Whitworth Street

JB asked me

“Any idea after whom, or what, Whitworth St is named (or how to find out?)”

The Phantom wrangled with this one for some time, before JB very kindly answered his/her own question. I thought I’d pass this on for anyone who’s ever wondered about it – but I can’t claim any laurels for research on this one…

I vaguely remembered that Whitworth Street is part of the East Greenwich Estate, built by Morden College between 1842-69 (designed by George Smith, BTW, who was responsible for much of Victorian Greenwich). All you need to do is look at those tell-tale plaques on the sides of the houses in the area

Many of the streets in the nearby Pelton Estate are named for mining towns – I’m pretty sure it was built on mining money (hence the Pelton Arms having the picture of a colliery on the pub sign) but I’ve been unable to get hold of a copy of The development of an Early Victorian Artisan Estate in East Greenwich by Michael Kerney (which is in Transactions of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society Vol IX, No. 6 1984, if you have access to it…) which would, I’m sure reveal all.

Sadly the only book I have on Morden College’s history is far more concerned with individuals than what it actually stood for and did, and I was definitely skating on thin ice.

I did find a contender. Sir Joseph Whitworth, an engineer famed for standardising screw threads (well – someone had to do it…) – an idea that was taken up by the rapidly expanding railways. Also for the ‘Whitworth Rifle’ – which, apparently, was superior to the Enfield and was about the right period, but didn’t seem to have any connection. He was from Manchester…

It’s a very good job that JB got back to me at that point, after having done some sleuthing. Sir Joe was Right Out, proving that the Phantom can be utter rubbish at times. I hand over to JB and bow to his/her infinite wisdom…

“It transpires that Whitworth Colliery, later Whitworth Park Colliery, was just 16 miles from Pelton. The old colliery was exhausted in 1882, just about as Whitworth St was being built, I should think. However, Whitworth Park Colliery was still going as recently as the Seventies.”

Hooray for people who Ask The Phantom and then answer the questions by themselves, letting me in on the answer in the process…

Naming new roads and developments, BTW, isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have a friend whose job (not in this borough, I’m happy to say) includes naming new developments. I thought it was a brilliant perk, but she soon put me right. The red-tape is scary in the extreme.

She recently had to name all the apartment blocks created from an old mental asylum. It didn’t seem to matter how innocuous the name was that she tried, someone at the council always managed to find some dodgy PC reason why it sounded like she was being offensive to people with mental health problems.

Her solution? She asked if there were any councillors that might merit commemoration in the new blocks.

She never had any problems again…


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