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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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As previously insisted. It’s Charles II, no doubt.  In 1690 this name made clear reference, to the recently deceased, restored King.  He had unusually dark skin & hair, and this was his well known soubriquet.  I am now reading Antonia Fraser’s biography of him, she makes early reference to his lifelong nickname. Read around the subject and you will agree,  In 1690 this name’s reference was absolutely clear and it wouldn’t have been used to refer to something else.

Painted pub signs have been the cause of the ambiguity.  In a society where most could not read, the image on pub signs had to convey the name.  It would have been an important marketing device. More people knew the nickname ‘black boy’, and that it conveyed (a pro-monarchy hostelry) than knew what Charles looked like, so stereotyped images of black boys could have been used on the many pubs which took this name. Later the images of Black horses or chimney sweeps were also used.  Over the centuries this led to confusion over the meaning/source of the name, which has eventually been entirely lost in all but a couple of remaining pubs with this name.

But does it matter?  Do people walk down Black Boy Lane and then refer to learned sources or just think “What the hell’s all that about?”  We are here now in the 21st century, not the 17th, and names of places have resonances that change over time.  If it was not so Grape Lane in the City of London could still be called Gropecunte Lane, a name which was perfectly acceptable and had a certain meaning to those in the time of Chaucer when it was coined.

Maybe not.  But the people with power to rename it against wishes of residents who live there should at least have the correct facts in front of them, and not be told authoritatively by ‘local historians’ that ‘There are strong associations connecting this name to the slave trade’, which adds unnecessary and inaccurate fuel to the fire.

Although it doesn't bother me, the C word is universally offensive these days. There's nothing offensive, however, about the word black whether it's describing a king, a horse, a chimney sweep or a person.

Gina, Let me reflag a couple of things to keep facts to the fore.

Firstly, these ‘local historians’ are in fact professionals from Bruce Castle Museum (employed full-time working in historical research and its presentation to the public).

Secondly, they haven’t offered any conclusion. They’ve simply done their job and presented a review of the evidence they’ve found (in this instance briefly so in response to a request from me). Below is the paragraph in which they summarised what they wrote.

There is no general consensus as to where the origin of the name ‘Black Boy’ for pubs comes from. Looking at different sources and discussion online, pubs known as the ‘Black Boy’ begin to appear in records around the country from about 300-350 years ago, although the oldest known pub with this name in this country, dates back to the 16th century. There are strong associations connecting this name to the slave trade, but there are other suggestions, including reference to King Charles II being known as ‘Black Boy’.

They haven’t taken a position that’s contrary to yours. They’ve simply said that sources they have found consider a number of possibilities.

Whilst I make no secret of my interest in history, my personal opinion on the current naming controversy is not primarily driven by a consideration of the history of what led to the name being given to the pub. It’s a part of the picture and needs to be presented honestly. But there is also another 350 years of history to take into account. Insofar as the future of the name is concerned, whilst the association with Charles II seems to be the most likely explanation for the origin of the name, what probably matters most is what local people feel about it.

The following paragraph by Rochester Cathedral historian Jacob Scott offers another interesting dimension to our perspective of the history associated with the name. Referring to the Black Boy name, he writes,;

Another aspect is how we respond to this heritage today. There was probably a certain amount of irony in the name at the time. Charles II was born into the Royal House of Stuart, whose reign lasted much of the early colonial period. The Stuarts set up the Royal African Company in 1660 with City of London merchants to trade along the west coast of Africa. It was led by the Duke of York, who was the brother of Charles II and later took the throne as James II. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade.

As a result of this organisation's activities, by the end of the 17th century, England led the world in slave trading, and would continue to do so throughout the 18th century.

Here's a view from the British Library, referring to the Charter granted to the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Relating to Trade in Africa, 1663 (what soon became the Royal African Company, referred to above),

This charter, issued by King Charles II (1630–1685) in 1663, represents the moment at which the transatlantic slave trade officially began, with royal approval, in the English (later British) Empire. This led to the rapid expansion of British involvement in the slave trade and enslavement of Africans. It is estimated that between 1663 and the end of the 17th century Britain had enslaved and transported over 332,000 Africans across the Atlantic.

And the view from the National Archives website,

King Charles II encouraged the expansion of the slave trade. He granted a charter to a group of men, the Royal Adventurers, who later became the Royal African Company (RAC). The king and the Duke of York backed this enterprise by investing private funds.

Maidkins - it depends on context.  When women say it in The Vagina Monologues it’s not.  When it’s shouted at a woman in the street it is.  Same with black boy.

So in a private theatre the C word is mentioned in an attempt to reclaim it as it is universally offensive. Against, hoards of non-blacks rampaging around Tottenham shouting black boy at black men. Oh, no that second one doesn't actually happen.

It possibly doesn't matter if you are not bothered by the fact that this proposal is based on what appears, to so many, to be an incorrect premise.

The comparison with Gropecunte Lane is not like for like, is it?

Beneath all this there is the question of heritage. Remove the name and you lose a part of this area's links to this country's deep history. I had always thought the name was a bit quirky and was fascinated to learn about the (possible) Charles II connection. The more this debate wears on, the more I am convinced of this connection. 

given what hugh has revealed about charles II involvement in starting the slave trade does it even help the supporters of keeping the name to associate it with that king?

For the most part, I think the origins of the word are largely irrelevant in any event. What matters is whether the term is considered offensive by the majority now - although the historical origins are of course still of relevance if the offended are claiming that is the reason for them being so offended (so it would be helpful to have more evidence of any conclusions about the origins). 

From what I gather from this forum and looking online (which is no less valid a process than the Council’s own sham consultation, which was run as a multiple-vote online poll), there is a small vocal minority who would want public funds to be deployed to change the name. And that small vocal minority happens to be supported by the senior leader(s) at Haringey Council. 

So people could expend energy arguing against the Council - with the only realistic way to stop this being if the Councillors themselves intervened to speak out (publicly) against the Council leader. Or we could let the Council get on with it, divert public funds from those who need it most, and let them disadvantage residents as a whole. I expect the latter is the most likely outcome.

I don’t think this type of mismanagement is new in Haringey - not helped by a lack of accountability, as residents elect Councillors with the same political affiliations into office time after time. So arguably, Councillors are just doing what they were expected, and elected, to do. 

(The first paragraph of this reply impugned the reputation of council officers which contravenes our house rules so it has been deleted).

Andrew Stillman, it shows that history is much more complex than we might think.

It reinforces my sense that it is the feelings of people alive today that ought to take precedence in this situation.

Replying to Michael Anderson about people not knowing the background.

But that's exactly what we can and often do have. Information posted from "learned sources" which people may read as they walk down the street.
"We" in most official cases being people with power to stick plaques on walls.
And a good thing too. Well, sort of.



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