Literal. Surprisingly there was once a medieval cross here near its junction with St John Street and it would be passed by cattle on their way to nearby Smithfield meat market. John Stow remarked on it in his Survey of London published in 1598. It is one of a number of streets around here that were named after animals, namely: Cow Bridge, Cock Lane, Chicken Lane, Cow Lane and Duck Lane. Only Cock Lane has survived but there’s an argument that could have an altogether seedier origin.
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