Monday, 18 October 2010

New street name suggestions

For many years my mother Audrey Ward was invited by groups and schools to give local history talks, and far and away the most popular were the ones about street names! We still have the card index, boxes of slides and lecture files, amended each time to satisfy the curiosity of residents of different parts of the borough. Sometimes my father or I went along too, to operate the slide projector and generally provide a bit of support with the various props.

Merstham, for example, has a housing estate with roads named after different types of rock - Portland Drive, Malmstone Avenue, Purbeck Close, Greensand Close - perfect material for learning about geology and geography! We have a heavy box of rock samples which I think came from the local stonemasons/undertakers.

Woodhatch has an estate full of beautiful tree names - Blackthorn Road, Juniper Close, Holly Road, Hornbeam Road, Willow Road, Hazel Close, Cedar Close and so on.

In Reigate we have the historic connections with aristocracy: Beaufort Road, Somers Road and St.Albans Road to name just a few.

Redhill, developing rapidly in the 19th century due to the railway as well as royal patronage at Royal Earlswood, is blessed with names like Philanthropic Road, Prince's Road, Asylum Arch Road and Victoria Road.

A new addition to Redhill's one way system in recent years was Princess Way, commemorating Princess Diana; whereas a new street name was needed for Reigate Priory's converted stable mews - what a good idea - it became Stable Mews!

What treasures they are, each with glorious stories and inspiring characters to discover! We had hoped to turn them into a book but unfortunately there has been no chance of any funding or interest from a publisher - after all, the number of streets has increased considerably in just a few short years. It seems unlikely in these times of harsh economy, that any more Lottery money will be coming our way either.

Strangely there is not a hint anywhere in the borough's street names of the significant role of Reigate in protecting our country during World War 1 or 2.

In honour of two generations and our leaders who greatly valued this area, I would like to make a little plea that we can name any new roads to commemorate Sir Winston Churchill, General Montgomery, the Welsh miners who constructed the Battle HQ bunker inside Reigate Hill and even the pedigree carrier pigeons who lost their lives delivering messages.

While we are on the subject, perhaps we can also commemorate the Girl Guiding movement - since, after all, it is their centenary this year, 2010. Even more significantly - it was all the idea of a group of pioneering Reigate girls who had 'gatecrashed' a Scouting jamboree at Crystal Palace in 1909. Look what effect that has had internationally ever since! My personal guiding experience was with the 2nd Reigate company, in the now demolished Rank Memorial Hall in the High Street, from 1963-70, and before that as a Brownie at the 3rd A pack, next door at the Congregational Church - another demolished piece of Reigate's long, distinguished history.

So I do hope that Reigate & Banstead Borough Council will consider these very topical commemorative road-naming possibilities in the near future.

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