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13 rude, smutty and silly places names in York to make you blush

Some of the rude place names in York - Cock and Bottle pub, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate and Grape Lane <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Some of the rude place names in York - Cock and Bottle pub, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate and Grape Lane (Image: Newsquest)

YORK'S ancient past lends itself to place names that date back hundreds of years - but some seem downright rude, smutty or silly by today's standards.

You don't have to go very far from the city's main tourist attractions to uncover some of these spots - so we've put together a York guide with a difference, to some of York locations that could make you blush!

1. Grape Lane

In medieval times, this street off Swinegate and Low Petergate, had another name that was similar sounding, but much more rude. This was the red light area of York where prostitution was rife. The tradition in medieval times was for street names to reflect the business or activity that went on in the vicinity. Records show that by 1329 this stretch of York was known as Grape**** Lane or Grope**** Lane. York was not the only English town or city to have such a street name during these times. Its earliest known use was in about 1230 and a variation of the name was last recorded in 1561. These streets were often among the busiest in medieval towns and cities. However, as attitudes changed, the street name was replaced by less offensive versions such as the Grape Lane which we have today in York.

York Press: Grape Lane. Photo by Sandra Hillyer
York Press: Grape Lane. Photo by Sandra Hillyer

Grape Lane. Photo by Sandra Hillyer

2. Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate

Much loved by tourists who often stop to have their photo taken by the sign signalling York's shortest street with the longest name, folks often have a snigger at this strange title too!

Voted the second most rude place name in the UK in a survey last year (after Grope Lane in Shrewsbury), the name dates back to 1505 when it was originally called Whitnourwhatnourgate, which translates to ‘what a street’.

But what has it got to do with whipping you might wonder? Well, most likely, nothing as York Civic Trust explains: "Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate is first mentioned in 1505 as Whitnourwhatnourgate and later as Whitney Whatneygate, a name probably of derisive origin rather than having any connection with the whipping of dogs or vagrants."

3. Butham

This was the old name for Bootham - the main road to York from the north which lies on the line of the Roman road. The name originates from an old Scandinavian word, Butham, dating from 1150 meaning "at the booths". York Civic Trust tells us that it implied a district of "humble or temporary dwellings".

York Press: Bootham, York
York Press: Bootham, York

Bootham, York

4. Swinegate

Still here today and signifies the former location of a pig market.

5. Cuckolds' Corner

This was an old name linked to a section of what is now St Helen's Square and where the junctions of Stonegate, Davygate and Coney Street conflated. According to records Francis Drake noted in 1736 that at the bottom of Stonegate was a spot called ‘Cuckolds’ Corner’ although he doesn't explain why.

6. Mucky Peg Lane

This was the name once given to Finkle Street, the small side street running between St Sampson’s Square and Back Swinegate. The current name of Finkle is thought to derive from the Germanic word "Winkel," meaning "corner".

7. Beaverdyke

Another York place name that brings a titter - Beaverdyke lies in the York suburb of Rawcliffe & Clifton Without.

8. Rude pub names

York Press: Cock and Bottle in Skeldergate
York Press: Cock and Bottle in Skeldergate

Cock and Bottle in Skeldergate

Here are some city pub names from the past as well as the present that would probably be called something totally different if they were to relaunch today: Cock and Bottle, Golden Ball, The Slip Inn, The Hole in the Wall, Puss in Boots, Saddle Inn.