The City of London is the oldest part of greater London, yet has many of the newest buildings. Tiny, winding medieval streets are preserved next to the latest office blocks, built rapidly on the ruins of older, less efficient blocks that are ruthlessly torn down when the economic case dictates. The streets have curious names: Mincing Lane, Bleeding Heart Lane, Cheapside, Elbow Lane and Fig Tree Court are just a few (here is a fascinating list with explanations).
But my favourite is Gutter Lane, off Cheapside, because of a story I was once told that I hope is true.
A major accountancy firm, that shall remain nameless in case this story is false, bought a site on Gutter Lane, intending to put their head office there. Not liking the street name, they wrote to the governing body of the City of London, the City of London Corporation, which provides services and policing (separate from the Metropolitan Police) for the square mile of the City. The correspondence allegedly went thus:
Accounting firm: “We were wondering if we could change the name of the street to Name of Accounting Firm Lane so our company name and address were aligned?”
City of London Corporation: “We don’t allow people to change historic street names. But feel free to change your company’s name to Gutter plc”
Gutter apparently originates from a family name, probably of Danish origin, and was corrupted over time like so many names in the UK.