Lord North Street, SW1P

Place Name

Frederick North (April 13, 1732 – August 5, 1792), the 2nd Earl of Guilford, was better known by his courtesy title Lord North, which he used from 1752 to 1790. Between 1770 to 1782 he was a Tory prime minister during which he  led the country through most of the American War of Independence. His reputation as a national leader has swung widely in the years following his death. In the 19thCentury he was dismissed as the man who lost America. By the early 20thCentury this view was being revised, with historians emphasising his strengths in administering the Treasury, handling the House of Commons, and in defending the Church of England. He had also enjoyed success early in his administration during the Falklands Crisis in 1770, in which Great Britain faced down a Spanish attempt to seize the Falkland Islands, nearly provoking a war. The timing of this change of heart was fortuitous, for it came as the London County Council was starting its review of the city’s street names. As London expanded many former satellite towns and villages had become a part of the fabric of the growing city; this plus the egos of former landowners to name streets after themselves, meant many streets had the same or similar sounding names. It became increasingly difficult for Royal Mail and the emergency services to determine exact locations and, so in the 1930 a review of some 5,000 streets was started to tidy them up, expunging duplicate nomenclature. And so in 1936 the street, originally plain North Street, as led north from Smith Square, was changed to commemorate Lord North and to avoid further confusion with nearby streets. The street itself was built in 1725. In a letter to the Sunday Times in 1937 Sir Allen Mawer, director of the Survey of British Place Names complained that the London County Council had created “false history or pseudo-history”. Writing in the same paper Lawrence E Tanner wrote: “No street ought to be called after a famous dead Londoner, unless in life he had something to do with it, or unless it forms part of a group similarly named.” Ironically, history did catch up with the street name. Between 1958 and 2003, 32 – 34 Smith Square served as Conservative Central Office, the Conservative Party’s headquarters.

 

 

 

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