To be a true Cockney it is said that one must be born within the sound of the Bow Bell, which is known as one of the cockney churches of London. These are the churches mentioned in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons.
The Bow Bell, at St. Mary Le Bow church was designed by Christopher Wren and you might think that it’s a bit of a limited distance. However, in the old days one could hear the Bow Bell from as far away as Highgate Hill.
Indeed, Dick Whittington was said to have been lured back to London to become mayor when he heard the Bow Bell on Highgate hill. (See my other video here)
The buildings and traffic these days means one can’t hear very far but in those days it was all fields for miles around.
Interestingly the Bow Bell used to sound the curfew for London. The word “curfew” comes from the French “couvre le feu” which means “put out your fire”. This was introduced by William the Conqueror to prevent people falling asleep with a candle burning at the risk of burning down their house when the houses were all made of wood.
The word cockney comes from the expression “a cock egg” which means a badly formed egg. It was a criticism levelled at Londoners by people from the countryside who thought they were ignorant of country ways.