Local History

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    If you are the do-it-yourself type and want to find out the origins of a particular place name then you might well use the internet which is why, perhaps, you have ended up reading this.  As with all information, you should be able to assess what you are reading.  Before reading the origins of some local names, here are a few thoughts should you feel inclined to question what you are reading...


    A good starting point is to try comparing modern place names with those used in the Domesday Book (first draft 1086). Modern names will typically have evolved since then.  For example Kennington was recorded as Chenintune in the Domesday Book.  In contrast, Vauxhall got no mention- it didn’t exist at that time so later records must be considered. A good source is British History on Line which contains a wide array of local information. Of course the more recent, the more reliable the information becomes.  For example, the London Survey provides detailed studies of the capital's architecture and topography, since 1894.


     Older place names will typically be from Old English, Old Norse, Old French, Celtic or Latin - depending on which part of the country.  However, modern names may well conceal that heritage.  Place names are typically named after individuals/ families/groups, e.g. Fentiman Road, or geographical features e.g. Camberwell.  


    A word of caution though.  ‘Well’ at the end of a name has a fairly obvious meaning...or does it?  What about Orwell Road in E13,  It is named after a person or a well? Writer Eric Blair, more famously known as George Orwell, based his pen name on the River Orwell.  The point here is that people can be named after places and places after people.  I mention this example because it cannot always be stated with absolute certainty what the true origins actually were.  With that caveat in mind here is the generally accepted origins of some local names’


Brixton

    In the Domesday Book,  Brixton appears as Brixistane meaning 'the stone of Brihtsige' (Lambeth ‘A short history of Brixton’).

Camberwell

    Camberwell appears as Cambrewelle in the Domesday Book. The first part of the name might derive from the old english Cumber or Comber meaning Welsh or possibly the Anglo Saxon meaning cripple -People with leprosy or other diseases were reputedly sent to the area for treatment.

Clapham

    Clapham appears as Clopeham in the Domesday Book.  It probably means homestead or enclosure near a hill.

Effra Road

    This is named after the River Effra which used to flow near by.   

Kennington

    Kennington appears as Chenintune in the Domesday Book.  It may mean "place of the king" or "farm of a man called Cena".

Lambeth

    Originally Lambehitha (1062)  and as Lambeth (1255) this means 'landing place for lambs'.

Stockwell

   Stockwell probably got half its name from a well.  “Stoc" was old English for a tree trunk or post.

Vauxhall

    Vauxhall was originally Faulke’s Hall after Falkes de Breaute

Origins of local place names