We received an amazing bundle of papers from our solicitors with the full history of our house through all its deeds and covenants. It is sad to imagine that our own deed (which will reside with the bank until we are middle aged) probably doesn’t look nearly as Elizabethan as the one produced in 1933.
The papers reveal that, unlike the rest of the country which thought that a dictionary would be a good idea in the mid 18th century, Stoke seems not to have adopted standardised spelling. Without wishing to disclose too much about where I live on the world-wide-stalker-web, our street is spelt with or without an E seemingly at random. We had noticed this during the buying process: the land registry says E while the local authorities have blithely abandoned it.
Although I am considering starting a lengthy and irritating (for them) correspondence with the council to try and restore the E to our street sign, as I think it is the original and rather more charming form, it is probably better to leave it ambiguous. After all, I sense that I have enough annoying and lengthy correspondences to deal with in regards to a certain utility company, about which expect a lengthy and VERY ANGRY post as soon as they are out of my hair. I have lived with the curse of Clare my whole life, even occasionally spelling my own name with an I, so I think I shall leave the missing E to reside in our deeds and my imagination.
It doesn’t come as a surprise. The place is full of confusion. The city of Stoke-on-Trent is not actually the same place as you arrive at on the train, which is Stoke-upon-Trent. It is more of an imaginary construct somewhere north of Birmingham but south of Manchester. The city centre, reasonably enough, is called Hanley. The Potteries – as the city is also known - is supposed to be made up of six towns altogether, but the only author of any note dropped the one where his mother in law lived (so the story goes) and therefore the vast majority of pub-quizzers would, quite naturally, imagine it to have five towns.
Arnold Bennett (not to be confused with Alan Bennett) also renamed all the towns for the popular imagination, so Burslem, my new town, might as well be renamed Bursley if they’re ever going to make a success of it as a tourist destination. Though that won’t stop the locals calling it Boslem. My favourite renaming of his is Swan Bank to Duck Bank, which is far more appropriate to the local idiom. Confused? Try driving around there.