Above: Street map showing the position of the two streets.
We are talking about the land around the eastern part of Bermondsey, where it joins onto Rotherhithe. If you look at the map you will see there are two short streets – one called East Lane and the other called West Lane. There is nothing strange about those two names in themselves, such names are to be found in other parts of London and, indeed, right across England. What is peculiar about these two streets is that East Lane is WEST of West Lane.
In other words it appears as if the names for the two streets have been placed on the map in the wrong positions. They are in the correct positions, however, and they can be seen on many old maps which show the same detail. The reason for this rather confusing state of affairs has never been fully explained.
East Lane used to run north from a junction at the western end of Scott Lidgett Crescent, ending at the Thames, at a junction with the street called Bermondsey Wall West. A central part of East Lane has been removed and so it is now in two short sections.
West Lane (which is further EAST, remember) runs north from Jamaica Road ending at the Thames, at the junction with Bermondsey Wall East. West Lane, by the way, is on the line of the boundary between the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, and the parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe. It is the western boundary of the parish of Rotherhithe which may help to explain its name.
Usually when a street carries a name related to the compass, like ‘North Street’ it is because it is geographically north of some important landmark. In the case of these two streets there is not and has never been any really important feature around. If they were just named because they were east and west of each other then you would have thought that their names should be the other way round. That’s what makes London so interesting – there is always a surprise to be found just around the corner.