Coldharbour Lane, SE5, SW9

Place Name

A well-established route, appearing as Camberwel Lane on John Rocque’s 1741 map of the area, it was renamed in 1874 after the ancient manor of Coldherbergh or Cold Abbey on the Camberwell-Brixton border. The name literally means Cold Shelter and comes from the Old English words cald, for cold, and here-beorg, for shelter. There are several theories about how the manor got its name. David Mills in London Place Names seemingly puts the best one forward. In the 13thCentury the manor is known to have been owned by the knight Sir John Abel, who also owned a namesake Thames-side mansion just west of London Bridge. Perhaps, as Mills suggests, the name was simply transferred across. Or maybe it was a joke. Camberwell would have already been a significant settlement by that time, and indeed a far cry from the cheerless image the name conjures up. Alternatively, William Harnet Blanch, the 19thCentury Camberwell historian, suggests the name may have been literal: “Coldharbour is taken to have originally signified a place of entertainment for travellers and drovers, who only required rest and fodder for their horses and cattle, as distinguished from the warm lodging and provisions of an inn.” He suggests that the ruins of Roman villas were no doubt used by travellers who carried their own bedding and provisions. Over time, the land appears to have been merged with other estates and eventually divided up into single farms before being developed. Today this is part of the A2217 between Clapham Common and Camberwell via Brixton.

 

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