Road names in both our countryside and our towns have tended to change throughout recorded history, some being changed more than once as administrative boundaries were moved or the colour of the political map changed. Such changes may have originally been carried out for a variety of very different reasons but they often have the same result as far as the family historian is concerned, namely the loss of obvious historic and genealogical links with the area in which they are situated.

Fortunately many local reference libraries have now managed to build up comprehensive lists of the road name changes that have taken place in their own local areas, together with the dates upon which they were effected. This information is normally available to the researcher.

Despite this there has always been a problem in locating records of street name changes in the London area, mainly due to its sheer size and to the difficulty in identifying the correct Authority covering the area in question or the whereabouts of the records concerned.

This particular problem has now largely been resolved, thanks to some recently discovered work which had apparently been carried out in the early 1940s by a London fireman named Frederick William Rayment.

Frederick's work came about as one of the consequences of the formation in 1889 of the London County Council, many of the responsibilities of which had previously rested with the numerous Borough Councils.

The new council, which became generally known as the L.C.C., inherited a situation in which many street names in its area were duplicated, triplicated or even worse. This had arisen because, although each of the Boroughs had normally used a street name only once within its own area, when these Boroughs were amalgamated to form the L.C.C., a multiplicity of many of the most popular street names became apparent.

As a result of the obvious confusion caused to the Postal Authorities and to others, the L.C.C. embarked on a very ambitious plan to eliminate all street name duplication by means of a massive street re-naming scheme lasting many decades.

Unfortunately, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the scheme was only just nearing completion, with many street name signs still bearing both their old and new names. For the emergency services, that often had to navigate in the blackout through bomb-damaged streets in order to quickly reach addresses quoted by panicking or excited members of the public, the re-naming of such streets presented somewhat of a problem. This was exacerbated by the fact that, not being equipped with radio at the time, they could not easily contact their headquarters in the event of a street name query.

Fireman Rayment, who was the driver of a large turntable escape appliance during this period, decided to try and compile a list of the street name changes which had been instituted by the L.C.C., simply in order to avoid time being wasted in searching for re-named streets. However, during the chaos of the blitz, he had been called upon to serve in various different fire station areas and so he decided to include the whole of the L.C.C. area when attempting to make his list.

With the help of many fire brigade colleagues too numerous to mention, a friend who worked in the G.P.O., and another friend who was employed in the planning department of the L.C.C., Fred Rayment managed to produce a list, which he then used throughout the remainder of the war.

Following his death in 1984, his house was sold and many of his possessions were placed into storage by his son Roy. It was not until late in the year 1998 that Roy began to read through his late father's papers and re-discovered the original manuscript list of the street name changes that his father had compiled nearly sixty years beforehand.

Roy quickly realised the significance of his late father's work, using it as the basis upon which to produce computer files that are fully cross-referenced and can be searched by old name, new name, or postal district. The symbol # has been used to indicate cases where streets have ceased to exist as separate entities with their own names, having been amalgamated with existing streets.

Unfortunately the original manuscript list compiled by Fred Rayment bore no indications of the dates upon which each individual street name changes actually took place. None of the other people involved in providing the original information are still alive and so it is has proved rather difficult to ascertain the dates concerned, or to verify much of the original data. Despite this, a small number of the nearly two thousand entries have been randomly selected and then carefully checked, but no errors have so far been found.

As far as is known, Fred's list is the only one ever to have been produced which covers the whole of the old L.C.C.'s area, but a large number of smaller, more localised, lists have been compiled by various agencies in the past.

It is perhaps rather ironic that, with the advent of the introduction of the G.L.C., which took control over a much larger area than that which had been previously been administered by the L.C.C., the problem of the duplication of street names arose once again. This occurred because the outer London Boroughs, not having previously been subjected to the street naming disciplines of the old L.C.C., had made no attempt to avoid duplication of road names, either with each other or with the L.C.C.'s area. On this occasion however, the G.L.C. perhaps rather wisely decided not to embark upon a further programme of mass street name changes, although a small number of changes have subsequently been made.

© Rayment Society 1999

Return to Road Name Changes Menu