The origins of this short and narrow City of London laneway, which runs between Fenchurch Street and Great Tower Street, have nothing to do with minced meat of any kind.
Rather it comes from the fact – according to 16th century historian John Stow – that houses along here were once the property of the nuns of St Helen’s Bishopsgate. The medieval word for a nun was ‘mynchen’ – ‘mincing’ is merely a corruption of that word.
Historically, Mincing Lane was known for spice and tea trading and was also apparently the centre of the opium trade in London as well as hosting businesses connected to the slave trade.
The Clothworkers Company is located in Dunster Court, just off Mincing Lane – the current building, which opened in 1958, is the sixth on the site.
Among more modern buildings hosted in the one-way lane today is the Minster Court complex, dating from the early Nineties, which features in the forecourt facing out to the lane, Althea Wynne’s sculpture of three larger than life-size bronze horses, apparently nicknamed “Dollar”, “Yen” and “Stirling” (pictured). The building featured in the 1996 film, 101 Dalmatians.
PICTURE: Mike Quinn / Wild horses wouldn’t drag me in here / CC BY-SA 2.0.
There’s a couple of alternate theories for the origins of this City of London street’s name.
Running between Gracechurch Street to the west and Aldgate to the east, Fenchurch Street isn’t actually home to Fenchurch Street Station (one of the four Monopoly board stations!) – that’s located in adjoining Fenchurch Place. And for good measure, there’s also a nearby Fenchurch Avenue.
The name apparently relates to a church that once stood here, known as St Gabriel Fenchurch. The fen part of the name is believed to either stand for what may have been nearby ‘fens’ – that is, swampy or marshy ground – related to the now lost Langbourn River once located here or for faenum, a Latin word for hay which may have referred to a nearby haymarket.
The church, which is known to have existed from at least the 14th century and stood between Rood and Mincing Lanes, burnt down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was not rebuilt but merged into the parish of St Margaret Pattens (there’s a plaque marking its site in Fenchurch Street opposite Cullum Street – we’ll have a look at the church in more detail in a later Lost London entry).
Landmarks in the street include Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at number 71 (a Grade II-listed building dating from 1901) and the somewhat controversial tower at 20 Fenchurch Street, nicknamed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building.