Seen any hares around the place lately? Historians have been trying to unravel the mystery of the names Haringey and Harringay for a very long time. One widely accepted suggestion was they stem from Har-inge which means meadow of the hares. But is that true? Hornsey Historical Society have kindly supplied us with the answer below.
Haringey, Harringay, Hornsey – What’s in a name?
This year the London Borough of Haringey is 50 years old. It was created from the boroughs of Hornsey, Wood Green and Tottenham. How did the different spellings come about?
These three names are all variations of the Anglo Saxon word, ‘Heringes-hege’, meaning either ‘the clearing or the hedged enclosure of Hering’, or ‘Hering’s people’. At that time north London was covered by the great Forest of Middlesex, an important hunting ground for the Bishops of London. There were several different spellings of the name in the years which followed, such as Harengey, Harringhay and Hornesey.
The first reference to a Rector of Hornsey is in a Bishop of London’s will of 1303 when he bequeathed silver plate to Walter de London, Rector of the church ‘at Haringeye’. So the name ‘Haringseye’ was used in medieval times also (spellings were not fixed until much later). Hornsey was a shortening of the old name. The name of the borough is a revival of one of these medieval forms. Until the 1885 there stood on a hill at the point where Allison Road and Hewitt Road meet Wightman Road a mansion known as Harringay House, after its demolition, Harringay was adopted as the name for the subsequent new development along Green Lanes now known as the ladders.
A local historian in the 1930s, S J Madge, wrote a whole book about the origin of the name of Hornsey! In this book, The Origin of the Name of Hornsey, Madge states that the eighteenth century historian, Daniel Lysons, who wrote, The Environs of London, in the 1790s describing the settlements of the county of Middlesex, translates ‘Har-inge’ as ‘the meadow of the hares’. Madge says that people have been hunting hares ever since! The idea of the area being a meadow full of hares led to, (i) the Mayor of Hornsey’s chain (1903) having a series of hares in the decorative links and, (ii) hares appearing as a prominent feature in the design over the entrance of the new Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End (opened 1935). Madge favoured the definition, ‘the enclosure of Hering’, or ‘the people of Hering’ which is widely accepted today.
The Hornsey Historical Society, The Old Schoolhouse, 136 Tottenham Lane, N8, is always at hand to help sort out such conundrums. See our website for further details.