Birchin Lane

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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 Birchouer.
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 Will and Testament, 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 trunks
and those of Gascon guise[.]
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).
Birchin Lane still survives in modern London, in its original location between Lombard and Cornhill.


Last modification: 2017-03-15 17:14:07 -0400 (Wed, 15 Mar 2017) (mholmes)
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MLA citation:

Jenstad, Janelle. “Birchin Lane.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 21 February 2018. <>.

Chicago citation:

Jenstad, Janelle. n.d. “Birchin Lane.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed February 21, 2018.

APA citation:

Jenstad J. (n.d.). Birchin Lane. In J. Jenstad (Ed.), The Map of Early Modern London. Retrieved February 21, 2018, from

TEI citation:

<bibl> <author><persName><surname>Jenstad</surname>, <forename>Janelle</forename></persName></author> (<date>n.d.</date>). <title level="a">Birchin Lane</title>. In <editor><persName><forename>J.</forename> <surname>Jenstad</surname></persName></editor> (Ed.), <title level="m">The Map of Early Modern London</title>. Retrieved <date when="2018-02-21">February 21, 2018</date>, from <ref target=""></ref> </bibl>