Times Past: The interesting origins of Havering road names

12:00 30 November 2012

Prof Ged Martin

Prof Ged Martin


Former Havering resident, Prof Ged Martin, is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Edinburgh. Here he takes a look at the origin of the names of some familiar roads.

Most Havering road names were dreamed up by builders. Ardleigh Green’s Primrose Glen is a pleasant street, but I doubt if wild primroses ever grew there and the nearest glen is in Scotland.

But some local road names do echo the past.

Hornchurch was a large parish, stretching from the Thames right up to the A12. For administrative purposes, it was split in two. North End – from Emerson Park to Harold Wood – is entirely forgotten, but Southend Road in Elm Park recalls the other section. It has nothing to do with Southend-on-Sea, whose name similarly evolved from the South End of the parish of Prittlewell.

The Romans drove dead-straight Colchester Road across the landscape soon after they arrived in 43 A.D. But most Havering roads grew out of winding farm tracks.

It would be 1,800 years before the area gained its next planned highways.

In 1809, the route from London to Tilbury Fort was privatised, and the new turnpike company constructed a direct link across South Hornchurch from Dagenham to Rainham. Two centuries later, we still call the A1306 “New Road”.

In 1926, it was extended eastward to give Rainham a bypass.

Extensive commons stretching across the northern half of the borough were enclosed for farming in 1814. The commissioners who carved up the land had power to make new roads. Their major initiative, more than a mile long northward from Gallows Corner, astonished local people.

Admiringly, they called it “Straight Road”. We still do.

Romford did not get another major new road until the mid-1850s, when Victoria Road was laid out and named in honour of the great Queen.

Many of Havering’s modern-day roads recall vanished farms and mansions. They include Marshalls Drive and Gidea Close (Romford), Clockhouse Lane and Priests Avenue (Collier Row), Gooshays Drive (Harold Hill), Nelmes Way (Emerson Park) and Gaynes Park Road (Upminster).

There’s some mystery about Great Gardens Road in Heath Park. It recalls a 19th-century farmhouse, but it’s an odd name for a farm.

The solution can be found in a plaque in St Andrew’s church, Hornchurch, to Thomas Hone, “who died ye 7th of Septemb. 1604, being of ye age of 63, having had 6 sonns and 6 daughters.”

The contribution of Mrs Hone to this heroic reproductive effort is not mentioned.

Hones lived at a house called “Garolens”. It seems that, in days when all documents were hand-written, some short-sighted lawyer misread a clerk’s scrawl - and “Garolens” became “Gardens”.

Harold Wood has a puzzler too. The original Redden Court stood in Cecil Avenue, but around 1700 it was replaced by two farms further to the north – one in what is now Court Way, the other on the site of Redden Court School.

The latter was all of fifteen feet higher above sea level than the Cecil Road site—positively mountainous for Essex.

It must have had an unrecorded nickname that is preserved in Upland Court Road.


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