Monday 10 October 2016 9.40am
I'm glad sarahhm asked the question that's been on my mind!
Would anyone here know the meaning of "rents"? Wilds, Gibson and others if I recall...
Since the first element is a name, I've always assumed it meant a row or street of tenements belonging to a particular landlord.
Looking at the Oxford English Dictionary confirms this: 'rent: a piece of property for which rent is charged or paid; an apartment for rent; (in pl.) rents: a number of tenements or houses let out to others, frequently named after the proprietor
It gives an example from the 15th century.
From 16th C: 'Whole allyes, whole rentes, whole rowes, yea whole streats.'
From 1732 'Another workhouse..belonging to the liberty of Hatton-Garden, Saffron-hill, and Ely-Rents' - ie the area that's now Ely Place in Holborn, belonging to the Bishop of Ely.
19th C: 'You used not to wear such waistcoats as that when you lived in Fuller's Rents.'
'A rag and bottle merchant in Birdsey's Rents.'