Swanage street name may be changed after complaint

A street name that a family holidaying in Swanage found offensive is set to be altered after they contacted Dorset Council.

Correspondence regarding the naming of Darkie Lane in Ulwell near Ulwell Holiday Park was received by Dorset Council, the local authority responsible for street naming.


In turn, it consulted Swanage Town Council and the matter was discussed at the planning committee on Monday 4th October 2021.

Darkie Lane in Swanage

Darkie Lane off Ulwell Road and the entrance to Ulwell Holiday Park

“Could very easily cause offence to others

In a letter to the town council, councillor Peter Wharf, cabinet member for corporate development and change at Dorset Council wrote:

“A family holidaying in Swanage have written to express their concern to find their accommodation on a street using a name that they found offensive and which they felt could very easily cause offence to others given our national history.

“The historic context for the name is purportedly innocent, relating to the lane being ‘dark’ and ‘shaded’ – though this does not avoid the potential for causing offence, particularly for visitors to the area who will likely be unaware of this context.

“Dorset Council’s Street Naming and Numbering Policy is clear that when naming new developments/streets it will not be acceptable to use a name that “could cause offence or be considered discriminatory particularly in regard to age, disability, race and ethnicity, faith and belief, sexual orientation, gender and sex” (Paragraph 5.2).

“Whilst the policy does not account for the circumstances of this specific case, the underlying principles regarding the naming of streets are that they be inclusive given the diversity of our communities and visitor populations.”

Darkie Lane in Swanage

The narrow lane with high hedgerows is shady and dark and it’s believed this is the origin of the name

Options put to Swanage Town Council

Before deciding on a course of action, Peter Wharf said that the council would like to hear the views of Swanage Town Council. The letter went on to say that the Dorset Council thought the options were:

  • Do nothing – leaving Darkie Lane as the official name
  • Change the name to Dark Lane to preserve the historic context, whilst minimising the potential for offence
  • Other – have you an alternative suggestion?
Swanage Street Directory 1934

Extract from Swanage Street Directory 1934

Old Swanage by William Masters Hardy 1908

Extract from the book, Old Swanage by William Masters Hardy published 1908

Darkie Lane was a fairly recent name change

At the Swanage Town Council planning meeting, the chair councillor Mike Bonfield asked councillors to consider the information that had subsequently been discovered that the road name Darkie Lane was a fairly recent name change.

Evidence was presented that showed that in the Swanage Street Directory of 1934, the road was called Dark Lane.

In the lease of Swanage Farm in 1909 a map showed the road as Dark Lane and also in the book Old Swanage by William Masters Hardy published in 1908 there’s a line that refers to leaving Swanage Farm and ‘going through Dark Lane’.

Darkie Lane in Swanage
Darkie Lane in Swanage

The lane has a number of old and historic cottages

“Reverting back to the original historical name”

Councillor Mike Bonfield said:

“I am against being forced to change things for the sake of it but I propose that reverting back to the original historical name of Dark Lane is a reasonable course of action.”

The proposal was voted for by a majority with only one councillor, Mike Whitwam voting against. Councillor Mike Whitwam said that he objected to political correctness for the sake of it.

Darkie Lane may now change back to Dark Lane. In common with many country lanes, the road doesn’t have a signpost and its name only appears on maps and satnavs.

There was no discussion or explanation in the meeting of why Dark Lane was changed after the 1930s to a word that was a derogatory term in the 1950/60s and viewed as offensive by 2000s.

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