Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stepping back in time

Whilst trying to work out for myself where the apostrophe in "Mechanics Yard" should be placed (see Pedestrian Heart Update below, and yes, you're right, I have way too much time on my hands) I came across Durham County Council's GIS mapping service.

Although we are now part of a Unitary Authority, the County still hold important archives, including historic maps. If like me you love local history, simply click on the "launch GIS now" icon and then click on the "search" key (top right hand corner of the page). Under 'keyword' enter your postcode. This takes you to a map of your immediate area in 2001. You can then follow the development of your locality through maps in the twentieth and nineteenth centuries. Personally, I found that altering the scale from 2500 to 3500 gave greater clarity. It's a cracking service and well worth a try.

(By the way - it would appear that it is in fact Mechanic's Yard - sorry Mike!)


Mike Barker said...

Grammatically, of course, either is possible: it depends on the origins of the name. Was it named after one mechanic or a plurality?
The Durham County Council website has an interesting photo of a subterranean passage unearthed beneath the Yard. On that website, the apostrophe appears before the letter s and therefore indicates mechanic singular. However, the sign currently installed above the entrance to the yard has the apostrophe after the letter s, indicating a plurality.

Darlington Councillor said...

The passage Mike alludes to is either a Civil War tunnel (according to a 19th century historian), or as suggested by the site, in fact a Victorian sewer.

Allow me to share with you my favourite local history put-down on similar lines, taken from "The Street Names of Bristol" by Veronica Smith (2001, Broadcast Books).

"Kellaway Avenue. Harris' theory was that the name was originally Chaillouet and cites Philip de Chailewai being mentioned in the Gloucestershire Pipe Rolls of 1165, while another member of the family, also Philip, owned Kellaways, a manor in Wiltshire. In Roman times it meant a place to stay overnight, usually a cottage; this led him to suspect that Kellaway may have marked the route of the Roman legions moving from East Bristol to Sea Mills. However in the *Images of England* a book covering this area and compiled by members of the Bishopston, Horfield and Ashley Down History Society, it is clearly stated that the road was opened in 1921 by Postmaster General F.G. Kellaway M.P. who was born nearby. He may have been a descendant of the old family."

The last sentance is a beautifully-wielded stiletto.

Mike Barker said...

On the subject of tunnels...In the days when I owned the Bakehouse Hill Restaurant on the corner of the market place, we had our kitchen in the basement of that building. At the end of a passage which ended roughly underneath the front door (and therefore on the edge of the market place) instead of the expected brick wall there is a strong metal door, secured with a dozen large rusted bolts. What lies behind that door?
I was informed by a local historian that there was a tunnel on the other side of the door leading out underneath the market place, where it joined up with another tunnel running from the High Row area (the one in Mechanics' Yard?) down to the parish church.
Romantic conjecture? Local folklore?

Darlington Councillor said...

Intruiging stuff. I can only add that Jim Gordon, the retired Borough Engineer who was and is a keen local historian, suggested to me that the block of buildings including the old Bakehouse Hill Restaurant and the Pennyweight Pub were possibly on the site of the original saxon St Cuthberts Church, or its churchyard, which were subsequently moved southwards to their current location.

I'll blog on Jim's other theories (including the bus station site) another time. For now, maybe Chris Lloyd at the Echo can help?