11 Curious Street Name Facts
From Knick Knack Lane to Frying Pan Alley, here’s the facts behind some of the nation’s best-loved byways.
1. Where the Steets Have No Name
Streets are often named after events and people. This provides a rich historical map of towns. Many “Waterloos” appeared after the battle in 1815. Thousands of addresses were named to honour Queen Victoria. England’s 1966 World Cup win and even rock bands have all been immortalised in street names.
2. Street vs Road
What’s the difference? Traditionally, a ‘Street’ was a route found within a town, normally lined on either side by residential or commercial buildings. ‘Road’ was applied when connecting towns/cities, often acting as a signpost, such as London Road or Manchester Road.
3. Jane Lane
Many streets were named after local businesses, Baker Street is where you’d find the baker. Mill Road, Church Lane, Brewers Close all pinpointed local trades. Later, builders started naming streets after themselves, wives or children. Baker Street in London (literary home of Sherlock Holmes) has nothing to do with bread, it was built by William Baker.
4. Pricey Addresses
Street names can help with house prices. Research has found that if you live on Pear Tree Lane your property is more likely to attract a higher price than a similar property on Crotch Lane.
5. Name Game
Planners and developers have got wise to this. Flower and tree names are increasingly common on new streets. The use of ‘Lane’, ‘Way’ and ‘Mews’ are also carefully applied to help increase desirability and prices.
6. The Lane
During the reign of King Henry I, a London ‘Street’ had to be both paved and wide enough for sixteen knights to ride abreast. A ‘Lane’ had only to be wide enough for beer barrel to be rolled along, this at a time when beer was more sanitised and safer to drink than water.
7. Fanny Avenue
Bad street names are still a cause for concern. According to the Royal Mail, in 2016 494 routes were renamed, in some cases this was due to confusion of similar sounding streets but more commonly due to petitions from residents over ‘undesirable’ names.
8. A Bit Silly
Some quirky names have become a source of local pride, including;
Silly Lane – Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
Frying Pan Alley – Spitalfields, London
Christmas Pie Avenue – Flexford, Surrey
Knick Knack Lane – Brixham, Devon
Ghost House Lane – Chilwell, Nottingham
Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate – York
9. Nasty Names
Other less fortunate locales include;
St. Gregory’s Back Alley – Norwich
Hornyold Road – Malvern
Backside Lane – Doncaster
Bell End – Rowley Regis
Arguments Yard – Whitby
Fanny Street – Cardiff
10. A Bit Arty
Some planners and councils have shown an artistic side. After a plaque was unveiled at Dartford Railway Station on the platform where Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first met, the local council joined in by naming new roads; Ruby Tuesday Drive, Angie Mews, Sympathy Vale, Cloud Close and Lady Jane Place.
But being cool doesn’t always go down well, Milton Keynes got things very wrong when they started naming streets after entertainment icons. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Marylin Monroe were just some of those honoured at a new estate. Residents were less than impressed as the estate was also close to Crownhill Crematorium. The combination of dead stars and passing funeral traffic soon led the area to be nicknamed “Stiffs Estate”.