City of London history: what street names tell us

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Have you ever wondered why a street has a specific name? Sometimes it is simply the name of a famous person, but if that’s not the case it usually has something to do with the history of the street itself. Therefore, by looking at the street names it’s possible to learn a place’s history. In this article, I’ll investigate the City of London history.


One day I started reading my National Geographic London guide. I had some free time and I wanted to learn something new about London, a city I’ve been living in for more than a year now, and yet I still haven’t done many things tourists do in just a few days.

Reading I learned that the City is the most ancient part of London. Considering all the new modern and crazily-shaped buildings, I wouldn’t have guessed that. I was intrigued and decided to go deeper in my research.

And I found A LOT of stuff.

Sky Garden City of London
The Sky Garden, one of the most icon and crazily-shaped buildings in the city

What street names tell us

I soon realized that many historical events were shown directly in the map. They were in the street names. So I started to research street by street and found so many interesting historical curiosities that you wouldn’t read on a school textbook.

There is too much to talk about, so in this first post I’ll just cover the Roman London, and soon I’ll write about the Middle Age.

City of London history: Roman London

The Romans founded London just 2 thousand years ago (“just” if compared to much more ancient cities like Rome or Athens). They didn’t make it capital at first (they already had one, Colchester), but the city soon gained importance. The dimensions of Roman London, “Londinium“, are ridiculous if compared to the current size. Londinium was what today we call the City of London, no more than a square mile.

The Romans built a wall to protect the city. There is no wall anymore now, but you can see some remains around, the biggest ones in Tower Hill and at the Museum of London. The Romans built the first bridge to cross the Thames: the London Bridge. The London Bridge has now been rebuilt a few times, but if you cross it you can rightfully say you are walking on the most ancient bridge in London.

London Wall
The biggest remaining part of London Wall, in Tower Hill

Now, let’s talk seriously about street names!

All the information I found about Roman London and the City of London history is in this video. Hope you enjoy it!

What’s coming next

There is much more to discover about the Middle Age until the Great Fire of London in 1666. There are many more evidences of this time compared to Roman London, so I’ve decided to cover this topic in another video.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the history of London, the place to go is the Museum of London. Like any museum in UK it is FREE and it is in the City, of course!


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