Petty France?

Seems a funny name.  After all, Petty France is just a street in Westminster, isn’t it?

One of the things I adore about London is how directly it is connected to its own past.  The Blitz caused devastation, but cannot be compared to the havoc wrought in other European cities.  Only Venice is more intact, and only Rome and Florence retain their integrity in the same way.  

Many London street names are hundreds of years old, and are specific to either their location, usage or inhabitants.  Petty France is named after the French merchants who came to dwell in the green spaces of Westminster in the 15C.  So many of them were there, Englishmen commented on how the language of the area had become entirely French, and as everyone knows, the French, like the sea ‘were perpetually in motion’.  There was also a Petty France near Moorfields when a large number of French Huguenots moved there in the mid 17C.

The ‘Beer Street’ of Hogarth’s imagination, full of plump and ruddy Englishers, did not exist in the London of his day.  It was a city of ghettoes, foreign churches and international trade.  Petty France is a small reminder of things gone by, and how they shaped today’s London.

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