Friday, January 03, 2014

Devil's Alley and other street names

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph shows an alley in King's Lynn, Norfolk. It stretches back from Nelson Street towards the quayside. Entry is through a carriage arch that gives access to the rear of the old houses that line this architecturally fascinating road. The narrow way goes by the name of Devil's Alley. The story goes that the devil arrived in King's Lynn by ship and slipped ashore to gather up some new souls. However, a priest followed him to this particular alley and used the power of prayer and holy water to drive him back to his ship. During his retreat the devil, annoyed at being thwarted, apparently stamped his foot so hard that it left an imprint in the alley. At one time a cobble could be seen that had an imprint like a large human foot, but this is no longer to be found.

The unusual name of this alley got me thinking about some of the other street names that have caught my eye down the years. The most recent is Breakneck Lane in Louth, Lincolnshire, a not especially steep, but quite narrow road, and one that may have caused people to come to grief in the past, perhaps the rider of the phantom horse that has allegedly been heard galloping down it! Then there is Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate in York. The derivation of this name is unclear: both "What a street!" and "Neither one thing or the other" have their supporters - the street is very short. When I lived in Kingston upon Hull I was very taken with the street name, Land of Green Ginger. This name has prompted many suggestions for its origin: from a place where spices were traded in the medieval period to "Lindegroen jonger"(Lindegreen Junior), a name associated with a Dutch family who lived there in the early nineteenth century.Other memorable examples include Dog and Duck Lane, Beverley (named after a pub), Bodkin Lane on Lancashire's Fylde (watch out for dagger-armed robbers) and Lowe's Wong, Southwell, in Nottinghamshire. If you thought wong has an oriental connection you'd be wrong; like "wang" it is from the Danish for garden or in-field and dates from the time of the Norse invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries AD.

You may be wondering if today's photograph was fortuitously lit. It wasn't, I added a vignette to give it an appropriately dark aspect.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17.6mm (47mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.2 Shutter Speed: 1/50 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On