This morning, like every Saturday morning, I was out speaking with local residents on the doorstep to identify any local issues or problems we can help them with. On this occasion we were out in Pound Hill and one of the members in my group pointed out that all of the roads we happened to be knocking had names associated with horses. It is no random fluke.
Before the expansion of Pound Hill, Crabbet Park played host to a horse breeding farm and not just any horse breeding farm, Crabbet Park was the first farm in England to take in Arabian horses. Over 90% of Arabian horses in the world today had ancestors tramping around what is now Pound Hill and it is in recognition of the significance of the site in horse breeding history that so many of the roads there bear horse-related names.
I’ve always felt that there was merit to having road names which actually relate to the locality, giving new neighbourhoods some sense of history and meaning. Developers seem to lack any sense of imagination when it comes to naming streets, there can be few large towns or cities in the country missing a group of roads named after famous authors or composers. Yet, it can also be highly political.
Broadfield, built during the long-period of Labour council control, contains frequent references to pivotal figures in Labour Party history: Attlee House, Henderson Road, Webb Close, etc. Coming across such names gives a certain boost to the mood of door-knockers. However, a similar attempt to name roads in Maidenbower resulted in an end to the active involvement of councillors in road naming, with residents protesting the idea of having to live at Four Skinner Close.
Councillors are again taking an interest in road naming as the new neighbourhood in Forge Wood gradually comes forward, but these days the honour is usually limited to deceased residents who have made a significant contribution to the town, such as Ron Cornwell MBE, and there are conversations about recognising residents who have been killed on active duty in the armed forces.
Names imbue things with meaning and consequently it’s something we have to do carefully. Yet, I for one would still far rather see new developments use road names as an opportunity to provide real links into the history of the local community, rather than the sanitised names which are so often forced upon us.