Roman Names

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ORIGINALLY the Roman name for the island(s) of Britain, Albion, is thought to be derived from the Latin word for white, albus, because Dover’s chalk cliffs were the first sight of it. Later, Albion was used as a poetic description of England, and though the French associated it with English perfidy, Scarborough has had a long-running preference for the name.

Both Falsgrave village and Scarborough town had their own early Albion Places: Falsgrave’s was off Spring Gardens and first dated 1823; Scarborough’s was once where what is now the front of Westborough’s Brunswick shopping centre.

Scarborough’s Albion Place appeared on John Wood’s 1828 plan and its residents were listed in Baines’ directory of 1823. In its earliest days, Albion Place, addressed as Without the Bar or Falsgrave Walk, was one of the town’s best locations, occupied by gentlemen, clergymen, physicians and superior lodging-house keepers. For example, in 1828, Edward Hopper Hebden, banker, bailiff and first chairman of the Cliff Bridge Company, lived there.

By 1855, Thomas Weddell, surgeon, proprietor of the sea-water baths at the pier end of Quay Street and twice mayor, had his home at number 7. Next door but one, at number 5, was Lorenzo Tindall, described as “a general furnishing ironmonger, inventor and manufacturer of the patent diagonal churn, oat crusher, linseed and coffee mills”!

Later, still, readdressed as 27 to 37 Westborough, Albion Place survived, much altered, until as late as 1989, when it was finally and totally demolished.

By 1850, the fast-developing South Cliff had its own Albion Street (now Road), linking Ramshill with the Esplanade. Subsequently, Albion Crescent partly embraced the newly-built St Andrew’s (Balgarnie’s) Congregational church on the opposite side of Ramshill.

However, on the North Side, off North Marine Road, the Albion Mill and Albion Cottages have long since disappeared without trace. Not so the Albion Hotel, at 126 Castle Road, which has kept its name and its licence from as early as 1858.

Albion Street (1870) once ran between Brook and Barwick Streets from Victoria Road to what was then the end of Trafalgar Street West. But both it and Lower Albion Street, its continuation, leading to Gladstone Road, were fatal victims of the construction of a dual-carriageway built in the early 1930s which became Northway.

Now it is difficult to trace their former courses and all we have to remind us of their existence is Albion House, built in the 1950s. Once the seat of Scarborough’s tax office, it seems that Albion House is to become another of the town’s Job Centres Plus.

The Romans called Ireland Hibernia, the only part of the British isles they wisely did not attempt to subdue. So there are no Roman remains in the Emerald Isle and Ireland is therefore not part of Britannia.

Scarborough’s Hibernia Street was started as early as 1877, but it took nearly 20 years to complete its final, full length all the way to Manor Road. Presumably, the delay was caused by the need to construct a bridge over the new Scarborough to Whitby railway line in the mid-1880s.

Caledonia (1886-92) and Britannia (1894-6) Streets both ended abruptly when they reached the railway line to Whitby and both were intersected by Fairfax Street running across them.

Caledonia, the Roman description of the land between Hadrian’s and Antonine’s Walls which became lowland Scotland, was much later revived by Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, the country’s leading nationalist poet and novelist.

Britannia was another name invented by the Romans which came to be applied to the most westerly and remote province of their empire. As early as 160 AD a Roman coin depicted Britannia as a seated female figure representing victory, one of her arms resting on a shield, the other grasping a spear.

Fifteen hundred years later, Charles II revived the name and the design on his halfpenny and farthing copper coins.

Since then Britannia has gradually evolved and gained in face value. Once she looked left, holding an olive branch in one hand and a spear in the other; now she faces right, still bearing an olive branch but also a trident and sits next to the head of a lion. What was originally worth a farthing (960 to the pound) is now two to the decimal pound, but no longer carries Britannia as an inscription. Once she was round and buxom, now she is emaciated, helmeted and seven-sided. Only her shield with its union flag motto remains unaltered. The biggest change, however, is that Britannia no longer rules the waves as she certainly did when Britannia Street was dedicated to her.