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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Following my consideration on the origins of West Green's Black Boy name back in the summer, Haringey Council has decided to rename Black Boy Lane in West Green.

The Council have called the exercise  a 'renaming consultation', but the online questionnaire offers only the ability to choose from a shortlist of two new names. So it appears that the decision to rename has already been taken with only the choice of name left to be decided.

They have issued the following press release.

The council has launched a renaming consultation with residents and businesses located on Black Boy Lane, as part of the wider Review on Monuments, Buildings, Place and Street Names in Haringey – which was launched on 12 June 2020, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The council believes that the names of our monuments, buildings, places and streets must reflect the values and diversity that we are so proud of in the borough. One of the street names that has been identified as not being reflective of this is Black Boy Lane.

Meanings change over time, and the term “Black Boy” is now most commonly used as a derogatory name for African heritage men.

As part of the consultation, the council is asking residents to consider new alternative names that celebrate some of the borough’s most notable influencers, and truly reflect the borough’s rich heritage.

The two names that have been shortlisted for residents to consider are, ‘Jocelyn Barrow Lane’ and ‘La Rose Lane’. The consultation will launch today, Monday 28 September and will run for a period of 4 weeks to Monday 26 October 2020.

Letters will be arriving on Black Boy Lane residents' doorsteps this week, who can respond to the consultation using one of the following methods:

If Haringey residents have concerns or queries about place, street or building names in the borough, please get in touch. Send your views to Leader@haringey.gov.uk.


Dame Jocelyn Anita Barrow (15 April 1929 – 9 April 2020) was a Barbadian/Trinidadian British educator, community activist and politician, who was the Director for UK Development at Focus Consultancy Ltd. She was the first Black woman to be a governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and was founder and Deputy Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Council.

John La Rose was a publisher, poet and essayist. He founded the Caribbean Artists’ Movement and publishing company New Beacon Books which has a bookshop in Stroud Green. In 1975, he co-founded the Black Parents Movement from the core of the parents involved in the George Padmore Supplementary School incident in which a young Black schoolboy was beaten up by the police outside his school in Haringey.

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Tags for Forum Posts: blackboy lane name change, review on monuments, building place and street names

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You're making an assumption, Gina. Whilst it may be a reasonable one, it's still an assumption and it's important to be clear about these things.

I always try and do that when I'm writing up historical pieces. Sometimes, it would be so much more convenient for a historical issue to be this way rather than that; it would fit my narrative and working theory so much better. But I always try and avoid turning an assumption into a fact.

It's fair to point out what you think is likely and why (whilst preferably offering the alternative options), but we should never claim that something is a fact unless we have irrefutable evidence to support it - and for me it should preferably be a primary source. (I've come across too many 'facts' presented in apparently authoritative published histories that have, on scrutiny, proved to be untrue). 

You're right that there's plenty of evidence to support the Charles II claim, but as far as I'm aware there is no evidence that all Black Boy pubs without exception were named after Charles or in particular that that the West Green one was.

One of your links (a BBC source) says 'pubs across England called The Black Boy are generally named after Charles'.

Thanks to Bruce Castle, we know that the pub was called the Black Boy from at least as early as 1690. But that's all we have evidence for. Whilst that may lead to a reasonable assumption of a connection with Charles, it's not evidence of a direct link. Don't be afraid to be open about that: there's a strong case of a connection. 

So, my view is that we should state a case with conviction, by all means, but let's be more scrupulous than others might be and be ethical enough to state that it is an assumption, albeit a well-supported one. 

I'm not disagreeing with your assumption, or implying that you're mistaken; I just think that it's important to be scrupulously honest about the narratives we present. In my experience, that tends to go down well with a thoughtful audience (See for example the first comment after this historical research article I published).

No, I have not made an assumption.  Brice Castle Museum has, however.

The pub’s name may have taken on racist tones over the centuries, as it’s provenance was lost. But this can’t be repaired by denying history. Campaigners should instead reclaim the truth.  The pub was affectionately named after a popular King with dark colouring because he was of African descent.  It was a mark of respect.  It was the opposite of racist.

Its particular idiocy to wipe out history at high public expense when the country is facing unprecedented national debt.

Fact:  the pub is named after Charles II. My evidence is:

  • The pub’s name is proven to originate shortly before during or just after Charles’ reign (1660-1685).
  • It is accepted history that he was (affectionately) nicknamed ‘The Black Boy’ due to his colouring which is believed to have derived from his Spanish /Moorish (ie African) heritage.
  • In a pub title this nickname (in 1690) was an unambiguous and well-known signal of support for monarchy.  It would not have been ‘accidentally’ applied. Not at these dates.
  • There may be pubs bearing this name originating at later dates which were named for other reasons- however that IS  an assumption. It’s much more likely that ‘false’ images such as horses or chimney sweeps used in painted pub signs, (possibly to avoid racist inferences) have led to confusion over the origin of the pub name.

Assumption: ‘There are strong associations connecting this name to the slave trade’.

This is part of a key sentence in the Museum’s report. However, the statement it is not supported by evidence.

Clearly,  slave trade was booming in 1690. Some black Tottenham residents are documented. No doubt slavers lived here. But nothing in the report links  them to the pub’s name, or explains why a publican would want to use slavery as a marketing device to attract customers to their pub. Given that historians KNOW that at this time pubs were named The Black Boy for a very specific reason, the above is a disingenuous statement.

