'Laine', 'laines' or 'lane'?

Researching the origin

By Peter Crowhurst, North Laine resident

Like many residents of North Laine, I get extremely irritated when people use the spelling 'Lane' instead of what I think should be 'Laine'. I am pleased that we are North Laine, to differentiate us from the 'Lanes' of the old town. It helps to make us special and helps to define our community.

We're a product of our past

I see (perhaps harshly) the use of 'Lane' as displaying an ignorance about the origins of our area and, as a student and teacher of history, I believe it is important that people should understand where they have come from, both in terms of their family history and in terms of their own environment. We are after all a product of our past and in order to fully understand the environment in which we live we should know a little of its history.

Is it just a variant of 'lane'?

Graeme Davis in his article elsewhere on this website challenges whether we are right in using the 'laine' spelling and makes the point that 'laine 'may simply be a variant of the word  'lane'  and that it means a long thin strip of land.

What do the maps say?

When one looks at the documents, the majority use the term 'laine'. The 1792 Terrier map uses the spelling 'laine' as does Sawyers 1815 map but Marchant's 1808 map uses 'laines' to refer to West Laines and East Laines. I have not been able to find any textual references to North Laine.  Text references to the area use terms such as 'the northwest part of the town' (Jenks in 1842).

Secondary sources

A look at secondary works reveals that most authors use the 'laine' spelling. In her most recent book Georgian Brighton, Sue Berry uses 'laine' whilst Timothy Carder in The Encyclopaedia of Brighton takes the view that the word 'laine' is Anglo-Saxon in origin. In An Historical Atlas of Sussex, edited by Kim Leslie and Brian Short, there is a map of Brighton which uses the spelling 'laine'.

Understanding the development of the area

Whether it is 'laine' or 'lane', knowing why we use the spelling 'laine' makes it more likely that we will question the spelling and go on to understand the development of the area and why the street pattern is as it is. It will also explain why the area has been one of mixed use, as well as the very nature of change in North Laine.

Add your comments

You can add your own comments about this issue below or alternatively at the bottom of Graeme Davis' page.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 194, Sept/Oct 2008]

This page was added on 12/10/2008.

Considering the spelling of 'Laine' and the suggestion of Anglo-Saxon origins, there is an Anglo-Saxon derivative in the word 'laene' which can translate into the Latin 'commodore' and in turn into modern English 'loan'. Now, the term 'loan' can also mean the holding/tenancy of a piece of land so it could refer to a section of land i.e. the north section of tenanted land around, say, a village such as Beorhthelmes tun.

On the other hand, never forget the variety in spelling up until standardization in late Victorian times!

By Jan Malenczak
On 08/06/2016

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