Street names that tell a real story

THE late Leslie Davey was an old pal of Rouser. He was responsible for composing a number of worthy tomes, including The Street Names of Lewes.

This is what he said in his introduction to the book: ‘The study of the street names of an old town is a fascinating yet strangely neglected task...

‘Wherever dwellings have been clustered together, the intersecting roads and byways have acquired names; perhaps from a former local trade or craft; or from the gentry living there; or from an old hostelry that existed nearby; or from the particular geography of the locality.

‘In the past, before the introduction of street signs, these names survived only so long as was dictated by custom and common usage. It was not until 1812 that town authorities resolved that the streets of Lewes should be distinguished and that the houses should be marked “with a number conspicuously placed thereon’’.

‘In searching the ancient history of Lewes for the task in hand, it became apparent that whilst some names have remained unaltered through the centuries, others have been changed and, indeed, some have sunk into oblivion.

‘Where, for instance, was Eldestold Street which existed in the old parish of St Andrew in 1316? Or Kirke Street and Rormans Street in 1498? Lodders Lane (beggars lane), Pilcher Street (where the makers of fur coats traded) and Shereue Street (sheriff’s street) - each found in early records?

‘Where was the lane in Southover “called Lortepole over against the fountain of the same name?’’ Where too was the regal-sounding Plantagenet Street?’

Where indeed. A book well worth acquiring.

l Rouser, by the way, once made his mark on some Lewes street names. Some years ago developers were going to name the new streets built in the grounds of the old Southover Girls’ School after trees or flowers.

How boring, Rouser muttered. Whereupon he was told to come up with some ideas of his own. He did,by holding a competition, and today we have the Cluny Street area, named after the nearby medieval remains of the Cluniac Priory.