09 March 2009
The long and short of London street names
The great thing about biking is the control over your journey. Nevertheless, sometimes I get stuck and have to entertain myself for 20 minutes or so. On a train that's come to a halt in a tunnel outside Kings Cross, for instance, or waiting for the lights to change on the Elephant and Castle cycle by-pass.
The only thing I have to read on these occasions is often the A to Z in my pannier. So this morning's entertainment was to mine their street index, from Aaron Hill Road, E6 to Zoffany St, N19, for interesting items.
For example, are there any comedy street names, like the now celebrated example of Letsby Avenue in Sheffield? Does London have a Cat Mews, Badminton Court, Good Point, Quick Way or Cumming Close?
Sadly no. It has a Ball Court, EC3, but that's only funny if it was named after someone called Ball and happened to be a court. If there used to be a ball court there then it isn't.
So then I got diverted trying to find the longest and shortest street names.
The longest name appears to Stoke Newington Church Street, N16, at 26 letters and three spaces. OK, so it's not a patch on those main streets in tin-pot Latin American capitals that have names like Avenida del Presidente Doctor Jose Ignacio Rodriguez Garcia y Rodriguez-Rodriguez III.
(Britain's supposed longest name is Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive in the New Forest, 34 letters and three spaces. It sounds a pleasant ride if not exactly streetlike.)
As to the shortest, things get more involved. There are any number of six-letter, single-space London names, often arboreal: Kay Way, SE10; The Bye, W3; Oak Row, SW16; Elm Row, NW3; Ash Row, BR2; The Tee, W3. A Yorkshire abbreviator might write that last one as 't T, which really would be short.
There are some short single-names that appear in the index (Kemp, NW9; Kerry, N7; Newby, NW1) but on inspection these turn out to be names of buildings, not streets. We want something we can cycle along.
For which we have Leeway, SE8, six letters and no spaces; Strand, in central London; but shorter and stranger, and still arboreal, Ashen, E6. At five unspaced letters this is even shorter than AB Row** at the junction of Birmingham and Aston (hence the name), often said to be Britain's shortest** two-element street name.
Britain has other five-letter single-name streets. There's a lane bizarrely called Solid (not Solid Lane or Solid Close, just 'Solid') in Huddersfield.
*UPDATE* But London has at least one four-letter, no-space street name: Hide, E6, a short connecting street in a housing development just round the corner from Ashen. So:
London's longest street name Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 (26 letters)
London's shortest street name Hide, E6 (4 letters)
Unless, of course, you've been stuck with an A to Z at a traffic light even longer, and know differently...
**UPDATE** AB Row seems to be beaten by several rows of houses in Forge Side, Blaenavon - see David Earl's comment below.