Fred Rayment’s List

I wasn’t planning to talk about this today, but Joe mentioned a fantastic website in one of the comments yesterday that’s really worth a longer look.

The Hunthouse is a wonderful collection of maps, street names, directories and general dip-in-able stuff to do with London. I was particularly interested in the stuff about street name changes (which Joe was digging around yesterday for stuff about Blackwall Lane) which was compiled from, among many other things, another list compiled by unsung local hero Fred Rayment ((BTW just for the record I don’t know where Fred was from, so I don’t know how local to us he was, just that he was local to London). Fred almost certainly didn’t get a medal for his list, but the people of London had reason to thank him for his labours, and now we do too, for somewhat happier reasons.

I have spent far too long this morning digging around the street changes on the site (using the v. useful Control/F function to skip to the Greenwich ones as it covers all of London) – telling us when they happened and, to some extent why.

Basically, when the London boroughs were amalgamated to make the LCC it became clear that a lot of the most popular street names were really,really overused. Confusing to post office and citizen alike. So, a massive street-renaming took place around about 1912 to make things a bit clearer. And it does seem sensible to lose general names like Green Lane, Back Lane London Road, Wellington Street etc for more locally appropriate ones. For a long while, as they were changed, roads often carried two signposts – the old and the new names together, so that everyone could get used to them. And this was fine in peace-time.

But during the Blitz, two names for a road when no one could see very much anyway because of the Blackout became really perplexing. People reporting fires were often, understandably, distressed and local street names and fancy new ones got muddled up, resulting in a while bunch of false callouts.

Fred Rayment, a London fireman, took it upon himself to create a list for the brigade to prevent confusion. Sans computer, sans internet, just slog. See what I mean about the local hero thing?

His list has only  comparatively recently been discovered by his son, who thankfully realised the significance of it, and although it was without dates at the time (history wasn’t much of  a priority when you were being bombed every night) he recognised what a useful tool it could be now.

Sadly as the link above points out, none of the other people who were involved are still alive so it’s hard to verify the accuracy of Fred’s list without hours of work, but random checks have been made and they all play out just fine.

It’s been added to and embellished by various folk since then and I think it’s great. In fact the only thing that would make this list utterly perfect would be a an explanation of why some of the smaller street names were changed (why, for example, change the charming ‘Bear Lane’ to the unremarkable ‘Old Woolwich Road’? I guess it explains what the road used to be, but no one needed it before, why bother now?)

But, as we have discovered with the strange cases of Nevada Street andStraightsmouth (which, thanks to this list, I now know used to be Browning Place and Church Fields until 1912)  we still have no idea why someone chose Nevada and Straightsmouth as suitable monikers for those particular roads. And who got to choose the new names? Was it a committee? The Lady Mayoress? A lottery? A newspaper competition? Who knows…

Okay, it’s just a series of lists, on the whole, but as a tool for local/family/London historians, this site is superb. I shall add it to my links, for future use (yeah, yeah, I know, the links page needs a total overhaul. Where does the time go?) but for now, take a little glance – it’s fascinating. Just make sure you do it in your tea break or you won’t get any work done today.


One Comment to “Fred Rayment’s List”

  1. OldChina says:

    Book marked! Will have a look when I get a spare two minutes. Sounds like a time vampire though!