Tuesday, 9 October 2012

What's in a name?

I've been doing a lot of walking lately around the area I have been working. Partly to kill time - to keep diesel costs down MrEH and I car share three days per week, and he doesn't finish work as early as I do -and partly to get a bit of extra exercise. It's always interesting when you start walking around an area that you usually just drive through, though, don't you think? You notice thjngs that either you have just driven past without thinking of previously, or that in fact you had no idea were even there! Take a look at this:

I've driven along here countless times and had NO idea this was here! There is more information about them HERE - but basically it denotes where the Meridian line passes through the Borough. Here- have a closer look...

The area where I found that is one of those areas with "linked" street names - in this case place names - so Peterborough, Liverpool, Matlock, Nottingham, Canterbury & Carnarvon Roads. (Curiously, Carnarvon road has one sign spelt the Welsh way - Caernarfon - and the remainder all appear to be the standard English spelling). I've always been fascinated by road names, and indeed by maps - I can happily pore over old maps for hours at a time, and Google Earth is an endless source of entertainment! The area where I grew up had several sets of linked names - we played around Tavistock, Farnborough & Blenheim Avenues,  and I had friends living in Queen Elizabeth & King Edward Roads. Road names can tell you a lot about the originator or designer of a location too - in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, the founder of the town - Sir Titus Salt, named a number of the roads after members of his family, with Mary, Helen, Ada, George & Caroline all being featured, as well as a good number more. Where I live now, our roads are grouped mostly by letters - so Great & Little Parndon's main roads mostly start with P, while Mark Hall has mostly M's. (We also have the most unimaginative First, second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Avenues - the less said about those the better perhaps!)

Sometimes road names tell you what you might find if you walk along them - Lea Bridge Road for example will indeed lead you to a bridge over the River Lea, and we used to have great fun as children rollerskating at top speed from the top of Higham Hill Road. Sometimes we even managed to stop before shooting across the side road at the bottom! Historically of course these "factual" names would have given travellers welcome clues as to their destination - if you're trying to find somewhere to catch a train Station Approach is likely to give more encouragement than Hospital Parade, for example. Many of these will have originated from common usage of course - Old Mill Lane (Dartmouth, Devon) - the old Mill building still stands - and almost anywhere that you find a road bearing a place name - London Road, Cambridge Road etc. Still others originate from history and are of little logic or relevance now - Whipps Cross Road, for example, doesn't have half the racy connotations it's current name suggests, and whether Dick Turpin actually passed along Blackhorse Road in Walthamstow, who knows, but it gave a good legend to inspire the artwork for the Victoria Line station of the same name!

Why not have a closer look at your local road names next time you're out walking, and then if you find anything interesting, explore the history to see what you can find out? Just don't blame me for the vast amount of time you might end up wasting on Google maps though!


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