Running east of Lambeth High Street is a small street with the unusual name of Old Paradise Street. Streets in London containing the word ‘paradise’ in the name are quite rare. Over the centuries there have been even more than the remaining six today: Old Paradise Street is in Lambeth; Paradise Road is near Kennington Cross (also in Lambeth); Paradise Street is in Bermondsey; Paradise Place is in Woolwich; Paradise Row in in Bethnal Green; and Paradise Walk is in Chelsea.
Today the word ‘paradise’ conjures up fantastic holiday locations on tropical islands. It also has Biblical connections. In general the word used in the modern sense refers to some idyllic place. In earlier times the word ‘paradise’ was often applied to a walled garden and it was sometimes used as an indirect reference to a royal property. If you come across a street name in London – or other parts of England – it is worth looking out for some interesting large property nearby or one that was once in the vicinity.
So, to apply our newly found knowledge, what is there to look out for in Lambeth? The answer is not hard to find because just a short distance north of Old Paradise Street is the large property now called Lambeth Palace. In Domesday times the property was Lambeth Manor House and, compared to the land around, the house and grounds would have been very grand. The land was later acquired by the Archbishop of Canterbury for a London residence while the Archbishop attended Court at the House of Lords – just across the river. The name ‘Lambeth House’ was normally used and it was not until the 19th century that ‘Lambeth Palace’ became the norm. Unlike the London residences of most of the bishops of England and Wales, the Archbishops of Canterbury have retained their London property until the present day. Its Tudor entrance gate has been the entrance for over 400 years.
The entire land of Lambeth Palace is surrounded by a large wall, dividing it off from the adjacent Lambeth Palace Gardens. The exact age of old the wall surrounding Lambeth Palace may be harder to work out but it is likely that there has been a wall of this type for several centuries. The grand gardens of a large house like this one were referred to as ‘The Paradise’ and around the outside of the wall would often be a street called Paradise Row – or in this case Old Paradise Street. The name of the street – once you have cracked the coded message – therefore points to the gardens of the great house in the locality.