Birchin Lane was a short street running north-south between Cornhill Street and Lombard Street. The north end of Birchin Lane lay in Cornhill Ward, and the south end in Langbourne Ward. Stow tells us that Birchin Lane was named after Birchover,
the first builder and owner thereof, now corruptly called Birchin lane(1:198–99). However, Eilert Ekwall rejects this etymology. He postulates that the name means
lane of the barbers,from an unrecorded Old English word, beardceorfere. He points out that the Middle English cherven (from OE ceorfan), meaning
to cut,was used specifically for the cutting of hair (113). His theory is generally accepted (Bebbington 47; Weinreb and Hibbert 66); Smith, however, seems to prefer Stow’s etymology (23).
Kingsford records many variant spellings of the name: Bercherverelane, Bercheners lane, Berchernerelane, Berchenes-lane, and Berchen lane (2:306). Stow shows a preference for
In the Middle Ages, Birchin Lane was
famous for [. . .] fripperers, or secondhand clothes merchants, who had their stalls in Birchouer Lane and along the sides of Lombard Street(Smith 23). It became the home of the hosiers sometime before or during the sixteenth century (Stow 1:81). In her Isabella Whitney leaves hose in Birchin Lane:
I hose do leave in Birchin Lane,of any kind of size,For women stitched, for men both trunksand those of Gascon guise[.](105–08)
See Bow Lane for more information about the hosiers.
In the seventeenth century, Birchin Lane housed
men’s ready-made clothes shops(Weinreb and Hibbert 66), and in the eighteenth century a famous coffee house. David Garrick, the eighteenth-century actor famous for his Shakespearean roles, often visited Tom’s Coffee House (Weinreb and Hibbert 66).
- Bebbington, Gillian. London Street Names. London: B.T. Batsford, 1972.
- Ekwall, Eilert. Street-Names of the City of London. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.
- Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge, ed. A Survey of London by John Stow. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. A searchable transcription of this text is available at BHO.
- Smith, Al. Dictionary of City of London Street Names. New York: Arco, 1970.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
- Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. New York: St. Martin’s, 1983. [You may also wish to consult the 3rd edition, published in 2008.]
The Manner of Her Will.The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000. 1.606–14.
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)