Literally just 21 great street names from York

The Shambles. Image: Peter K. Burian/Wikimedia Commons.

York is a lovely city, especially if you like Vikings, or Richard III, or old trains in a big shed.

However, there’s one even better reason to visit York. It has, definitively, the best street names in Britain. Here are 21 of them.

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate

Let’s start with the best. This one’s tiny – only a few metres long, so there’s barely room to get a long enough street sign on there.

Nobody seems to know where the name comes from. It might be because it’s not really a street or a square, with the name meaning “neither one thing nor the other”. Or it might stem from being the place people tied up their whippets while they went off to do their shopping. Which sounds stupid to me.

The “gate” bit, incidentally, is going to pop up a lot so let’s explain that now. It doesn’t mean gate: it actually, reflecting the city’s Viking links, comes from the Norse for “street” (“gata”). The actual gates, in the actual city walls, are not called gates at all, even if they have the syllable “gate” in their name, but are instead called “bars”.  Bloody Vikings.

The Shambles

A narrow medieval street packed with over-hanging timber-framed buildings; if you’ve been to York, you’ve almost certainly been to the Shambles too.

Anyway, the name is nothing to do with the vaguely shambolic air of the buildings. Shambles comes from “shammels”, an ancient word for “shelves”. It used to be named “Fleshammels”, meaning “flesh-shelves”. Lot of butchers down here, once.

Skeldergate

Another Viking name. Street of shield makers.

Pavement

Possibly because it was the first street in the city to be paved. While we’re on the subject:

Stonegate

A street paved with stones.

Swinegate

The street where pigs were kept.

St Saviourgate

The street with a church called St Saviour’s.

Peaseholme Green

Used to be a meadow where peas were grown. The word “pea”, incidentally, is a back-formation from the word “pease”, which was originally singular; the plural was “peasen”. At some point people got bored and/or confused, started using “pease” as the plural, and so assumed pea was the singular. Anyway: the pease pudding from the nursery rhyme is basically pea soup.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes, York.

Goodramgate

Named after some bloke called Guthram.

Gillygate

After St Giles’s Church.

Feasegate

Fehus means “cow house”. Don’t ask me.

Ogleforth

“A ford haunted by an owl”. Seriously, WTF was wrong with these Vikings?

Mad Alice Lane

It’s actually called Lund’s Court these days, but the old name is still there on the signs too. Anyway, it’s named after a local woman who, after being repeatedly beaten up by her husband, eventually lost it, murdered him and because the justice system is run by blokes promptly got herself hanged.

There’s a great Tarantino movie waiting to happen here, I feel. In the meantime, you can get walking tours of York from a woman claiming to be Mad Alice, which seems an eccentric thing to do but there you go.

Davygate

This one’s baffling so I’m outsourcing it to the Secret York website:

“The Forest of Galtres was a 100,000 acre royal forest stretching to the very edge of medieval York. Its court and prison (for prosecuting poachers and the like) was located at Davygate, a name that commemorates David Le Lardiner, son of the forest’s game keeper.”

But... why would you name an entire street after the son of the bloke who looked after the place to which they street led? Just... what?

Walmgate Bar

The bar is the gatehouse. The gate is the street. The name seems to have developed from Walbegate, which might have referred to a bloke called Walbe.

Jubbergate

Was once “Brettegate”, meaning “Briton Street”, probably a derisory reference by the town’s Viking rulers to the city’s small, indigenous British community. Later became Jubretgate – perhaps in reference to a Jewish population – and finally Jubbergate.

Jewbury

This one is upsetting literal: site of a Jewish cemetery.

In 1190, a series of anti-semitic riots ended in the slaughter of around 150 people – the city’s entire Jewish population. It was one of the worst acts of anti-Semitic violence committed anywhere in medieval Europe.

I’m not going anywhere with this, but I feel it’s the sort of thing we should know about.

Anyway, something happier.

Micklegate

“Great Street”. Great as in “big”, not great as in “awesome”. Still, it’s pretty great, so.

Bootham

Probably something to do with booths, meaning “shacks”.

Aldwark

Dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. Ald as in “old”, wark as in “earthworks”. Probably means a fortification.

The Stonebow

Absolutely no clue, but seriously, what a cool name. Sounds like a medieval superhero.

UPDATE: York native and Guardian uber-nerd Jim Waterson explains:

Anyway. Go to York immediately. Look at some street signs. Yuu won’t regret it, I promise.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites

 
 
 
 

In New Zealand, climate change is driving an eco-nationalist revival

The green and pleasant land of the South Island. Image: Getty.

“Ten years ago I would have called them settler f*****g land squatters,” Mike Smith, Maori-dom’s most tenacious activist, said last November as he reflected on the agriculture industry’s central role in driving climate change. “Now I have to try and get these people on board.”