The second part of that key sentence:

‘but there are other suggestions, including reference to King Charles II being known as ‘Black Boy’’ shows that the author knows that name is a pro-monarchist reference at that date, but has dismissed it as if one of a number fanciful ideas, carrying no particular weight over the others.

Here! Here! The penultimate Black Boy Pub sign was a caricature; it's replacement was what appears to be a chimney sweep in silhouette.

I would love for the money being spent on this whole ill-conceived exercise to be used to help revive the (Black Boy) Pub and make it into a performance/local venue/asset once again.

Maybe Ejiofor is just showing how little power he has to really effect change that he has to go after small victories that he can gain by fiat power and simili consultations. That isn't real leadership though is it?

Have you also noticed how the council is allowing telephony operators to uglify our neighbourhood by installing their extemely ugly antennae on buildings despite there being a planning policy that says that the equipment should not harm visual amenity. I post this here as people should look at recent pix of the BBpub.

And because this has far more effect on our quality of life, including on that of so many black and brown people who live, work and go to school in this neighbourhood.

Why doesn't Ejiofor and his cabal apply the same energy on that than he has on BBL?

Now we do need another pub and definitely one with live music. Great idea!

Agreed, preferably one that serves ale rather than keg beer.

They are not so common on this side of Green Lanes.

The Black Boy Pub sign, does not mean anything as many pubs over 300 years old, have had their signs drastically changed, some many times over the years by different owners. Our West Green/BBL pub is not anywhere near that old and even then when it was built, most pub owners did not have the Knowledge we have to hand today.

P.s are you sure the black/white photo is of  the West Green/BBL pub?

According to Ejiofor.  So, actually, it may not be.

I'm glad you feel that you're in a position to be so absolutely certain about the history of this issue, Gina. 

What the staff at Bruce Castle Museum did was what I'd expect any historian to do. They offered up the possible alternatives, considered some of the evidence for each and offered routes for futher investigation.

They're a small team with many priorities. I'm sure that, had they but world enough and time, they could have undertaken an exhaustive research project. Had they done so, I'm sure they could have offered a more granular examination of the evidence. But, bar the unlikely discovery of a smoking gun, I think the conclusion would have been broadly similar to the one they've already offered; that is to say that there are a few possibilities about the origin of the name, but that there is insufficient evidence to say conclusively which is the single true origin. 

You may argue the toss on the emphasis in what they've written, which is a wholly appropriate part of academic discourse and it's good to see you providing a link to support your point of view (but I note that the BBC document linked to in your link carefully only claims that 'pubs across England called The Black Boy are generally named after Charles'). You may also wish that what Bruce Castle wrote was more detailed, but I've explained why this couldn't be the case.

Personally, I'm very grateful for the time they took to share their knowledge. It was certainly deeper than mine on this issue and I feel that they advanced general understanding of the issue in an impartial way and I learned from what they said.

I cannot believe that after 68 pages of This Great Debate, nobody has contributed a jot or tittle for the past three days. Can it be that the problem is solved and peace has broken out on all sides? Possibly not. I had thought that Adrian H's appeal to the Latin roots of denigratio several pages back would have brought a  noctem quietam et finem perfectum to the BBL controversy. Now, much more seriously, if your discussion extends for another 68 pages the language and its spelling will undergo its most deleterious revolution since the Great Vowel Shift if Gina H's entomology and StephenBln's entymology  indicate that creepy crawlies are busily at work on the very etymology of our placenames.

Fatality.... are we confronted by a hopeless situation when faced with council politicians who just do as they please? Especailly when they are "a shoe in" as is the case in Haringey? They get away with murder.

Spending thousands of ££ when the physicalcal environment and urban realm leads people to call Tottenham a '"shithole" is just perverse!

But hey. If people like it that way who I am I to argue?

I just think that I deserve to live in a place that feels and looks nice, especailly when I live in the capital city of one of the top ten economies in the world.

OAE I was hoping you'd come up with a solution which headed off the likely financial crisis should Cllr Ejiofor's review determine that hundreds (thousands?) of roads across the entire borough have shocking historical links. Here's an idea.

Let's recall the Argentinian writer Borges' list of animals which began:
(a) Belonging to the emperor. (b) Embalmed. (c) Tame. (d) Sucking pig. (e) Sirens. (f) Fabulous.
(g) Stray dogs. (h) Included in the present classification. (i) Frenzied. (j) Innumerable. (k) Drawn with a very fine camelhair brush.

Which we could easily adapt for favoured road names;
(a) Names with a certificate of political correctness approved by the Leader
(b) Names proposed by a panel of councillors who act as though embalmed, or (c) tame or
(d) sucking up to the Leader.
(e) Sirens
- you know who I mean.

Under the category "Fabulous" could be included names referring to Local History. Along the lines of the Irish streetname "Long Woman's Grave".  We already have Monument Way. And Seven Sisters Road can quickly be updated to Seven Siblings.

Plus we'll need Lord and Ladyship Lane.  As Bruce Castle is not actually a castle it should not offend anyone.  But in any case the ruling cabinet could appoint a Winston Smith Committee of local estate agents and property developers to come up with fictional names which might inflate house prices. For instance hinting at world famous gardens and suchlike. Or pretending posh or even royal connections. "Mews" is obviously better than some nameless dumped back alley.



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