Fun stories behind the names of London’s most famous squares

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Curiosity is a great human trait that drives us to learn more about each place we visit.

London’s rich and illustrious history can definitely tickle the imagination of almost every visitor as every street, every square and every historical building have a story to tell. In many cases, hints are included in the name of the landmark, but you may need additional historical information to connect the dots and understand why the name was chosen. Visitors to one of the centrally located hotels in London can merge theory and practice by learning the background information behind iconic landmarks before seeing these magnificent places in-person.

In particular, numerous squares in London are named after a famous person or event from the past. By learning the story behind the name, you can understand the significance that Londoners assign to each of those places, and unlock a hidden piece of British history that has a living manifestation in the present.

Here is how some of the most famous squares in London got their names:

Parliament Square

Panorama of Parliament Square -London

Okay, we’ll start with an easy one.

Located right next to Houses of Parliament in the Westminster Palace, this square is among the most popular among tourists. It’s been a part of the local landscape since 1868 and can be regarded as an integral part of the palace complex. The word ‘parliament’ is derived from the French verb parlez (to talk), signifying the early origins of parliamentary culture as negotiations between the King of England and his most powerful nobles.

Trafalgar Square

trfalgar square

Few victories in British history were more important than the naval triumph over the allied Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in 1805, and the battle is immortalised in the name of a famous square in London, which contains the statue of Admiral Nelson.

The square was created in the mid-19th century in the spot previously occupied by King’s Mews. Today, this is one of the most popular tourist sites in all of London and is easily accessible from any Hyde Park Hotel.

Leicester Square

This is a very old square, dating back to the 17th century.

 Its name is derived from a property that was originally located on it, known as Leicester House, which was owned by Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester. Thus, a public square in London inherited its name from a feudal fief of a famous noble who enjoyed spending time in the capital. The city of Leicester, from which the name was originally borrowed, is located in East Midlands and was founded in the 12th century.

Grosvenor Square

This picturesque garden square in Mayfair has been a part of London’s geography since the early 18th century and has traditionally been regarded as one of the most prestigious venues in the city.

Its name comes from the aristocratic Grosvenor family, one of the largest landowners in England at the time. Quite fittingly, the area around the square hosts many amazing examples of 18th-century high-class architecture, while the central garden is a public park and can be visited by anyone.

Soho Square

Everyone has heard about Soho Square and its neighbouring area, but the origin of this unusual name remains a mystery for most. According to local sources, the name was originally used as a hunting call, and the nearby area was originally used as hunting grounds. However, this wasn’t the original name used for the square – it was known for a time as King’s Square, and the statue of King Charles II is still located there.

It’s a lovely garden square that definitely deserves to be visited in person.

Golden Square

This is a very interesting example of linguistic evolution – the 17th-century square was once known as Gelding Close, owing to the fact that horses (including castrated ‘geldings’) were bred and grazed nearby.

With time, the word ‘gelding’ was replaced with similarly-sounding ‘golden’, which also evokes a slightly more positive image than the original name. It’s unclear when the change took place, but today few people other than history enthusiasts remember the old designation.

Russell Square

Russell family owned lands where Bloomsbury is located from the 17th century onwards and was responsible for the development of the area.

The family name (likely of Norman origin) remained associated with the garden square located near the British Museum that was built in the early 1800s, as well as several nearby structures. This square is located close to Park Grand Paddington Court and is served by the Russell Square tube station.

Covent Garden

As the name suggests, this square was built on land that once belonged to the church (Abbey of Westminster, to be exact), and has been used as a garden since the 13th century. It was developed into an organised public space as early as the 16th century, making it the oldest square in London. Covent Garden was traditionally used for open-air trading in fruits and vegetables, but more recently it has served as a tourist hotspot and a popular shopping area.

Granary Square

This is a brand new square, completed only in 2012, but it’s named after a much older structure situated in the vicinity.

Granary Building dates to the 19th century and was used for the central storage of grain needed for the production of bread in the capital. The square is quite large and features a magnificent fountain with more than 1,000 jets, while its location close to King’s Cross makes it popular with tourists and local residents alike.

Sloane Square

As opposed to many other public places in London that were named after kings, this square owes its name to a scientist whose collection of books and natural specimens contributed to the foundation of the British Museum.

Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) was a famed naturalist of Irish and Scottish ancestry, so the name is derived from the Gaelic language.  This small square has a very intimate feel and represents one of London’s best-kept secrets.

With numerous London hotels pay on arrival policies as standard, it’s easy to find your perfect hotel located close to the square you would like to visit. As soon as you book, your London adventure can begin!

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