How did Tudor Londoners get around?

Updated Wednesday 8th July 2015

How did the people in Early Modern London know the names of the streets?

We were asked a question by a visitor to our High Street History piece on street signs:

It's been years since you wrote this post, so I hope my question reaches you.
How did people in Tudor London know the names of streets? Was there any kind of signage then, or did they either have a different way of indicating them (much as shopkeepers would have plaques depicting their wares/craft), or did they simply know them by reputation?
Many thanks!
Kit Grindstaf

It's a good question - and one which we thought deserved an answer.

Anne Laurence was first to respond:

Often the streets had churches, almshouses, gates, a cluster of tradespeople, a characteristic shape etc which gave you the clue (St Botolph’s Street, Leadenhall Street, Tanners’ Lane, Shambles, Broad Street, though what gave rise to Whip-ma-whop-ma Gate in York I cannot say).

And then we got this from Victoria Jackson:

Just wanted to add that there was an article published a few years ago by an undergraduate at Warwick which shows how inn signs functioned as street signs and numbers... it's pretty interesting stuff.

You can read that article, The Functions of Inn Signs and their Place in Early Modern British History, on the Warwick University Reinvention website.

And - to close the circle - we can answer Anne's question about Whip-ma-whop-ma Gate, as there's a plaque in the street which explains the name's origins:

A sign explaining the exotic York street name Whip-ma-whop-ma Gate as being derived from a phrase for 'what a street' Creative commons image Icon Keith Seabridge under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license Originally named Whitnourwhatnourgate, meaning 'what a street'

Thanks to Kit for the original question, and thanks to Anne and Victoria for helping us answer it.

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