Monday, 22 December 2008

The naming of streets

How many Waynes, Kylies and Sades have grown into adulthood in a state of embarrassment at their parents' brief but dated fascination with a sleb a score years past? The New Local Government Network is now suggesting that an X-factor type contest should be used for the naming of streets.

No thank you. My Nigerian postman has enough difficulty telling the door numbers from one another without the added complication of which Princess Diana Road of the 43 newly named ones the letter should go to.

The NLGN is making the mistake of equating popularity with merit. Existing street names should remain unchanged; they often come down to us from centuries ago, and are as much a part of our historical environment as our ancient churches. The Pightles, Buttermarkets, Cornmarkets, Love Lanes and Grope Lanes of mediaeval literality, the Nelson, Trafalgar, Waterloo, Inkerman, Victoria and Balaclava Roads of nineteenth century empire, the new housing estate roads named after municipal figures obscure even in their own time are all part of our rich cultural heritage and should be preserved as avidly as any Grade I listed building.

As for new roads, beware transient popularity. Who now would be happy to live on Gary Glitter Avenue? Pop idols have feet of clay.

'The naming of parts' by Henry Reed was written in 1942. It starts;

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.


Blognor Regis said...

I see the Spanish Government is furiously expunging Franco era street names. One town is going to replace one Franco crony with, wait for it, Barack Obama!

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly endorse the contents of this post.

I spent the last twelve years living and working in an area of my city that was built in the second half of the nineteenth century and which has largely been preserved intact; eight months ago I moved to the mediaeval heart of my home city. In both cases, the street names are a revelation: where I currently live, we have street names that have survived for, in some cases, upwards of a millennium; where I used to live, every street told the story of British imperial history with the names of generals, battles, statesmen, scholars and courtiers plus the occasional throwback to the area's pre-modern history as a mediaeval farming community.

DBC Reed said...

Not all the past is so rosy. Victorian builders round here named streets after their families(it looks like) Hence Cyril Street and Ethel Street.There is a Poets' Corner with Chaucer,Byron and Oliver (changed from Goldsmith 1914-18 to pander to anti-German feelings)but there are a lot of other streets named after poets (Clare Street) further into town.Its all a bit of a mess.

Alfred the Ordinary said...

What is this New Local Government Network, Company number 03598256? Who funds them? Are they just another group that I fund that occupies a position in my growing and confused list of government?

. EU Government
. Westminster Government
. SW Regional Authority
. Government Office of the South West
. Local Council
. Parish Council

I know that they say they are independent but the last couple of so called "independent" groups that I looked at received their majority funding from HMG (ie the Tax payer) and the EU (ie the Tax payer).

Blue Eyes said...

Too right Mr R. Where would we be without the Walbrooks and Poultrys of the world? Street names in older parts of towns evolved rather than being issued from on high. Nobody is offended by residing on Cheapside, nobody is confused by Bucklersbury Passage.

It sounds rather like the NLGN would rather we knocked everything down and built a Le Corbusier-style Utopia. No thanks.

Peter Ward said...

"equating popularity with merit"? But that's the whole basis of democracy! Do you mean you don't believe in the wisdom of crowds?

Anonymous said...

@Peter Ward

Belief in democracy is not the same as belief in the wisdom of the crowds. As far back as Athens in the fifth century BC, even radical democrats recognised the difference between democracy (lit. "people power") and ochlocracy (lit. "mob power").

The mob might insist that 2 + 2 are 5 and they might even have a popular vote that endorses this view, but they cannot ever force 2 + 2 to be anything other than 4.

Little Black Sambo said...

Pub names ought to be kept as well, unless there is some good reason for changing them. So many good or ancient names have gone.