Chaucer Road, SE24

Place Name

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – October 25, 1400) who is best known for The Canterbury Tales, is widely seen as the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and has been called the “father of English literature”. Born on or near Upper Thames Street in London to a family of wealthy vintners, his family name is derived from the French chausseur, meaning shoemaker. He became a page to the Countess of Ulster and through this connection was brought into the close court circle. In 1359, during the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, Edward III invaded France, and Chaucer travelled to the Continent as part of the English army. In 1360, he was captured during the siege of Rheims and only released when a £16 ransom was paid. This experience aside, he travelled widely across Europe and later studied law back in London. Sometime around the 1380s he moved to Kent and is thought to have started writing the Canterbury Tales, a bawdy series of poems telling the stories of a varied group of pilgrims heading from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral. Away from writing, he gained many lucrative appointments and in 1386 was elected a Knight of the Shire of Kent (a member of the House of Commons), during which time he was probably living in Greenwich. Four years later he was appointed clerk of the works at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and also put on a commission to repair the banks of the river Thames between Woolwich and Greenwich. After receiving a pension he took a lease on a house in the garden of the Chapel of St Mary, Westminster. When he died he was the first writer to be buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. This is one of a cluster of roads named after poets, which were and remain a popular topic of street names with developers. This Herne Hill road, like Spenser Road, Shakespeare Road and Milton Road are known as Poets’ Corner. They were laid out when Effra Farm was bought by the Westminster Freehold Land Society in 1855. Building work sped up with the arrival of the railway in 1862. Poets and playwrights, were and remain a popular subject for clusters of street named by developers.

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