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The rude reason why London's Cock Lane has got its name; Ok ok I promise I'm not laughing.

Byline: Ian Molyneaux

Way back in medieval times it was common for street names to reflect what you would find there.

So with that in mind places such as Silver Street, Fish Street, and Swinegate (pork butchers) were common throughout cities in the UK.

While in modern day life people are presented with an abundance of choices about where to work and what they will be when they are older, in centuries gone by life was a little more brutal and unforgiving.

Men took on trades such as blacksmiths, iron mongers or tailors, but for women the choices available were much more limited.

Many women instead turned to prostitution as a way to make ends meet.

The act of selling sex was not just about money though, but often as a way to get food or accommodation.

Like with all trades it made perfect sense for prostitutes to work in an area where others were doing the same.

The thinking behind this process being that was easier for people to compare what was on offer if everything was in the same place.

Hence why even today you will still find streets in London with dozens of shops providing the exact same service on them.

Prostitution was no different and indeed certain streets became synonymous with the trade.

Which brings us to London's very own Cock Lane, in Farringdon.

In medieval times Cock Lane was in fact known as Cokkes Lane and was known for being the site of London's legal brothels.

In fact in 1393 authorities in London would only allow prostitutes to work only in Cokkes Lane and nowhere else.

If prostitutes had tried working elsewhere within the City boundaries then they could have been sent to prison.

Cock and Cokkes actually meant the same thing despite the ambiguity between the two spellings.

The meaning of the word 'cock' is generally known to mean either a male hen (rooster) or a slang word for the male penis.

With the street being so heavily associated with prostitution you would understandably think that the answer is penis but this may not be entirely true.

A past time of the English was cock-fighting and there is the possibility that Cock Lane got its name from either breeding the birds or putting on fights for betting.

The blood sport was extremely popular in London so it could well be why Cock Lane got its name.

However, as with Silver Street, Fish Street, and Swinegate it was important for people to understand immediately what was sold there.

London was swarming with visitors from other places and they would not have needed to be a rocket scientist to understand what happened on Cock Lane.

But to complicate matters the use of the word 'cock' for a man's penis did not actually originate until the 1600s, which was 200 years after London authorities made Cock Lane the only legal site for brothels.

There is one possibility that the street name actually relates to the word 'pillicock'.

Pillicock is also a historical word for penis and originated in the 1300s meaning there was an understanding of the word around the time brothels made Cock Lane their home.

Perhaps as with much of London's historical mysteries there will never be a definitive answer on why London's Cock Lane got its name.

One thing is for sure though that it will continue to have school children in fits of laughter for years to come.

Tailors started working in the area in 1790 taking up position in Cork Street before moving to Saville Row in 1803.

To this day it is still an iconic centre for mens tailoring, especially tailored suits.

In 1846, Henry Poole who created the the dinner jacket or tuxedo, opened an entrance to Savile Row from his shop in Old Burlington Street.

It is believed the word 'bespoke' originated on Saville Row meaning a suit cut and made by hand.

Hatton Garden started to grow as the jewellers' centre in the early 19th century.

There are now nearly 300 businesses based in Hatton Garden in the jewellery industry and over 55 shops.

Harley Street has been known for its abundance of Doctors and medical establishments since the 1800s.

The street was named after Thomas Harley who was Lord Mayor of London in 1776.

There are now over 3000 people employed in the area in relation to medical treatement.

One theory why the street became a hub for the best of London's best Doctors was due to its close proximity to major stations which meant people could travel from all over the UK.

Chancery Lane has been synonymous with the legal profession for hundred of years.

The road originally took its name from the High Court of Chancery which had jurisdiction over all matters of equity.

Today the road still acts as a central point for lawyers and barristers.

CAPTION(S):

Credit: Welcome Images

Cock Lane is a small street in Smithfield in the City of London

Credit: Iridescent

Cock Lane as it appears today

Credit: Office of the National Illustrated Library

Original sketch of Cocks Lane found in "Haunted Houses" in Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Mackay, Charles (1852)

Credit: Poirier2000

Credit: Mastermelt Group

Credit: outreachr.com
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Publication:Get West London (Watford, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 4, 2019
Words:876
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