What do the street signs tell us?
The streets around the school bear the names of birds and berries and tress. The birds include the seabirds: cormorant, sandpiper, gannet, fulmar, pelican,and puffin; along with redwing, heron, lark, plover, partridge, starling, finch, woodpecker, kingfisher, raven, falcon, and wren; and, perhaps to give the neighbourhood a touch of the exotic, flamingo! The berries are silverberry, blackberry, mulberry, coralberry, and snowberry. Looking at the choice of street names for the modern developments a question arose as to what the choice of names said about the developers who had chosen the names and the local council, who had approved the choices.
Anyone who has visited France will have encountered street names that recur throughout the country, the writers Victor Hugo and Emile Zola; the painters Monet and Cezanne; the soldiers Leclerc and Petain; the commemorations of 11th November 1918 and 8th May 1945. If French street names express a sense of pride in the culture and history of the country, even if that history is not without controversy, what is expressed in English street names?
There is a logic in the thematic approach to the names of streets in new developments. Someone seeking a house will know they are in the right area if the roads along which they drive have names that are linked, move from the birds to the berries, and the wrong turning has been taken; there is a need to turn around and find the names that are linked with the street that is being sought.
But there is something more, something in the conscience, something about a sense of the place and a sense of its identity. Birds and berries, flowers and trees, historic places and buildings, there is a feeling for natural history and heritage, a feeling for a rural and a historic England that is removed from the extensive and growing urbanisation. It is not a new phenomenon, the hundreds of cemeteries dotted along the Western Front through Flanders and France are laid out with neat lawns and rose bushes and flowers planted at each grave because the desire was to recreate the feeling of a cottage garden, to bring a sense of an English idyll into places that had been hell on Earth. It is part of a tradition that perhaps began with the Victorians and the names they chose for their houses and which continued with the Edwardians and successive generations.
There is something reassuring among the birds and the berries, they speak of an continuing aspiration to the bucolic and the beautiful.
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