Cannon Street, EC4M

Place Name

This street’s name goes back to the middle ages and means the street of the candlemakers, an important and thriving trade in pre-electric Roman Catholic England. It is known that the wax chandlers congregated in this neighbourhood, and that they had their Livery Hall in Dowgate Hill off Cannon Street where a later Hall of this Livery Company still stands. But with some 60 variations of spelling in its 800-year history how it arrived at the modern day Cannon Street is a remarkable etymological feat. First mentioned in 1183 as Candelewrithstret after the Middle English words candelwrith meaning candle maker or chandler and stret (street). In 1241 that had mutated into Kandelwiccestrate. By the early 15thCentury, it was written as Canwyke strete, which was pronounced Cannick, and this pronunciation later became Canning. In 1480 it appears as Canyngesstrete. The modern spelling was not used until the 17thCentury, by among others, Samuel Pepys in his diary of 1667. The old Cannon Street extended only from Gracechurch Street to the top of Dowgate Hill, but was in 1850 extended to St. Paul’s Churchyard (south) absorbing Distaff and Basing Streets. The western extension was until 1866, when the train station opened, known as Cannon Street West.

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