Monday, 9 January 2012

Inspired by Old Street Names

I work on the outskirts of Hull, a city I don't live in but have been associated with for all of my life through family history connections and work for the most part. It's a city to either not care much for or to love and there's not a lot in between but it does have history and a culture that's pretty unique like every other town and city that is a few centuries old (thirteenth century or earlier in Hull's case).

I had some meetings in the city centre today and in order to get home, I had to take a short cut through the old town, a place close to my heart and where I worked many years ago. It has been transformed in recent years and the City Council have worked hard at making it cleaner and bringing it up to date, but there are still woeful signs of tiredness. Shops are closing because of new huge shopping malls and only offices are keeping the old town together.

Anyway, I digress. Travelling through the old town along High Street which still retains cobbles in places by the way I witnessed signs for staithes and roads which no longer exist but which the council, wisely retained the street signs for to mark the spots of the original lanes. A staithe by the way comes from the Norse for 'landing stage' and the staithes consisted of many small lanes which led down to the River Hull, at one stage the third busiest port in the UK a couple of centuries ago importing and exporting wool and wine (and other things like whale meat and oil) from the many warehouses along the river.

Today the signs that I saw were Rotenhering Staithe and opposite, Dagger Lane. The history books argue about the etymology of the name and frankly no-one is quite so sure, however there was a John Rotenheryng who was a tenant to the Monks of Meaux Abbey (north of Hull) and had a ship the Goodyear which used to berth on the River Hull in the early 1300s trading wool. However other 'Rotenherings' - name spelt differently - also lived in the old town at the same time. John did give his name to a wharf in the location from which the Barton (North Lincolnshire) ferry used to run from across the mighty Humber.

Street Sign (added 12/01/12)

Fanciful thoughts of and the no doubt disgusting smell of rotten herrings and the connection of fish to the town are too good to be true! I have witnessed first hand the smell of fish dumped on Hull's former fish dock, not good enough for the table but to be made into fish meal. I've seen big hardy lorry drivers being physically sick at the smell - I came close on many occasions!

Dagger Lane is interesting to me, only because as a young child, my wife's grandmother lived or worked down there with her family. It used to be called Hutchinson's Lane in centuries past when Hull was but a new born. Where 'Dagger' comes from may remain perhaps a dark secret of more violent times, although history of churches and meeting rooms in Dagger Lane can be found in the archives.

There are other wonderful street names such as Whitefriargate (the home of White Friars) and Blackfriargate (guess whose home that was) where clothes and food were left for plague victims.

Finally for now, The Land of Green Ginger (pictured left - showing the old and new in the same picture)  is a street name that locals know well which today has offices, pubs, estate agents and eating places. According to sources, again the name's origin has disappeared into obscurity but may have simply been a trading place of medieval ginger, or belonged to a Dutch family Lindegreen who lived in the area  or perhaps 'Landgrave Granger' meaning a footpath to the property of the Landgrave family. Who knows, it's best left with an air of mystery around it.

Are there any strange road names near you?

Chat soon



  1. Rotenheryng. I don't believe it!

  2. Literally a trip down Memory Lane here Lesser Spotted.

    Here there are so many little alleys called Wynds (pronounced Weends) and little lanes off our market squares called yards. These things are so regional, aren't they?

  3. Hi MorningAJ
    I Know, bearing in mind the origin of surnames - place; occupation; son (or daughter) of; nicknames, I wonder what gave the family their strange name?

    Hi Weaver
    They are indeed so regional and even local, we have snickets, entries, ten-foots, eight-foots and the like. Thanks for the contribution, I had never heard of Wynds.

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