As anyone who’s got caught between a Londoner and his turnstile knows, this city is rude. Even the streets are cheeky. We pick our favourite vulgar byways.
‘Cokkes Lane’, as it was known 500 years ago, made its name as a hotbed of legal brothels. Nowadays, the brothels have been replaced by prime real estate. A three-bedroom flat here could easily set you back £2 million, and Cock Lane today is mainly frequented by – yes, you’ve guessed it – bankers.
2. Fine Bush Lane, Ruislip, HA4
This nicely trimmed Ruislip street leads to Osterley Park – a Tudor mansion with many a finely manicured bush. It’s now National Trust-owned, so anyone and everyone can enjoy its magnificent (ahem) Pleasure Gardens.
3. Bellenden Road, Peckham, SE15
Some might argue that the arrival of super-hip bars has led to an influx of bellends in Peckham. But Bellenden Road has long been SE15’s most fashionable street. It even has its own art scene. ‘Bellenden set’ designer Tom Phillips is responsible for the road’s blue lampposts, and ‘Angel of the North’ sculptor Antony Gormley has erected a series of bulging cast-iron bollards. Phwoah! Meanwhile a maker of mosaic maps indulged in a cheeky truncation with their installation outside Nunhead station:
4. Dufferin Street, Finsbury, EC1
We are confident the kooky bars and groovy internet start-ups of Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout are an unlikely place for an outbreak of domestic violence. In this day and age, no one would be inspired by this road sign to venture off to do harm. Perhaps a remnant from the dark days of the Victorian East End.
5. Clitterhouse Road, Barnet, NW2
The lucky residents of this Barnet enclave are within walking distance of the shops and cinema of Staples Corner Retail Park. They also enjoy excellent access to Hendon Rail station. But you’ve got to pity the poor sods who ever have to try and call a cab. ‘No, I said “Clitter-HOUSE”, not “clitor…” Hello? Oh, she’s hung up again…’
6. Swallow Street, Mayfair, W1
This central London street name is all about the fellatio. Maybe not back in 1671, when it was first mentioned in the record books. But definitely in the seedy ’70s, when its nightclubs had a rep as pick-up joints for prostitutes. One to rival Hookers Road, E17.
7. Cumming Street, King’s Cross, N1
Speaking of which… This side street would have been most apt in the days when King’s Cross was a red light district. Now the area has been gentrified, with the arrival of the Eurostar, we suspect the street name makes more of a splash with American tourists who imagine the road is dedicated to ‘that charming bisexual Scottish actor’.
The humble member is celebrated on road signs all over London. Its ups and downs are immortalised from Bonar Road in Rotherhithe to Droop Street in Westminster. But this cocksure road in Streatham is our favourite.
9. Kings Butts, Eltham, SE9
The butts in questions are not, sadly, regal arses. Speculation… sorry, research, suggests that they were probably large mounds of earth that Henry VIII used for archery practice. Presumably before his own butt got too big to haul over here from Hampton Court.
10. Shiteburn Lane, Bank, EC4
Think London highways are filthy? In the Middle Ages they were made of compacted shit, entrails and rotting food. Hence Shiteburn Lane, which is what mediaeval locals called Sherborne Lane. London also had several roads called ‘Gropecunt’ – a subtle hint you were entering a red light district. Milton Street EC2 was once ‘Gropecunt Lane’. We struggle to rival such imaginative town planning today – but at least we’ve cleaned up the streets.