Farringdon is a name that crops up quite a bit in London. As well as Farringdon Road, Farringdon Street and Farringdon Lane, there’s a Tube/overground train station which also bear the name along with two of the 25 wards of the City of London.
These latter are named Farringdon Within and Farringdon Without – a distinction which relates to their placement within and without the City’s walls and dates to the late 14th century.
While the name Farringdon, which can be found elsewhere in England, apparently meant ‘ferny hill’ in Old English, its origins in London apparently relate to two medieval London goldsmiths, William de Faringdon (also spelt de Farindon and various other ways) and his son Nicholas.
Both William and Sir Nicholas were aldermen and Lord Mayors of London in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
Sir Nicholas was apparently well favoured by King Edward II – he was several times appointed mayor, a job the king apparently said he could hold for “as long as it pleased him”. He was buried at St Peter-le-Chepe, destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
Interestingly, another well-known alderman of this ward was the radical MP John Wilkes, who was elected while in Newgate Prison.
Farringdon Street, which becomes Farringdon Road, runs along the course of the former Fleet River and dates from the 1730s when the river was arched over.
Originally the northern gate of the Roman fort constructed in about 120 AD, Cripplegate was rebuilt several times during the medieval period before finally being demolished in 1760 as part of road widening measures.
The origins of the gate’s name are shrouded by the mists of time but it has been suggested that it was named for the beggars or cripples that once begged there or that it could come from an Anglo-Saxon word crepel which means a covered walkway.
The name may even be associated with an event which took place there in 1100 when, fearful of marauding Danes, Bishop Alwyn ordered the body of Edmund the Martyr, a sainted former Anglo-Saxon king, to be tranferred from its usual home in Bury St Edmunds to St Gregory’s Church near St Paul’s in London so that it could be kept safe. It was said that when the body passed through the gate, many of the cripples there were miraculously healed.
The gate (pictured here in an 18th century etching as it would have looked in 1663 in an image taken from a London Wall Walk plaque), which gave access in medieval times to what was then the village of Islington, was associated with the Brewer’s Company and was used for some time as a prison.
It was defensive works, known as a barbican, built on the northern side of the gate in the Middle Ages which are apparently responsible for the post World War II adoption of the name Barbican for that area of London which once stood outside the gate’s northern facade (the gates stood at what is now the intersection of Wood Street and St Alphage Garden).
The gate’s name now adorns the street known as Cripplegate as well as the name of the church St Giles Cripplegate, which originally stood outside the city walls. It is also the name of one of the 25 wards of the City of London. The original site of the gate is marked with a blue plaque.