I walked through the city centre the other day and remembered an old newspaper article that spoke of Pinson Lane in 1736, and later became Pinstone Street.
The article from 1927 was written by Harold Rowley who suggested that Pinstone Street may have had some connection with Penistone, once a common surname in the district, but had once been called Pincher Croft, which hinted it may have had some connection with Barker’s Pool, being originally Pitcher Croft.
When I got home, I referred to Sidney Oldall Addy’s ‘The Hall of Waltheof’ or ‘The Early Condition and Settlement of Hallamshire’ from 1893.
“We have few ‘lanes’ in Sheffield now. The popular idea seems to be that there is something mean and insignificant in a lane, and hence Pinson Lane now bears the grander name of Pinstone Street.
Old inhabitants of Sheffield speak of Pinson Lane. Gosling writes it Pinson Lane in 1736, and I find a croft called Pincencroft Len in a document dated 1554.
Pincen is probably the surname Pinson, so that Pincencroft is exactly analogous to Colson Crofts, Sims Croft, Scargill Croft, and Hawley Croft, which are derived from surnames.
The word ‘len’ in Pincencroft Len is not our ‘lane’ but the Old Norse lén, a. fief, or fee, a piece of freehold, or land held in fee simple. Thus, the meaning is Pinson Croft freehold. The croft acquired the name of the person or the family—the Pinsons—who once held it, and then it afterwards became known as the Pinsoncroft ‘len’ or fee.”
Mr Rowley also mentions that the old name for the Fargate end of Pinstone Street was once called Sowmouth, popularly explained because it tapered and grew narrower. However, he says, this was evidently wrong, because Sowmouth meant a door or opening.
I didn’t know this, but I referred to Robert Eadon Leader’s ‘Reminiscences of Old Sheffield: Its Streets and its people’ (1876) and found the following passage from Richard Leonard: –
“Forty years ago, there were one or two trees growing on the property of Mr Withers, in Pinstone Street. A passage leading from Fargate to New Church Street, was a favourite playground of the boys of those days and boasted the name of ‘Sow Mouth.’”
(New Church Street ran parallel to modern-day Surrey Street and was lost underneath the Town Hall when it was built in 1890-1897).
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