Monday, 24 October 2016
Yeah butt, no butt...
The other day I had to give someone directions to the rear car park of the building where I work in Deptford. This involved a turn into New Butt Lane. This name possibly derives from archery butts - pieces of land where archers fired at targets set up in or on mounds of earth. In medieval times through into the Tudor / Stuart periods, archery practice became compulsory - in order that the male population would have the skills needed for when they were called up to go to war.
Many towns and cities have an area known as the Butts. However, the issue is complicated in that a butt can also simply refer to a strip of land - not necessarily one used for archery practice. Newington Butts, near Elephant and Castle, was often thought to be the site of an archery field, but there is no historical evidence to support this.
The fact that my local road is called New Butt Lane might suggest that this is one of the archery related places, if the "new" refers to the butt rather than to the lane.