Mapping Vs Street Names

DateMar 3, 2016
AuthorAnnalise Searle

Mapping Vs Street Names
Where do you live? Unlocking the cartographic clues to the past

It is amazing what simple secrets lay beneath the surface of British infrastructure. There are many historical land uses that have been forgotten from living memory. However, if we take time to stand and look at road names, the story of our past comes to light.

Ever wondered what happened at Saw Mill Lane or Gas Road? Our environmental consultants at Groundsure come across a large variety of road names on our extensive historic mapping, which can give an insight into past. Below are some interesting examples of when a street name can be indicative of the historic land uses.

Iron Works Road


c.1928 – site of the Phoenix Iron Works and today – a residential area.

Lacey Court


c.1978 – site of a knit wear factory and today – a residential area.

Gas Street


c.1901 – site of a gas works and today- mixed residential and commercial

Abattoirs Road


c.1901- site of a former cattle market and abattoir. Today- residential properties in the east and vacant commercial land in the north


Industrial heritage road names are important as they can shed light on the history of an area that may look completely different today. Historians can use these clues to establish what historical land uses may have occurred! Our consultants here at Groundsure certainly use these clues to the past as an indicator of areas we may need to investigate further.

An example of a site with a road name that is indicative of its industrial past is Mill Road in Totley. Allotment gardens on this road were designated as contaminated land by the Local Authority in 2009. The site was formerly occupied by a 17th century lead smelting works, and a rolling mill with an associated mill pond c.1877 and c.1923. The property was later developed as a residential area in the 1930s and at this time issues such as contaminated land were not considered as part of redevelopments. The area was subsequently investigated by the Local Authority and is now fully remediated and perfectly safe (1).

Historically road names considered undesirable have been changed by Local Authorities, these often related to unsavoury acts that may have occurred there or words that were once socially acceptable but now aren’t. The Telegraph has recently published an online article about Sevenoaks council’s bid to ban the use of road names indicating past industrial land uses such as Gasworks Road and Tip Lane as the feel they are “aesthetically unsuitable”. The planning advisory committee recommend that names such as these must be avoided. This has caused conflict with local historical societies, who feel that the proposals are set to ignore the valuable industrial history of the area (2).

The consultants here at Groundsure have also found many interesting street and place names on mapping over the years including; Happy Bottom, Dull, Crazy Mary's Hole, Booze, Lusty Hill, Stinking Goat, Basic Slag Road, Ugley, Dirty Spot & Barf End, Scratchy Bottom, The Vomit & Vomit Point, Little Stubby Hat, Purgatory, Nasty, Blowup Nose, Booby Dingle, and Brokenwind to name but a few. We’ll leave it to you to try to work out what happened in these places!

So next time you are walking down a road, stop and think about the name and whether there is a historical link to the past.



  1. Knight, P. (2004). Part IIA and the identification and remediation of contamination in residential gardens in Totley, Sheffield, UK. Land Contamination & Reclamation, 12(3): 253-260
  2. The Telegraph (2015). Sevenoaks council accused of snobbery over bid to ban road names linked to industrial past. Date accessed 29/10/2015.