The Origin of the Name Whiteladies

2020 media attention surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and the pulling down of a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol’s city centre has led to public speculation and commentary about the origin of the names of Whiteladies Road and Blackboy Hill. Whiteladies Health Centre is named so for its location just off Whiteladies Road. It is understandable that newcomers and visitors to Bristol, who know a little of Bristol’s historic links to the Transatlantic slave trade, might jump to conclusions about the origins of the name of Whiteladies Road. The surgery team have tried to find out if there is any historical evidence to back or refute this claim.

UWE historian, Professor Richard Coates, published a book in 2017 entitled “Your city’s place names”. In it he puts forward the evidence for the origins of the name of Whiteladies Road. There are maps demonstrating the presence of a public house called the White Ladies here in 1749. Some historians have speculated about the name of the public house being linked to white-habited Carmelite nuns, but Professor Coates thinks the evidence for this is weak. A map dated 1746 shows a hostelry called White Ladies Inn in White Ladies Road. The field behind it appears as The White Ladyes. Professor Coates postulates that the name White Ladies was of significance in the history of the royal house of Stuarts and it was perhaps applied to a house or inn with Stuart sympathies. This might suggest the presence of a hostel or inn dating much further back than 1746.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to categorically prove or disprove any link between the name of Whiteladies Road and the Transatlantic Slave Trade of the 16th to 19th centuries. That being said, there does not appear to be any evidence definitely linking the two and indeed there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that the link might be to the Royal House of Stuart dating as far back as the late 15th century.


Published: Sep 28, 2020

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