Smith is infamous for taking a chainsaw to Auckland’s most prominent tree on a damp October night in 1994 in protest of the “Pākehā” – or white European –dominated government’s fiscal envelope restraining treaty settlements. Now he’s turned his hand to another cause close-to-home for the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous population: the environment.

“We’re super vulnerable, like we are to anything,” Smith says. “When it comes to climate change it’s like the poorest people in the world are going to be hit the hardest first, and that’s a lot of us.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appears, at least rhetorically, the most sympathetic leader to his cause in a decade. In her campaign launch speech late last year, she made the future government’s position clear: “Climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment.”

This message should resonate with followers of her Labour party: the NZ left has long nurtured an environment-orientated “culture-of-protest”. So Ardern’s call to arms was bound to gain her loyal support among children of the 1960s and ‘70s, who led the march against nuclear ship visits, spurring on the government of the time to wriggle out from the US nuclear umbrella, and place a ban on foreign nuclear ship visits.

Now, it is to the tycoons of deep sea oil exploration they aim to close NZ’s ports.

In this, Smith is not short of support locally, with marches run by grassroots organisations and international animal welfare funds beginning to gain traction with every day New Zealanders. In this, Ardern’s prediction is correct: the Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA), is reminiscent of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an earlier cluster of left-wing pacifists and nature lovers who drove the creation of the nuclear free zone.  

In December, 15,000 passionate protesters marched through the capital. And with the government’s recent ban of offshore oil exploration projects, Jeanette Fitzsimons, former Green party co-leader and the head of CANA, is optimistic about similar change to the energy and farming sectors.

The Labour-NZ First-Green party coalition seems focused on setting a new global precedent, weaning NZ away from a United States which has jettisoned the Paris Agreement. The move replicates another 20 years ago, when New Zealand’s anti-nuclear movement was central to an upsurge in New Zealand nationalism. Now, the same sense of going it alone on foreign policy is apparent both locally and in Parliament.

Dr. Gradon Diprose, a senior lecturer at Massey University, argues that this echoes an older expression of colonial nationalism, that saw “New Zealand as a land of natural abundance”. This: “eco-nationalism” is centered on “protecting certain visions of picturesque landscapes and unspoiled natural beauty”. The slogan “Clean, green New Zealand” is prevalent in popular culture and tourism marketing. The public seems to have latched onto it too, and ranked keeping NZ’s waterways “clean and green” top of a recent survey of of kiwis’ top concerns.

Three decades ago, it was the 10 July 1985 sinking of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior that thrust local activists’ fears into the public eye, resulting in an almost nation-wide expression of climate-protectionism.


The bombing, a French intelligence operation sparked by Greenpeace’s calls for an end to foreign nuclear testing in the Pacific, galvanised a great deal of change to New Zealand’s overseas defence policies. A lack of censure from New Zealand’s Western allies drove Wellington to distance itself from the United States, while the shock of seeing a friendly nation violate NZ’s sovereignty left many at home seething.

Thirty years on, the foreign policy split throughout the Anglosphere, regarding Russian-Western relations, globalism, and the old international rules-based order, is becoming wider. Climate change is just the tip of the iceberg.

Most Kiwis you talk to will shake their heads in disapproval at US president Donald Trump’s scandalous outing last year in Helsinki. But US defiance of internationally brokered climate resolutions is something they can see clearly reflected in rural communities across the country.

The country saw records broken at both ends of the extreme weather spectrum last year. As 2018 kicked off, Kiwis sweltered through the hottest summer on record, while in Golden Bay, a small inlet near the northern tip of the South Island, residents endured the largest flood in 150 years. So, when President Trump tweets “So much for Global Warming”, the majority of New Zealanders look back fondly on NZ’s 1985 decision to boycott the “ANZUS” treaty, putting New Zealand at odds with its war-time ally America on defence legislation.

Public calls to take the same track on environmental regulation have become louder in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. The former US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, received a frosty “unwelcome” while on a flyby to the capital in 2017, with the New York Times’ Washington correspondent, Gardiner Harris remarking: “I’ve never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today”. Protests against President Trump’s stance on climate change are beginning to gain greater traction further still, with the hundred-strong “march for science” setting the tone for the new government later that year.

New Zealand certainly isn’t afraid of radicalism, and its activists are persistent. It’s already banned single use plastics in supermarkets. Plenty more is to come, Smith says.

And yes, reform is going to inhibit sometimes vital industries: “It doesn’t matter which way you spin the dice on this, whatever’s being done is going to hurt. People who are looking for a painless way of mitigating climate change, [but] I don’t think there is one.”

But among Smith’s troupe of climate agitators, the feeling is that, without drastic change, “the land”, the heart of the Maori ethos, is going to be hurt far more.

Back in Auckland, NZ’s financial hub, an electric scooter craze is gripping the city. This, too, has gained the support of local environmentalists. In New Zealand, a national sense of pride is always coupled with a certain eccentricity. In a country this size, change always starts small.