Victorian road names in Whitstable


Have you ever considered where our road names come from? If you take a look at the road names in the central part of Whitstable you start to notice a pattern.

There seem to be four main categories, Nature, Royalty, Descriptive and Military. I’ll run through a few, in alphabetical order, with possibly origins which will explain what I mean.

Albert Street. Most certainly in honour of Prince Albert, married to Queen Victoria.

Argyle Road. Connections here to the Boer War.

Collingwood Road. Cuthbert Collingwood was a Navy Admiral who moved up the ranks closely behind his friend Horatio Nelson. It was he who brought the fleet back home after the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Lord Nelson.

Cornwallis Circle, originally Cornwallis Street off Nelson Road, which later formed part of the circle. Charles Cornwallis was a leading British general in the American War of Independence. He later served as a military and civilian governor in Ireland and then India.

Cromwell Road. Possibly named after Oliver Cromwell, but as a new thoroughfare through a growing town that had some pretentions, it might just have been named after Cromwell Road in London which skirted the area of the popular museums.

Fountain Street. This was a common road name where water was found, in this case wells. There were several in this area behind the Harbour.

Island Wall. An accurate description of the last built of Whitstable’s sea defence banks, stretching from Seasalter across the slightly raised ‘islands’ ending at the earliest ‘Wall’, Sea Wall. Island Wall effectively over the years produced West Beach.

Marmion Road. No longer used as a Road name, this was the last piece of the three sections of Cromwell Road, the others being Cromwell Road South and Cromwell Road North. Around 1948 all three sections were renamed as Cromwell Road. A strange name which I believe comes from Walter Scott’s poem of that name, introducing what are now common phrases and sayings into our language, such as “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

Middle Wall. This was the sea defence wall built at the tidal extreme on the sea side, of the High Street.  That was nearly 500 years ago and it’s only been breached a few times. It starts at the junction of Oxford Street and the High Street and finishes where it meets Island Wall and Sea Wall.

Nelson Road. Lord Nelson, perhaps our greatest naval commander. We are a maritime town after all.

New Street.  Descriptive, when it was built!

Oxford Street. Eminent Whitstable historian, Geoffrey Pike, was of the opinion, which I’m inclined to agree with, that Oxford Street was named after the London street of the same name which was the busiest and most exclusive retail area of that time. Being the entrance into Whitstable’s shopping area it was hoped that it would attract a higher class of clientele.

Regent Street. Was this another name borrowed from London, or was it a further reference to Albert, the Prince Regent?  It certainly served the purpose of being a link road to the other streets being built.

Sea Wall. As mentioned, the original ‘Wall’, ending at the point where the land was higher at the far end of Harbour Street.

Station Road. The 1906 maps show it as planned, but with no houses. People often think it was named as it goes up towards the Railway Station, but that was by the Canterbury Road bridge at that time. It was a road to the Station just before the Harbour, where the Health Centre is now.

Stream Walk. For much of its length not a road but a pathway covering the Gorrell Stream which flowed once to the sea, but now into the Gorrell Tank, known historically as the Reservoir or Backwater.

Sydenham Street. I’ve struggled with this one, but it’s possible that the link is the Great Exhibition which was extremely popular with visitors. It opened in 1851 at Hyde Park in London, before moving in 1854 to Sydenham, a London suburb. It showed the best of British and Empire inventions and labour saving devices.

Victoria Street. Running in parallel with Albert Street it evidences the affection that people felt for their monarch. There is surely a Victoria Street in any town built in that era. It epitomises the point at which Whitstable grew up from being a quiet fishing village to a town that knew where it was going.

Westgate Terrace. A difficult name to place, especially as it’s on the east side of town.

Westmeads Road. A Mead in this context is a tract of moist low-lying usually level grassland. Historically that’s probably accurate.

Wheatley Road, which joins Westmeads, probably uses the name from the Old English for a wheat meadow.

What a royal, battling, walled, wet town we live in!

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