What’s in a name?…Petty France…

March 31, 2014

This short street in Westminster – which runs between Buckingham Gate and Broadway – was so-named for its association with…well, the French.

Petty France literally means ‘Little France’ and, like Petty Wales, takes its name from the fact there was obviously a hub of people of a certain ethnicity – in this case, the French, living in the street.

We’ve found various theories on which French it was – from wool merchants to some of the estimated 40,000 Huguenots who had fled France for England in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In The Book of London Place Names, however, Caroline Taggart argues that because the name is first recorded late in the 15th century – long before the Huguenots started fleeing – it’s likely to be the wool merchants who settled here.

It’s been suggested Petty France at one time had its name changed to York Street after Frederick, Duke of York and son of King George II, who had a residence there.

The street is now home to, among others, the Ministry of Justice.

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