Times Past: Havering’s ancient road names

Havering’s modern street network is largely based on roads which had existed for hundreds of years before the suburbs arrived. It’s no surprise that names have been changed over the centuries.

Many of the ancient roads were simply farm tracks, and some have vanished under bricks and mortar.

A map of Harold Hill in 1633 shows a track winding north from the Colchester Road (A12) close to modern-day Dagnam Park Drive. It was called Thieves Lane, perhaps a hiding place for robbers who attacked travellers on the Great Essex Road.

In 1400, Upminster had a road called Hoggeslane.

Estate agents are probably glad both names are now lost.

Some roads have been renamed upmarket.

Rainham’s Back Street became Upminster Road. Romford’s Well Lane became Mawney Road.

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Eighteenth century maps show a Dog Lane near Romford. It was renamed in honour of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon in 1815 – Waterloo Road.

A sad loss is Romford’s Woolford Street, which turned into the more prosaic North Street.

Later, Hornchurch Lane became South Street.

Cottages in the borough’s other North Street, in Hornchurch, were known as Cage Row until at least 1860.

They took their name from the village lock-up, a hut for locking up drunks and trouble-makers. Cage Row is now shops.

In the Middle Ages, Hornchurch’s High Street was the centre of a local tanning industry. Between 1281 and 1373, local records call it Pellestrate, “pell” being a variant of “pelt”, the word for an animal skin.

A 1777 map shows “Upminster Lane” heading north towards Tylers Common, but in 1880 villagers called it The Hall Lane – because it led to Upminster Hall, now the Golf Club. Today it’s simplified as Hall Lane.


That same 1777 map shows two roads north from Cranham, one called Cranham Lane and the other, a winding by-road named Cranham Back Lane.

I don’t know when or why the Back Lane became Moor Lane, but it left a mark on its neighbour – Front Lane.

I can’t find another Front Lane anywhere in England.

The road east from Upminster was also called Cranham Lane. In 1924, it was renamed.

Upminster people wanted a name associated with their ancient parish church, dedicated to St Laurence.

However, there was already a St Laurence Road, by Upminster station.

Somebody recalled that, in the Middle Ages, when England was a Catholic country, the parish church had contained a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. So Upminster’s east-west highway became St Mary’s Lane.

It’s a charming name but an invented one.

Some of Havering’s more modern streets have also been renamed.

The road that commemorated William Carter, the founder of Emerson Park in 1895, is now called Maybush Road. Presumably, locals wanted an address that was smarter than Carter.

Factory Road, near Gidea Park Station, was rebuilt as Elvet Avenue.

Sussex Avenue, off Harold Wood’s Avenue Road, was originally Dorset Avenue, but the name was changed to avoid confusion with Dorset Avenue, Romford.

With a little more imagination in street-naming, problems could have been avoided: Havering has an Oak Avenue, Oak Court, Oak Glen and Oak Road as well as a Kenilworth Road and a Kenilworth Gardens.