Tuesday, 11 June 2013

No Place: Now Gone? (NZ217531)

If you have ever travelled along the A693 between Stanley and Chester-le-Street, you may have noticed a sign-post pointing south to a village called ‘No Place’. Strictly speaking – and somewhat ironically – it no longer exists.

The original No Place consisted of a row of four terraced coattages in the middle of a field to the south of the main road. The very earliest OS maps from the 1850s show them sitting in splendid isolation; then in the 1890s terracing began appearing a little to the north (between the cottages and the road) – a little settlement which came to be known as ‘Co-operative Villas’. In time, the old cottages fell into disrepair and it was decided to demolish them around the time of the Second World War. Such was the affection for the curious old place-name, however, that the residents of Co-operative Villas unofficially took on the name for their own collection of streets.

In the 1980s, a sustained attempt was made by the local council to re-impose the name of ‘Co-operative Villas’ on the little settlement, but the locals wouldn’t have it. Such was the strength of feeling that the powers-that-be accepted the status quo … and the place known as No Place now has (officially, it seems) two names. Even the road signs bear both monikers.

As is so often the case with these odd-sounding names, no one seems to know for sure quite how No Place got its name. It could be a shortening of North, Near or Nigh Place, or just a nickname that stuck due to its isolation. I’ve also read that the original settlement sat on the boundary between two parishes, neither of which were prepared to ‘claim it’ – hence ‘No Place’! And some even argue that it comes from the reputation of the local pit as being ‘no place to work’.

All very strange – but quite wonderful, all the same.

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