In the mid 1990s, when political correctness was revealing to the world how reckless we had been with regard to language, a rash of street names were changed to fit in with a more progressive and tolerant world view. One of these now sits in Newtown, Powys as evidence of this second enlightenment. Until 1998 the name of Frolic street revealed a lot more about the origins of the town than it does now.
The use of the block as a unit of measurement comes from the Sanskrit word Bolic (Norman spelling) meaning compact mass. When Edward the 1st commissioned the building of Newtown in the 13th century he ordered that it be the most modern of towns in both its construction and administration.
It would be a shining beacon of the order and majesty his rule would impose on a warring nation. His trusted Lieutenant Roger de Montgomerie was given the task of delivering this halcyon marketplace for the people. The theory at the time was that the people could be won over by the simple act of their monarch making something that worked. Most towns at the time were higgledy piggledy arrangements of festering hovels which had sprung up, seemingly from the soil on which they stood. They were nothing short of pestilential hell holes, awash with corruption of the body politic and the very souls of the denizens therein.
A town with a plan now there was a thing. Roger immediately set about his task with great relish and decided to base his “Newtown” on the great municipalities of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation. In the 13th century tales were just beginning to spread through Christendom of a long dead race who’s towns and cities functioned like the most delicate of puzzles yet had the robust power of the fiercest war machines.
The basis of his crowning glory, Roger decided, was to be the city block. A compact unit of dwellings and mercantile space, it was to form the foundation on which this “heaven on earth” was built. In honour of this method of town planning a street was named. Bolic street stood proudly until 1998 when fearful of potential offence, bearing in mind the current usage of the word, the county council voted for the name change.
To this day Frolic street stands as a reminder of how political correctness has saved us from many, many mistakes of the past. It shows us how we can update and reinterpret some of our more distasteful legacies and make them not only symbolic of history (sounds like Bolic) but also fun into the bargain.