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.


  1. OK, so it's not London, but Blaenavon in Gwent has streets named A Row, B Row and so on. (I understand there's an A Row in Birmingham too, but is in the process of being demolished).

    As well as the tube station, is there also a street called just 'Bank' in the same place?

  2. Splendid work! Google will indeed take you to Forge Side, the appropriate part of Blaenavon, if you search on 'A Row' up to 'E Row' - though it doesn't appear to label the lanes explicitly on the map itself.

    I'll add an update to the blog post.

    The A to Z doesn't list any street called 'Bank', just the station, and it doesn't appear as a street on Google maps.

  3. If anyone's thinking of moving to an easily tweetable address, there's a house currently for sale in C Row.

  4. There is also a N Row and a S Row in Central Milton Keynes.

  5. Also worth a mention is the well-known Of Alley (now renamed York Place WC2) , pictured here.

  6. Are they really N and S, not North and South? Google maps often abbreviate these... there are similar occurrences in London which are really North and South...

  7. I'm not sure if I dreamt this, but I recall seeing another renamed ultra-short street somewhere in the back lanes off Southwark Bridge Road... 'On Street' rings a bell. Will investigate. Unless of course I misunderstood a sign for On Street Parking...?

  8. Aha! I was right! I did, indeed, dream it. The road I was thinking of Copperfield St, formerly Orange St. Lots of those roads were renamed after Dickens characters (Quilp, Dorrit etc). I was probably conflating the Duke of York with the Duke of Orange, or something.

  9. Alas you're right: N Row in "CMK" is (as you might expect) North Row. Still eminently tweetable, though, despite property prices being rather more expensive than in Blaenavon.

  10. I think Bank refers to a building.... probably not one they'd take kindly to you cycling in (though these days, who knows - golden rule, what golden rule?!.

  11. Well guess what, fans of micronomenclature: round the corner from Ashen is a well-concealed connecting street on the same estate suitably called Hide. I've updated the blog entry. SURELY there are no shorter street names than Hide in the country...?

  12. Not The Hide? - reminds me of someone who went to a college on The High.

  13. Seems to be just 'Hide', like 'Strand' (which I overlooked in the blog post, so I've surreptitiously added THAT in too.

  14. A contender for the longest: http://bit.ly/ieLcrq

  15. 'Side' is a street in Newcastle U Tyne.

    I'd also like to correct your 'AB Row' in Brum as it's most likely to be the shortest three element streetname:
    'A B Row'

  16. Another four letter street is Ross in Blackheath

  17. Good spot, @ambiensse. At first I thought you meant Blackheath near Greenwich in London, but of course it's the Second City one, west of Brum not far from the M5.

    Ross is a street name there - yes, just 'Ross', not 'Ross Street' or suchlike - and you can see it on a Google map here:

  18. Nobody has spotted CHER in Minehead, not The Cher, or Cher Road, or Street, just Cher. Ta24
    And it is famous in having the Hobby Horse ther at the top of Cher every May Day.


  19. Longest Road name in London is possibly Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road - although don't suggest cycling on it