Fringe Box



What’s In A Road Name?

Published on: 28 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 28 May, 2020

By David Rose

Have you ever wondered about the origin of a particular road name in the Guildford area? Could it be named after a once well-known person, a corruption of an older name, or something so obvious you had simply never realised?

I have not come across a definitive list of the origin of road names in the borough. Several times recently, I have been asked whether there is such a list, or what does ‘so and so street’ mean?

Before I list a number of streets and roads whose names I have discovered the origin of, here’s a few that do not take a lot of working out.

For example, Guildown must be a mixture of ‘Guild’ as in Guildford and ‘down’ as in the North Downs. Also in St Catherine’s, is The Valley, and, Ferry Lane – fairly obvious, given their topography and location.

Some areas have names that are linked. Take, for instance, the roads in Bellfields named after trees: Willow Way, Oak Tree Drive, Larch Avenue, Hazel Avenue, and so on. But not forgetting Cypress Road that was originally Paynters Close, and named after the Paynter family who lived at Stoke Hill House. The Rev Francis Paynter succeeded his father, Samuel, as rector of Stoke Parish in the 19th century.

A group of road names in the Rydes Hill area reflect the farming that once went on there: Byrefield Road, Sheepfold Road and Shepherds Lane.

Park Barn also has names associated with past agriculture within that area: Homestall, as in the stalls or pens at a ‘home farm’ that supplied a local ‘big house’. In this case it may well have been the medieval lodge at the centre of the royal deer park thereabouts.

Other Park Barn roads include Rickyard and Applegarth Avenue. However, Cabell Road is slightly different in its origin. It is named after Robert Hervey Cabell who lived at Rydes Hill House, off Aldershot Road, in the early part of the 20th century. His land stretched over the hill towards today’s Park Barn. He made his fortune importing tinned beef from Argentina.

Linked names, but a little more obscure, are roads in the fairly new Queen Elizabeth Park at Stoughton. Evidently, they are all named after officers of the Women’s Royal Army Corps, whose camp was once on that site.

However, I have no idea of the origins of Denzil Road, Devon Bank and Dorrit Crescent, for example.

So here’s a quick list, from A to Z, of those I can think of straight off. If you know the origins of the name of a road, street, close, avenue, cul-de-sac, lane, and so on, not listed here – do please add a post and we will add it to the master list.

Ashenden Road: near Guildford’s Tesco store, part of the Ashenden Estate and named after a local building company that built the houses there.

Bannisters Road: in Onlsow VIllage and named after a Bannisters Farm that was once sited roughly where the Tesco store is today.

Baden Road: off Worplesdon Road in Stoughton, and named after Robert Baden Powell, the founder of the Scouts. It was developed from the 1910s onwards, at a time when the scout movement was really taking off. He was also made a freeman of the borough of Guildford for his work nationally, but was never a resident here.

Beckingham Road: off Aldershot Road and named after Robert Beckingham, a London grocer who left money to be invested in a school in Guildford to educate 30 of the town’s poorest boys. It became the Royal Grammar School.

Charlotteville: the development was the brainchild of a Guildford doctor by the name of Thomas Sells. He acted as an entrepreneur for the estate which was designed by the town’s borough surveyor Henry Peak. The first homes were built in 1862. Sells’ wife’s first name was Charlotte. The roads are named after prominent physicians. Here are some of them:

Addison Road post office and stores. C.1910.

Addison Road: Thomas Addison (1793-1860) is regarded as one of the ‘great men’ of Guy’s Hospital in London. Among other pathologies he discovered Addison’s disease (a degenerative disease of the adrenal glands) and Addisonian anemia (pernicious anemia), a hematological disorder later found to be caused by failure to absorb vitamin B12. The following roads are all in Charlotteville.

Cheselden Road: William Cheselden (1688-1752), was an English surgeon and teacher of anatomy and surgery, who was influential in establishing surgery as a scientific medical profession.

Harvey Road: William Harvey (1578-1657), was an English physician who was the first person to describe completely and in detail the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the body by the heart.

Jenner Road: Edward Anthony Jenner (1749-1823), is widely credited as the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine.

Deerbarn Road: off Aldershot Road on Woodbridge Hill. Part of the medieval royal deer park, and a possible site of a shelter for the deer enclosed hereabouts. After the deer park had been abandoned the area became Deerbarn Farm, of which the road directly takes its name.

Dennisville: a development of houses at the end of The Chase, that itself leads off from the Guildford Park area. Dennisville was created by Guildford’s motor-vehicle manufacturer Dennis Bros, for members of its workforce. These are the roads:

St John’s Road: named after John Cawsey Dennis (founder member of Dennis Bros).

Raymond Crescent: named after Sir Raymond Dennis (co-founder of Dennis Bros).

Pentreath Avenue: named after Nicholas Pentreath Andrew, a former director of Dennis Bros who was company chairman for 31 years.

Downing Avenue: named after John Reginard Downing, first a draughtsman with Dennis Bros, who, in 1942, became deputy managing director.

Fentum Road: in Shepherds Hill, Stoughton, and named after a former Mayor of Guildford, H Fentum Phillips.

Friary Street: named after Guildford’s medieval Dominican Friary (now the site of the Friary shopping centre).

Haydon Place: named after William Haydon, originally at draper in Guildford High Street, who, in 1765, changed his business to a bank. The building is currently occupied by TSB Lloyds bank.

Guildford High Street with its famous Guildhall clock bearing the date of 1683.

High Street: versions of how one of the UK’s commonest street names came about vary (according to what you can find on the internet). Some suggest it goes back at least 10 centuries, others that it entered into being sometime in the 12th century. However, it seems that the word ‘high’ gradually evolved to also mean something excellent, or of more importance, as also found in high sheriff and high society. As roads improved, so the name was adopted.

