want to know the reason behind. Recorded as 1062 as 'Lambehitha' and 'Lambeth' in 1255, it comes from Old English and translates as 'landing place for lambs'. The name comes from it being a harbour which was used to receive or send out shipments of lambs. An interesting aspect of the name is that the hard 'b' in Lambeth is from the original Old English pronunciation of lamb.


As explained in our brief history of cricket in South London, the small area within Kennington referred to as Oval comes from the famous cricket ground. The name Oval predates the cricket ground however, as there was an open space enclosed by an oval-shaped road before the ground was built. Originally the enclosed space was going to be turned into a housing estate, but the developers ran out of money so it was turned into a market garden and then the now famous cricket ground in 1845.


Like Ladywell in Lewisham, the 'well' in Stockwell refers to a natural spring. It is recorded as 'Stokewell' in 1294, which is Old English and translates as 'spring or stream by a tree stump'.


Recorded as 'Estreham' in the Domesday Book (1086), then 'Stratham' in 1175, it is from Old English and translates as 'homestead or village on a Roman road'. The road referred to is followed very closely by Streatham High Road, and the entire course of the road used to travel from London to Brighton.

Tulse Hill

Elizabeth Tulse

Elizabeth Tulse

Like the potential name for Herne Hill, the name for Tulse Hill comes from an influential family. The area is recorded as Tulse Hill in 1823, and is named after the Tulse family who owned an estate in the area. Prior to that it had been part of the three different Manors of Bodley, Upgoves and Scarlettes before it came into the ownership of the Tulse family, and then the Onslow family through marriage.


This area on the western edge of Lambeth was recorded as 'Faukeshale' in 1279, which eventually became 'Vaux-Hall' by 1719. The name is Middle English and translates as a 'hall or manor house held by a man called Falkes'. The Falkes in question is the baron Sir Falkes de Breauté, who was a supporter of King John and was given the manor by said king. A particularly successful soldier but incredibly ruthless man, he was a royalist who supported both King John and then his successor Henry III during the First Barons War. He eventually unsuccessfully rebelled against Henry III in 1223 and, as a result, was exiled in 1224.

West Norwood

Part of the larger area of Norwood, which is recorded as 'Norwude' in 1176, then 'Northwode' in 1272. From Old English, it translates as 'the north wood', and contextually refers to the woodland north of Croydon. Formerly known as 'Lower Norwood', the corresponding cardinal direction comes from it being the western part of Norwood.

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