Above: The area of Knightsbridge is on the south side of Hyde Park. Notice the thin RED line which is part of the boundary of the City of Westminster.
Knightsbridge as a Name
There are many things that we still do not know about London. The name of Knightsbridge – which has become the name for a street but also for the area around – is one of the many points of uncertainty. If it was not for the Domesday Book, we would not have early records of many of the villages and hamlets that have made up Inner London. Unfortunately, the early Saxon community at what is now called Knightsbridge was not listed in the Domesday Book so we have no record of the community until a later date.
At the time of the Domesday Book (1086), it is more than likely that there was a track leading west where the road called Knightsbridge is today. It is believed to have been part of a Roman road. Adjoining the road were two ancient manors called Hyde and Neyte (or Neate).
The ancient Manor of Hyde became the land occupied by Hyde Park is today.
The Manor of Neyte was land around today’s modern road called Knightsbridge. There was no separate entry for the Manor of Neyte in the Domesday Book because, by that time, it had become part of the Manor of Westminster, owned by the monks at what is now called Westminster Abbey. The entry in the Domesday Book for Westminster would have included the smaller manors of Hyde and Neyte. The Manor of Westminster was later surrendered to Henry VIII at the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536).
The Old English word ‘neate’ meant ‘cattle, cows or oxen’. The Manor of Neyte extended south to the Thames where there were ‘neat houses’ where, from the 16th century onwards, market gardeners lived.
One theory for the name Knightsbridge is that it was derived from the name of the Manor of Neyte. The road leading west through the Manor of Neyte crossed the River Westbourne by a small bridge. That bridge was, therefore, the ‘Neate bridge’ which became corrupted to Knightsbridge.
However, the old spellings for this place name were: ‘Cnihtebricge’ in about 1050; ‘Knichtebrig’ in 1235; and ‘Knyghtesbrugg’ in 1364; showing that it has been a place name since at least Norman times. The Old English word ‘cniht’ meant a ‘male of high military rank, ranking below a baron’, usually a young man. In this case, the word was used in the plural form. The Old English word ‘brycg’ gave us the modern word ‘bridge’. So, an approximate translation would be ‘bridge of the young men or knights’. There is a legend that two knights fought to their death on the bridge and that they have been remembered by its name ever since.
Above: A section of Google maps showing where Google believes the boundary of Knightsbridge is. It is not known on whose authority it added the RED line
Knightsbridge has no official boundary. It is not an area derived from a parish boundary or anything like that. The northern boundary of the area is, of course, Hyde Park. In simple terms, the boundaries on the other sides are probably part of the boundary of the City of Westminster. Google has its own ideas about where the boundary should be. If you search for ‘Google Maps Knightsbridge’ the resulting map – see above – includes parts of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in addition to part of the City of Westminster.
The famous store, Harvey Nichols, at the northern end of Sloane Street (in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) almost certainly regards itself as being in Knightsbridge. Similarly, Harrod’s, on the south side of Brompton Road (also in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) refers to itself as ‘a Knightsbridge store’. In these two cases, it is probably because if they said they were in Chelsea (they were until 1965 within the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea) they were only at the edge of Chelsea which is now centred on King’s Road whose original village was around Chelsea Old Church, at the Chelsea Embankment.
Many people also wrongly assume that the road called Knightsbridge is longer than it actually is. It extends west to the junction with Exhibition Road. The continuation is called Kensington Gore (with the Royal Albert Hall beside it) and the continuation further west is Kensington High Street. The famous London museums in Exhibition Road are usually described as being at ‘South Ken’ – meaning they are near the underground station called South Kensington. The museums are never described as being in Knightsbridge.
The area of Knightsbridge is essentially a residential and retail district. It is one of two international retail centres in London, the other being the West End. The name of this part of London is certainly associated with the finer things in life – plenty of luxury shops, high-end restaurants and five-star hotels. You would not choose to visit the venues on offer if you were a tourist on a budget.