A look back in time

The topic for discussion for the second meeting of the Biggleswade NWR group saw us hearing about famous streets and squares and considering the origins of place names. We heard how Trafalgar Square in London was originally the courtyard of the stables serving Whitehall Palace before, in 1812, being transformed into a square ‘to serve the public as a cultural space’. It is a square that has seen protest, including two suffragette bombs, the pigeons (that some still say are feral) and the annual Christmas tree gift from Norway.

We learned about Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, the world’s first garden city, and Clovelly in North Devon, a privately owned harbour village where the high street leading down to the harbour is so steep no cars are allowed – sledges and donkeys were used to transport cargo between the village and the harbour.

We shared the origins of street names where we have lived. Park Street was reasonably obvious, but we remain mystified as to why the streets ‘East Tower’ and ‘West Tower were so named due to there never having been a tower on or near the site.

We heard about place names that have changed recently: Margaret Thatcher Square in Madrid and Lineker Road in Leicester, we were not a fan of Costkea Way in Edinburgh, named after shops inhabiting the street – Costco and Ikea.

We pondered why it is important to keep a link with history through the naming of place names and the concept that cities ‘operate in time as well as space’. Then followed plenty of time for a chat to get to know one another.

Cover image Clovelly High Street, credit: Olaf Tausch