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Brandon Robshaw: English Usage #20

Leyton and Leytonstone

Always nice when a mystery is cleared up. Actually in this case it wasn't exactly a mystery, just something I didn't know but never wondered about much. It's only a mystery in retrospect.

I grew up in a part of East London called Leyton. Adjoining it was another suburb called Leytonstone. There was no clear demarcation between them; one just shaded into the other. As a boy I was always aware that Leytonstone seemed a little bit posher than Leyton. I used to go to the shops there with my mum. It had a cinema and a department store, Bearman's, which billed itself as "a West End store in the East End". But it didn't occur to me to wonder about that stone suffix. I took it for granted. Where did it come from and what did it mean?These were questions I never asked myself.

Well. A few days ago I was out on a run, which took me through part of Leytonstone, and I ran past the standing stone you see in the picture. I have passed this stone while running, walking and driving probably a hundred times and never stopped to investigate. But on this occasion I did.

Next to the stone is a plaque which states that the obelisk is called the High Stone, it is a mile marker giving the distances to Hyde Park, Whitechapel, Epping and Ongar, it has stood there since the early eighteenth century and "The name Leytonstone means the part of Leyton near the Stone". The current obelisk is a replacement dating from the 1930s, the first stone having been damaged by a vehicle, but its base is a remnant of the original 18th century structure.

How about that? The answer to a question I never asked has been standing right there in plain view all my life.

Dr Brandon Robshaw lectures for the Open University in Philosophy, Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. He has written several children’s books including a philosophical YA novel, The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers. He and his family starred in BBC2’s Back in Time for Dinner. You can find his website here.


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