There were actually two streets in early modern London commonly called Maiden Lane, though only one was properly referred to by that name. The Maiden Lane located in Bread Street ward ran east-west, and was actually called Distaff Lane, a corruption of Distar Lane, which Stow says he
read in record of a brewhouse, called the Lamb in Distar lane, the sixteenth of [Henry] the sixt(Stow 1:351). Stow says that the street likely came to be called Maiden Lane from a sign located there, though he does not elaborate. Perhaps it referred to a tavern or store with a maiden as its sign. There was a need for an alternate name for the street, because another street also called Distaff or Distar Lane ran south from Distaff - or Maiden - Lane (Stow 1:351-52).
The true Maiden Lane, to which this page refers, was shared between Cripplegate Ward, Aldersgate Ward, and Farringdon Within. It ran west from Wood Street, and
originated as a trackway across the Covent Garden(Bebbington 210) to St. Martin’s Lane. Stow offers no explanation of the street’s name, though he mentions that it was once called Ingenelane, or Inglane, which he also spells as Engain Lane (Stow 1:298, 303). Isaac D’Israeli, an English author and the father of nineteenth-century British writer and prime minister Benjamin D’Israeli
tried to explain the name by postulating a statue of the Virgin here; a less genteel but more probable explanation would be midden heaps(Bebbington 210; see also Weinreb and Hibbert 505).
Important sites located in Maiden Lane were St. Michael’s Church, the Waxchandlers’ Hall on the south side of the street, and the Haberdashers’ Hall on the north side. The Haberdashers Company was
confirmed by Henrie the seaventh, the 17. of his raigne, the Cappers and Hat Marchantes or Hurrers being one Company of Haberdashers(Stow 1:298).
Though Maiden Lane was once a cul-de-sac, it was extended to link with Southampton Street in Victorian times so that the queen’s carriage would not have to turn around after leaving her at the Adelphi Theatre (Weinreb and Hibbert 505).
- Bebbington, Gillian. London Street Names. London: B.T. Batsford, 1972.
- 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.]
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)