Monday 11 June 2012


What?  You don't understand?  It's quite clear isn't it, this sign I mean?  Are you so slow you fail to understand a name plate, a simple address I ask?  Tsk!  The standard of blog reader is lowering.  OK we will take it slowly. 

In the days of long ago weaving was very important.  The south east of Englandshire was chock a block with sheep.  Counties like Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex grew wealthy on the export of wool or the weaving that followed.  Much was sent over to the Low Countries, what is now Holland, Belgium, Flanders  and Northern France.  At the same time weavers flocked over this way, either because English Kings tempted them with better pay or a persecution of some sort made the weavers flee with their kin.  Well into the twentieth century the weaving and allied trades were big business.  Far East competition killing the trade in the years after the war.  

The influence of the Flanders incomers can be seen in many areas around here.  Spitalfields in London is one such area. Many weavers houses remain, much tarted up, although the windows betray the need for light, and shutters and rooftops often reflect attics more often seen in Belgium than here.  This house for instance has what seems to me to be an nineteenth century porch but with a Lowland influenced double attic, a not uncommon sight.  A bit late for the weavers perhaps but a lingering architectural legacy maybe? 

A terrace of houses elsewhere in town are thought to have belonged to weavers who worked from home.  It is said the dozen or so houses shared one attic which ran the whole length of the terrace.  This enabled long bales of cloth to be stretched out for whatever purpose they had in store.  The windows also look high and allow much light.

However you wonder about the term 'Gant,' don't you?   It is a word left behind by such folks and simply refers to the alleyway between the tight packed buildings.  These buildings began as a large square where goods were traded on market day.  These developed first into stalls and later into proper buildings between which these 'gants' ran to enable access.  The term has remained and reflects the Flemish weavers language.  I suspect other words are used daily in the UK which arose this way but have become part of the fabric and we neither know where they came from nor really care. Other words to refer to alleys used in England are 'Jennels, Jitties, Jiggers and Snickets,' possibly 'Vennels also should be mentioned.' The naming of the gant does not imply this is a tourist site worth visiting I must add.  In fact this gant leads on to another named 'Leatherworkers Gant' if I remember correctly but is now mostly used solely the butcher for deliveries, so it is somewhat uncouth!  

Of course stubborn folks will then as about the 'pigs head' and the 'pottage pot,' which is to be expected.  When new streets require names, and any postman will tell you streets arise out of nowhere, then the town asks local historians for suggestions.  I also was asked for a suggestion by a Councillor once, he called the police!  Anyway this chap has done some research and came up with this name which he implies, but does not say, could refer to a pub that once stood in this area  in times past.  A bit slack if you ask me, although references in ancient deeds mention the pub but with insufficient clarity sadly.  A further 'gant' has been names after a business that once flourished there and I suspect names will be found for those, if any are left, that are as yet unnamed.    



Gail said...

Ah, yes, I'm slow. I understood the Gant part but wanted the story behind the remaining words.

Thanks for sharing the meaning of Gant.

Relax Max said...

Awestruck and dumbfounded.

red dirt girl said...

I love the naming of streets in England ... funny, risque, quaint - all of them. I've plenty of photos of street signs from my travels there.


Jenny Woolf said...

It's a good name, even if its historical credibility might be a bit dodgy. I have always liked those roofs but never understood their origins.