The Origins of Little LondonWith the custom for place names being given by the local community, the term Little London would need to have been recognised throughout England. It was clearly not a descriptive name of the location.
The settlement in the City of London in the 14th century in the parish of All Hallows close to the Tower of London, confirmed by the name of London Street on the Wood Map of 1746 (TQ333809), was probably the first of the sites to be established. Having enjoyed the customs, liberties and freedoms of the City, the Welsh would have wished to extend these rights to their other settlements throughout England.
In the Medieval period, when towns were developing from villages, they took their rules and customs from larger and more prosperous towns. The rules were not imposed by the larger metropolis but were merely advisory, since the "lesser" town could call on their role-model for help and guidance in local disputes. Not wishing to be subjected to local taxes or trade restrictions by any County sheriff, the Welsh chose to abide by the laws of London and in so doing called their settlements Llundain, in the Welsh language. Middle English would have been used at that time by the populace, when London was known as Lunden. Blomfield in his History of Norfolk volume III page 48 details the case of a certain William Noche, who in 1249 was accused by a felon of harbouring thieves and stolen goods, and killing a man. He pleaded that he was a citizen of Norwich and not bound to the common law of the land. He was ready to justify himself according to the custom of the City of London, which is that there be eighteen jurors returned from Walbrook, and eighteen more from the other part of the City. He was granted the privilege of London and in due course was found not guilty.
For a place name to become permanent it needed to be accepted by the local people and this would have required a common name to have been chosen which would have been understood throughout England, to describe the community. The various dialects of Middle English, like Kentish or East Midlands would not have used the same term, so perhaps it was an earlier Anglo Saxon word that was widely understood and still in use at the time.
As far as the English were concerned, the Welsh were "invaders" and were universally regarded as undesirable. Henry IV (1399-1413) maintained that the "rebel Welsh among whom the spirit of freedom could not be quenched, declined to sit comfortably under the New English Order and must be classed as vagabonds". As early as 1267, the Annals of Dunstable tells of two Welshman being beheaded for robbery.
There were a number of Anglo Saxon words used to describe strangers, foreigners, Britons or Welshman, and one in particular stands out. The word "Utlenden", which sounds very much like Little London and could have been widely recognised throughout the counties of England. When written down in the Middle Ages by the local scribes, it would have become Litillondon, as recorded at Chichester in 1483. It required Modern English to translate it into the diminutive term of London which we recognise today.