This was a weird thought that I had as we approached the Emstrey Roundabout in Shrewsbury today on our way to Telford for ‘granny food’. My thought was: who gave this roundabout its name? Where does the word Emstrey come from? Is it a place? Is it a person who lived near there? Was Mr or Mrs Emstrey a famous Salopian? And more generally, who names all of the roundabouts in Britain?
My husband claimed, when I posed the question to him, with much confidence I might add, that someone in the council has the job of naming all the roundabouts in a given county. So Shropshire County Council, he told me, has a little man in an office who goes to work every day to name roundabouts. I’m not so sure. Surely roundabout-naming doesn’t constitute a 5-day a week, 7-hours a day job? He assured me that it does.
When we returned home I turned to a more reliable source of information: the Internet. However, google was no help at all with this question. I tried ‘Who names roundabouts?’ ‘Who gives roundabouts their names?’ ‘Names of roundabouts’ and ‘Why are roundabouts given names?’. Certainly there is nothing on google that responds with ‘someone in the local council’. Someone somewhere must do it though. Perhaps the road-sign makers?
British people know the various roundabouts in their hometowns by their name. A typical instruction of direction would be: ‘you take the first left at the Heavitree Roundabout’ or ‘cross Trench Lock’. When we lived in Oxfordshire, we were familiar with, to name but a few, the Peartree Roundabout, the Kennington Roundabout, the Cutteslowe Roundabout and the Headington Roundabout.
Here in Shrewsbury everyone knows what you are talking about when you refer to the Emstrey Roundabout (see above) or the Meole Brace Roundabout.
Googling ‘names of roundabouts in Shrewbsury’ throws up ‘Heathgates Roundabout’, ‘The Column Roundabout’, ‘Dobbies Roundabout’, ‘the Two Henrys Roundabout’ and ‘Preston Boats Roundabout’. I don’t think these are all the actual names (i.e. those given by the little man in the council), I think some of these are pet names from the people who live here, such as my ’50p Roundabout’ for the Meole Brace Roundabout or T.S.R. for the Headington Roundabout in Oxford. For example, Dobbies Roundabout is named after a garden centre called Dobbies which is positioned on the edge of the roundabout. The Column Roundabout’s name derives from a big column which is sat in the middle of it. That one might be genuine. The Two Henrys Roundabout is certainly not an official name. The Two Henrys is a pub.
If I had the job of naming the roundabouts of a county I’d use my imagination rather than just naming them after the area they are close to. If I were lucky enough to be in charge of naming Shrewsbury’s roundabouts I would start by renaming the Meole Brace Roundabout the 50p Roundabout of course. I might chose the names of interesting, slightly famous locals perhaps for some of the other roundabouts. I certainly wouldn’t have a Charles Darwin Roundabout (he has enough fame in this town) but perhaps the Palin Roundabout after Michael Palin who went to school here, or the Heseltine Roundabout after that scary haired Conservative. Or I’d name them based on a quirky fact about the roundabout such as its shape (50p, round, or square), or natural features close by (rabbits, flowers, weeping willows). Or I could name them as if they were episodes of Friends ‘The one with the funny right turn’, or ‘The one with the turning that nobody bothers to go down’.
In the meantime, until the council headhunts me and offers me the job, the best I can do is spread the word about the 50p Roundabout until it becomes common parlance.
I can but dream.