It’s fair to say that, for centuries, Guildford was something of a one-street town, with narrow lanes and alleyways running off the ‘high street’.

We are certainly lucky to have some ancient and historic buildings lining our High Street. The Guildhall clock bears a date of 1683, but parts of the building behind are much earlier.

It was, for centuries, an un-made thoroughfare – muddy in winter and dusty in the summer. The granite stone setts were laid in 1868, under the supervision of the then borough surveyor Henry Peak.

Hill View Crescent: off Aldershot Road, and named after a house called Hill View that once stood there. Originally, there would have been a view to the hill on the opposite side of Aldershot Road, now part of Westborough.

‘Holy City’: the nickname of the houses built at Stoughton in about the 1930s between Northway and Rydes Hill Road. They are all named after cathedral cities, thus: Canterbury Road, Durham Close, Peterborough Road, Hereford Close, and so on.

Martyr Road: In 1736, London attorney John Martyr bought Guildford House in the High Street, for £700. Members of the Martyr family lived in the house until the 1840s. It is now the home of the town’s tourist information centre and houses the borough’s art collection.

Onslow Street, Guildford, in the early 20th century.

Onslow Street: named after the Onslow family of Clandon Park who once owned great areas of land in the Guildford area.

Parkhurst Road: off Aldershot Road and named after Robert Parkhurst (1512-75), a Bishop of Norwich, who bestowed a number of books from his collection and other gifts to Guildford. He had been born of a Guildford family. The books form the chained library at the Royal Grammar School.

Percy Road: off Worplesdon Road in Stoughton and named after the Percy family from Alnwick in Northumberland of which the Duke of Northumberland is the head. In 1845, Albury Park (near Guildford) resident Henry Drummond’s eldest daughter, Louise, married Lord Louvaine, the heir to the Northumberland title. Eventually, this led to the Albury estate passing to the Percy family.

Porridge Pot Alley: the lane at the end of Millmead beside the borough council offices. It’s now an official and nicer sounding version of its once nickname – Piss Pot Alley.

Quarry Street: the road that leads eastwards away from the town centre and on towards the Shalford Road. There, at the site of today’s Great Quarry, was once a chalk quarry with its own wharf beside the river, now the headquarters of the Guildford Rowing Club.

Rydes Hill Road, seen in the cold winter of 1962-63.

Rydes Hill Road: this area is thought to have once been occupied by a person called ‘Ride’ or ‘Rede’.

This was the Queens Head pub in South Street, now Sydenham Road. The Castle multi-storey car park in on the site now.

South Street (Sydenham Road): once known as Upper Back Side. This was roughly the boundary of the gardens of the buildings on the east side of the High Street, following the line of the ancient town ditch. This was higher than the boundary of the buildings on the west side of the High Street, that was conversely known as Lower Back Side! That is now North Street.

Sydenham Road: it takes it name from a 17th-century physician, but it is a fairly recent name change, as it was once called South Street.

The Chase: a reminder of the medieval royal deer park in a part of Guildford that is now basically, Onslow Village, Westborough Park Barn, and parts of Stoughton and Woodbridge Hill. It was a closed off section of the much larger Windsor Great Park. Quite simply, it’s where the hunting and therefore chasing of the stags took place.

Tunsgate: named after the Tuns or Three Tuns inn that once faced the High Street here. It was demolished in 1818 and replaced by the cornmarket building there today.

The Upper High Street in the early 1900s.

Upper High Street: once nicknamed Spittal Street, derived from the word ‘hospital’ of which a St Thomas’ Hospital was once located, near the junction with Epsom Road. It closed in the 1850s.

Vernon Way: a road in Westborough, off Southway, and named after a former Mayor of Guildford, Alderman Vernon Wilkinson.

Walnut Tree Close: so named after the walnut trees that grew thereabouts when the area was part of the medieval royal deer park. Walnut Tree Close only became a through road after the Second World War. It once petered out towards the Woodbridge end, just before the ‘seven arches’ railway bridge. There was once a footpath that went close to the railway embankment and then through a bridge under the embankment and on towards Woodbridge Meadows. During the Second World War it was a popular courting place of male and female service personnel from nearby Stoughton Barracks and the Womens’ ATS camp. It therefore gained an extremely rude nickname thast we can’t repeat here!
Warren Road: once called Union Road – as the Guildford Union Workhouse was sited there. Following pleas, it was changed to Warren Road so that the word ‘Union’ would not appear within the address section of birth certificates of children born at the workhouse.

Wilderness Road: in Onslow Village and named after a Wilderness Farm that was once hereabouts.

Please add a post below of any road names you know the origin of, or any that you would like checked out.

Wilderness Road, Onslow Village, pictured in about the 1930s.

3 Responses to “What’s In A Road Name?”

  1. Bernard Parke says:

    The Army Drill Hall was in the area.

    It was a very popular venue for dances, concerts ans indeed public meetings of all

    Whilst writing does the G Live centre have a dance facilities as did the Old Civic Hall.

  2. Caroline Reeves says:

    There are still walnut trees in Walnut Tree Close, they should soon have a Tree protection order placed on them.
    I would like to know the origin of Artillery Road and Terrace, were they connected to the barracks in some way?

  3. Bernard Parke says:

    The Chase is in Guildford Park. The hunting ground of the Castle.

    It was fenced off by a twelve mile boundary fence.

    There again why Madrid Road ?

    Wodeland Avenue after the first Mayor of Guildford Walterus of Wodeland.

    Many others seem to have been lost and seem to be the product of The Onslow Family.

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