Cirencester Civic Society Street Name Origins in Alphabetical Order

This list reveals the fascinating range of names in the town, with due acknowledgement to Street Names of Cirencester by Richard Tomkins (1987).

Thomas Street, but why?

Barton Lane and Barton Mill. Barton was the name of a former tithing, the word being derived from the Old English bere-tun meaning ‘barley farmstead’ or outlying grange, indicating that this was an important arable holding from early times, with the farm and mill combining to form a centre for processing grain.

Black Jack Street. There are three theories put forward for the origin of this street, one being that ‘black Jack’ was the familiar term for the smoke blackened statue of St. John the Baptist that once stood in the NW niche of the church tower overlooking the street and whilst the street was originally called St. John Street from the 15th century it was renamed as Black Jack Street in 1887. Another school of thought is that Black Jack was the name of an inn or hostelry, a ‘black-jack’ being a tarred leather bottle. Lastly there were several blacksmiths’ forges in the street and black jack was another name for a blacksmith.

Castle Street. First recorded in 1237, the street led from the Market Place to the Norman castle which guarded the western approaches to the town and was largely destroyed during the civil unrest in the 13th century and no traces have been found.

Cecily Hill. The name comes from the former chapel of St. Cecilia which stood to the south of the present street. Named for the daughter of William I, Cecelia, Abbess of Caen, who held lands in Gloucestershire, the chapel fell out of use following the building of the parish church in the 12th century. It was recorded as St. Cicelies Street and was the main way out of town towards Bisley, Minchinhampton and Stroud until Earl Bathurst paid to have the road diverted around his estate.

Chantry Close. Built adjacent to the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist which was founded in 1133 by King Henry I to provide lodgings for travellers and a home for the destitute, the Chantry, facing Spitalgate Lane, was an annexe to the hospital in which religious services were held.

Coxwell Street. Formerly known as Abbot Street after the Abbots of St. Mary’s Abbey, the name was changed in 1738 to commemorate the wealthy 17th century wool-merchant John Coxwell who lived at the house now called Woolgatherers and who died at the age of 101.

Corinium Gate. A modern housing estate built near the NE gateway of Roman Corinium, a huge structure dating from the 2nd century AD and long since destroyed.

Dollar Street. The name first appears in the 13th century – a corruption of Dole-hall or dole-hole – indicating a place where the Abbots of Cirencester would ‘dole out’ charitable gifts to the poor and needy. The former entrance to the Abbey was called Dolehall Gate or Almery.

Dugdale Road.Major James Gordon Dugdale lived at Abbey House and he was OC of the Local Defence Volunteers during the 2nd World War.

Dyer Street. Originally called Chepyng Street (from ceap, ‘market’) where the livestock sales and wool market were held. It was probably the site of the ‘new market’ in the Domesday Book. It was recorded as Dyer Street in 1348, meaning a street where cloth dyers worked. Another possible origin is that Richard le Dyere, a 14th century wool-merchant had premises here.

Gloucester Street. Also known as St. Lawrence Street during the Middle Ages, because of the ancient church which stood on the corner of Barton Lane, it was Gloucester Street in 1747 after the turnpiking of the road to Gloucester, and it becomes Gloucester Road beyond the bridge over the River Churn.

Gooseacre Lane and Gooseacre Close. A water meadow beside the River Churn recorded in 1540 as Goss Acre, ‘a field frequented by geese’. It was the original lane leading towards Stratton Mills before the construction of the Cheltenham Road turnpike.

Gosditch Street.A branch of the river is thought to have flowed along this street from Roman times – ‘a ditch frequented by geese’. There are references to Goguesdich in c1150 and Gosedichestrete in 1540.

Grove Lane.Grove is derived from graf, ‘copse or grove’, possibly referring to a grove of beech trees and the former Grove Lane turnpike gate.

Hakeburn Road, Hereward Road, Blake Road and Escote Road. These are all names of Abbots of St. Mary’s Abbey on whose land these roads were built for the 1960’s.

Loveday Mews. A recent development off Gosditch Street, the name comes from the large shop in Black Jack Street called Lovedays which ceased trading in the 1980’s. The rear of their site is where the new houses have been built.

Market Place and West Market Place. The Market Place has been the hub of Cirencester for many centuries. The earliest documentary evidence dates from 1276, although during the reign of King Henry I there was reference to a Sunday market in several streets. It became the focus of the regular markets and fairs at which cattle, sheep, horses, fleeces, and all manner of goods were bought and sold, West Market Place being an overspill in use in the mid-19th Century.

Park Lane and Park Street. These roads describe the boundary of Cirencester Park and date from the 17th Century (as does The Park). Formerly called Lawegutter and Lawditch-Lane,it is recorded in 1795 as Park Lane. Park Street indicates a properly made-up thoroughfare of superior importance to Park Lane.

St. Clements Walk. Named after St. Clement’s Bridge which once spanned the Duntisbourne stream near the junction of Cecily Hill and Thomas Street. An alternative name was Gunstoole or Gumstool, referring to a ducking stool used to punish wrong-doers in the Middle Ages. It was named when the unfit properties were cleared and the development was opened in 1968.

St. Johns Road. Occupies the site of St. John’s Meadow on the banks of the Churn, part of the lands attached to St. John’s Hospital in nearby Spitalgate Lane.

Silver Street.Recorded as Little Silver Street in 1605 and Silver Street in 1700, with no evidence of any connection with silversmiths or precious metals. It is a common road name in southern England.

Spitalgate Lane. Clearly the road beside St. John’s Hospital (or ’spital’) with the Spital Gate on the line of the Roman ramparts and providing the main northern entrance to the town from Ermin Street and latterly The Whiteway. A map of 1795 shows it as Spitalgate Lane with a gate drawn across it opposite the Chantry.

The Mead. A residential close built in 1933 on land belonging to Mead House, the former rectory in Thomas Street. The original Mead was probably the wedge-shaped water meadow lying between the two watercourses near Barton Mill.

The Waterloo. Originally just a short passageway from the Market Place, the road now extends to the junction with Dyer Street and London Road. It was also known as Waterloo Lane in the 19th century and possibly derives from a type of sedan chair which was kept in the Market Place to transport ladies from their carriages in order to avoid getting their feet wet or muddy. Less fancifully, it might simply commemorate the battle of 1815, or a low-lying locality beside a river.

Thomas Street. Takes its name from St. Thomas’s Hospital or Weavers Hall situated in this street and dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket.  Founded in 1483 it is the oldest inhabited dwelling in the town. Originally called Battle Street in 1460 and St. Thomas Street from 1626 until as late as 1845.

Trafalgar Road. A post war development, named after the famous sea battle of 1805 and because of its proximity to The Nelson Inn in Gloucester Street.

John Tiffney

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3 comments on “Cirencester Civic Society Street Name Origins in Alphabetical Order

  1. Neil Martin

    Thank you very much for this interesting list. I and my parents lived in Ciren from 1945 until about 1980 and that was in The Bowling Green (Crescent). Please tell me why that estate was so called since there doesn’t seem to any connection with a bowling green.

  2. This is so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  3. David Ryan-Ainslie

    All very interesting but no mention of any street names south of the market place e.g. Lewis

    All very I

    All very interesting but no mention of any street names south of the Market Place e.g. Victoria Road and Queen Street (formerly New Road) Chester Street, The Avenue (formerly Corin Street) Tower Street (formerly Lower Street) Admirals Walk, Prospect Place, Nursery View, Midland Road,
    Church Street, King Street, Carpenters Lane, Speringate, Querns Road, Lewis Lane (formerly Lewes Lane)

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