Street Names – A Thematic Collection: Compass Points


NOTES: Compass points in street names abound in every town and village to identify a location or direction, usually in relation to the centre of the town or village. 'Compass Point' must, however, be quite an unusual name for a road. 'West Hill Road North' is interesting for having two compass points

NAMED STREETS: I first became seriously interested in photographing street names through doing family history research. Census records tell us where our long forgotten ancestors lived, and often the street names themselves tell us much about the history of the area in which they lived. My own father was born and brought up in a two-up and two-down terraced house in Fort Road, Bermondsey. I have never visited the place or seen the house, which I believe no longer exists, but the name of the road has a significant resonance in relation to the stories that my father told me of his childhood. If there ever was a 'fort' to give the road its name, then it has long since gone.

Behind many street names there is often such a hidden history. The street in which I currently live derives its name from the long lost industrial buildings which dominated the local landscape. The road name (and the products produced) is all that is left of this industrial past, in what is now a quiet residential area. Likewise other road names can refer to ancient trades and tradesmen, events and historical figures, rights and rituals, battles and achievements that are commemorated in the given road name.


The street name can derive from the particular location but it can also be to do with national events of the time in which it was officially named (or re-named). Attempts at renaming roads, say, for instance, to make them more 'politically correct' are however often thwarted by locals who wish to preserve the historical connection, rather than 'whitewash' the past. Words matter and these names add to the rich tapestry of our lives, and our collective history, warts an' all.

The street name can also carry many 'hidden' messages about the people and the place, but then so does the sign itself, through its condition, style and general state of repair or disrepair. The setting and immediate environment has something to say to those who take the interest to ‘read’ the body language of the road name and the way that it declares itself to the passing world. Click here to see my Street Name Gallery.

Other themed e-books include -