Unordered Coal And Those Street Names (16 August 1974)
We had not long been in occupation of our council house at St. George’s Road, Bletchley, when we returned to it one day to find an unordered load of coal being shot into the barn.
I forget how the affair was resolved, but the explanation of the error was that the coal had been intended for a lady who lived at George Street, Bletchley, which, of course, is at the other end of the town.
From time to time we continued to receive mail intended for the same lady and had to re-address it. Strangely enough, I do not recall any error in the opposite direction being made.
At about the same period I was walking out of the Saints Estate on to Buckingham Road when I was hailed by the driver of a pantechnicon belonging to a nationally-known firm of carriers. He asked me if I knew of a St. Martin’s street or road.
Someone in the town had suggested it might be on the new Saints Estate, but he had failed to find it. Nor had anyone on the estate been able to help him, they being mostly folk new to the district. I took him to St. Martin’s Street, thereby obtaining a welcome lift to the middle of the town.
Those two incidents and others like them impressed me strongly with the need for great care in the naming of new estates, streets and buildings.
The problem arose at the very beginning of the post-war period when Bletchley’s “own” estates were being built. The first council estate to be built was Chestnut Crescent. This, I believe, got its name from the fact that the adjacent older private house at the corner of Water Eaton Road and Manor Road was called “Chestnuts”.
The idea was then conceived of giving a tree name to each of the new streets that followed. Eventually we had a tree-name for every new council street right from Willow Way to the Watling Street end of the Manor Farm estate – a pretty fair stretch and a policy carried out though Manor Farm was by way of being a separate development from the rest and an Elm Terrace and a prominent house named The Elms already existed in quite different parts of the town.
A similar policy was carried out when the “London” estates came to be built. It was felt – and on the whole rightly – that it might be generally useful to give each estate a separate group-name, with streets and houses which could be readily associated with that name. Hence the Saints label – and the snags of which I have already given some indication.
The next estate was the Castles. Its streets were given names like “Warwick,” “Conway,” “Chester,” “Lancaster,” and ”Dover,” and two special blocks of flats were named “York House” and “Glamis House”.
This was all very fine – until it was remembered that there was a kind of castles and royal houses estate already in the middle of the town, namely the three connected streets called “Windsor,” “Sandringham” and “Osborne.”
The Rivers’ names generally passed muster – if you knew that names like “Derwent” and “Kennet” were those of rivers and not of something else.
The Counties, however, were not all that easy. Obviously, no “shire” could be used, consequent upon “Warwick,” “York,” “Lancaster,” etc. having already been used as Castles. Besides which there were the three adjacent streets, “Oxford,” “Bedford” and “Cambridge” down in the town.
And on top of that there is a difference between a shire and a county. All shire names derived from town names. Thus there is no such place, as “Devonshire” or Somersetshire,” or even “Dorsetshire”. Which leaves the Counties Estate mainly with the “folks” and the “sexes” – plus a further infiltration of Scottish influence in “Angus,” “Forfar” and the like.
Then came the Abbeys Estate. Now we were really getting “eddiicated.” It was as good as a geography book – though how it would be appreciated by the postman or truck-driving stranger was another matter.
And now we have the giant Lakes Estate, with only one recognisable “lake” on it and that a Welsh one, look you, Lake Bala. All the rest are meres, waters and of course, a liberal dose of lochs – and if ye dinna ken yon lochs, mon, ye’re but a no-good Sassenach.
But to be more serious for the nonce – I thought the education authority made a mistake in continuing to call the Leon School by that name when it moved to the Lakes Estate. It had been given to the school only a few years previously and went suitably with the adjoining Leon recreation ground and Leon Avenue.
Now the name has gone to a part of the district that has no connection with the Leons, and the name of a comparatively unknown former site owner, Knowles, has been given to the junior school that has expanded into the former Leon premises.
I will now leave the rest of Milton Keynes Borough with its numerous High Streets and Church Streets and other duplications, to look after itself in the mater of addresses in order to tell about our big old solid-mahogany double-leafed table and how it got to the wrong address.
The table, a sort of heirloom, was despatched to us by road carrier from Yorkshire when we were furnishing a house at Water Eaton in the “Docket” days. It takes two strong men to lift it more than a few yards, so we were non-plussed on the day we received a message from Mr. and Mrs. Bill Nash that they had got home that lunch-time to find a large table deposited on their front lawn and that it was intended for us, as far as they could make out.
The problem was that they lived in the bungalow at No.1 Water Eaton Road (now demolished) whereas we lived at a three-figure address at the other end of the road – a problem created by the fact that the label had been torn so as to leave only the first figure of the address.
The question of how to get the table the extra three-quarters of a mile home was solved by my wife, who has a happy knack of knowing very useful people as distinct from very important people. Thanks to her, that same afternoon we got hold of a couple of council lorry men who forthwith transported it “on the side”. Moreover, payment of any sort was declined.
No names, no pack drill. Both men are now honourably retired. Long may they live to enjoy it.