Friday, October 11, 2019

In Search of Station Street

In Medieval Streets and Modern Roads I hypothesized a theory that in England we largely stopped using the suffix 'Street' when naming our roads around 1800. Before the late Fifteenth Century the word 'Road' was never used for street names in England because this sense of the word only emerged in the late Sixteenth Century. Before the Sixteenth Century lots of roads were called 'Street'.

My theory was that since the word 'Road' came into use after the Seventeenth Century the word 'Street' largely went out of fashion when naming new roads. In Medieval Streets and Modern Roads I gave the example of Bournemouth. The town of Bournemouth, on the south coast, was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell. Before the town was built the area was mostly deserted heathland with very few existing roads. A search for roads called 'Street' in Bournemouth returns only one result - 'Orchard Street'. So in this town, built entirely after 1800, there is only one road called 'Street'. In Bournemouth there are lots of streets named 'Road'.

However one example is not enough to confirm my argument. I have therefore been wondering ever since about how else I could test my theory. This weekend I suddenly struck upon the idea of searching for Station Roads and Station Streets. The first railway station in the world was built in 1807. Therefore it is unlikely that there were many 'Station Roads' or 'Station Streets' before this time. If my theory that the word 'Street' went out of fashion around 1800 is actually correct we should find very few Stations Streets and many more Station Roads.

I therefore used Overpass Turbo to query OpenStreetMap for roads in England called 'Station Road' and 'Station Street'. Here's how the query for Station Street is formed

way(area.boundaryarea) ["name"~"Station Street"];
// print results
out body;
out skel qt;

From my search I found that in England there are 5,565 streets called 'Station Road' and only 181 roads named 'Station Street'. So for every 'Station Street' in England there are over 300 Station Roads.

My theory was looking very good!

Today I thought of another way I could test my theory. In England we do like to name places for our royal family. During and immediately after the reign of Queen Victoria (1807-1901) a lot of roads were named for Victoria and Albert. If my theory is right then there should be lots of Victoria Roads and lots of Albert Roads and very few Victoria Streets and Albert Streets.

I turned once again to Overpass Turbo. My search of OpenStreetMap data found 1,022 Victoria Roads and 598 Victoria Streets. So Queen Victoria appears to debunk my theory. While there are significantly more Victoria Roads than Victoria Streets there are still a large proportion of roads named 'Street'. In this case the word 'Street' doesn't appear to have gone significantly out of fashion after 1800. The result is even closer for roads named for Albert. There are 498 Albert Roads and 341 Albert Streets in England.

So my theory no longer looks so good.

However I haven't completely given up on the idea. Even the roads named for Victoria & Albert show that 'Road' was used more than 'Street' for these roads. I also wonder whether a lot of these roads named 'Victoria Street' and 'Albert Street' may have been old existing pre-1800 roads which simply had their names changed from 'Something Street' to 'Victoria' or 'Albert' Street. I therefore need some more ideas about how I can test my theory

To be continued ... (probably)

No comments: