When looking at the 1828 Valuation it is crucial to bear two things in mind: Lincoln did not have any house numbers at that time and the recorded order of the Valuation is unknown. It may follow the order of houses along a street, but it is unwise to assume this in all cases.
So, when did house numbering (as it was initially called) come about in Lincoln? What system was used? What happened as more houses were built? Was there widespread re-numbering at some stage? How can a particular property be traced, given the possible renumbering of a street?
Numbering the houses
Numbering houses was clearly in discussion from the early days of the 1828 Lighting and Paving Commission. As early as September 1830, it was suggested in the press that the Commissioners should concentrate on ‘cheap measures’ such as ‘numbering the houses’, but it was only in 1837 that some moves were made, in response to a letter from E B Drury who:
‘suggested the great importance to the town, if the names of the streets, alleys, and lanes, were placed up, and also the houses numbered. The new rate-book had been numbered, and the streets defined as a preparatory step. A committee was formed to ascertain the expense, and the best mode of doing it.’
Stamford Mercury, 8 Dec 1837, p 3 col 4
The matter came up again in May 1839, but it was only in July of the same year that ‘a committee of three was appointed to survey the city and report, that the long-talked-of project of naming the streets and numbering the houses may be effected.’
The committee were at work at the end of July 1839 into early August. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported that there were about 2800 houses in the ‘city, bail and close’ and ‘about 240 streets, lanes, courts and passages’. The whole cost was estimated at about £60.
While the main subject of this article is the numbering of streets, looking at it in complete isolation to naming would be rather perverse. The report of the committee to the Lighting and Paving Commission in August 1839 was covered slightly differently in the two newspapers covering Lincoln. The Lincolnshire Chronicle stated that the report
‘…recommends that the streets and lanes shall continue the names which by antiquity or otherwise they may have acquired; and that where no name has previously existed, a name having reference to the property, or builder or owner shall be given.’ Lincolnshire Chronicle, 9 Aug 1839 p 3 col 5
The Stamford Mercury, however says that
‘Numerous suggestions were brought forward relative to the names to be given to the streets. As the various streets, lanes, allies, etc have mostly names established by custom, it would be mere folly to attempt to change them, and would produce confusion: if changed, people would be long before they got initiated in the new vocabulary, and some would pertinaciously stick to the old one. Whoever became sponsor at the baptismal font, would find the unregenerate streets very backward in renouncing their vulgar cognomina [nickname].’
Stamford Mercury, 9 Aug 1839 p 3 col 4
The Stamford Mercury indicates a more pragmatic approach to regularizing street names: regardless of what the Commissioners thought, many old names would persist. Nevertheless, some were changed and, once the nameplates were put up, were probably fixed. Trying to list these changes here would divert the purpose of this investigation. Suffice to say that it is always worth checking with various sources if a name change is suspected.
Street numbering appeared as an issue again in the late 1850s, with the Lighting and Paving Commission admitting in 1857 that it was difficult to read the numbers on many houses. They added, however, that
‘A man is now going round numbering the streets and charging only 1d a figure, so we hope we may have our streets eventually accurately numbered.’ Lincolnshire Chronicle, 6 Feb 1857, p 6 col 2
In March 1859, a complaint was made by Matthew Goy, builder, about the numbering of the houses in Grantham Street where there were ‘eight double numbers and one treble’. Looking at Grantham Street in Akrill’s 1857 directory, you can appreciate the problem. Matthew Goy lived at no. 8 of a run of houses numbered 1-18. There were then numbers 4½, 5-7, Wesley Court (1-4), 8-12.
Since it was ‘16 years’ since the numbering of houses took place, the Chairman recommended a committee be set up to report on the matter. The Committee duly reported the following month, recommending that Grantham Street be renumbered, ‘commencing from the High Street on the north side thereof with odd numbers and on the south side thereof with even numbers’.
This is the first time that the odd/even system of street numbering seems to have been used in Lincoln. In Akrill’s street directory of 1857, every road is shown as being numbered consecutively (although many also included separately numbered terraces or courts). The odd/even system was gaining popularity in various towns and cities – there were reports in 1863 that the Metropolitan Board of Works was renumbering many London streets in this fashion and in August of the same year, Boston Local Board agreed to renumber the entire town.
There does not appear to have been a comprehensive renumbering of Lincoln, although it was addressed on several occasions. Lincoln Local Board (Lincoln Corporation sitting under the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1858) was created in 1866 and almost immediately took over the functions of the Lighting and Paving Commission. The Local Board also had powers under the Local Government Act to control house numbering and street naming. In June 1869 it was reported that a committee had been appointed to look into the renumbering of houses in Lincoln.
This task may have taken some time. Although it was reported that Alfred Street had been renumbered by late August 1869, it was clearly still going on ‘throughout the city’ in August 1871. Not everyone was enamoured with the scheme, with the Stamford Mercury commenting:
‘In re-numbering the houses the plan has been adopted of putting all even numbers on one side of a street, and all odd numbers on the opposite side. The advantages of this method are not so apparent as the disadvantages, as it has caused an alteration in the number of almost every house, which to persons in business will be productive of considerable inconvenience.’ Stamford Mercury, 8 Sep 1871 p 5 col 1
Three years later, however, the Lincolnshire Chronicle argued that the odd/even system was superior and should prevail throughout the town:
‘Much inconvenience must be experienced by letter carriers, strangers, and others doing business in the city, owing to the defective state of the present mode of number the respective tenements in a street. In most cities and towns in the kingdom the plan adopted has been that of having the even numbers on one side and the odd numbers on the other, and compelling parties to have the numbers placed so that they can be seen at a glance. Here, however, no such custom prevails, and the consequence is that a stranger, and even residents in the city are put into a state of most bewildering confusion. In High-street and other thoroughfares numbers only appear on the doors at irregular intervals, and in many cases they are so placed that such a minute scrutiny has to be made an observant policeman would conclude that an innocent stranger had an inten[sion of] committing a burglary. It is to be hoped that the authorities will take such measures as will put an end to the well-founded grievances of the citizens upon this point.’ Lincolnshire Chronicle, 14 Aug 1874, p 5 col 3
By the early 1880s, the Corporation’s Lighting and Improvement Committee was very active, spending some £16,400 between March 1880-3 (according to a newspaper correspondent) on various street improvements. These were very likely to involve renumbering in some form. For example, St Mary’s Street was widened in 1883 and as part of the scheme Portland Place (previously a terrace) was incorporated into the new numbering system. Work was also carried out during those years in Rudgard’s Lane, Chapel Lane, Church Lane, Northgate, Brickyard Lane, Pottergate, Wordsworth Street, Bank Street, Westgate, Butchery Street [Clasketgate], Yarborough New Road, Carline Road, Motherby Lane and Newark Road. Whether any of these roads were renumbered has not been checked.
Where the numbering system changed from consecutive to odd/even, it is clear that thorough renumbering had taken place. The following roads in the 1857 Akrill’s directory had undergone this process by 1894 when compared to Ruddock’s directory of that year: