The road to
Catterick, still a garrison town (though even that is not what it once was), appears on Claudius Ptolomy‘s map of AD150. Not as a military post (which it already was) but as a marker between climatic zones.
Redfellow Hovel is just off the modern A19 road. Once upon time: Dere Street. I had always assumed the line of this continuation of the Great North Road, on from its coaching-days terminus in York, followed that of the Roman road from Eboracum to Catterick and points north:
The British History website (from which I ripped that map, above) corrects me:
Road 5, from the N.W., enters the city at a point 275 ft. S. of Shipton Road (N.G. 588533). Its course from the lane at the back of the Homestead Gardens to Water End (N.G. 58955315 to N.G. 59135291) was formerly marked by a parish boundary, now obsolete (see 60 ins. O.S. (1853), Sheet 4) but the laying out of the Gardens has obliterated both road and boundary. Opposite the entrance to the Gardens in Water End the road was exposed in 1893 in a sewer trench at a depth of 1½ ft. (O.S., Object Namebook, Sheet 174 N.W. plan 6, 137); it was 24 ft. wide. S.E. of Water End the road was marked by another parish boundary, now also obsolete and represented by the boundary between the grounds of Clifton Croft and the back gardens of houses in Westminster Road; this continued the original alignment for 175 ft., then, after a slight change of direction at the N. end of the outbuildings of Clifton Croft (N.G. 59145288), it marked the road for another 690 ft. to N.G. 593527. Some 770 ft. further S.E. on the same alignment the road was found in 1954 in a position 26 ft. N.E. of St. Peter’s School Swimming Baths (N.G. 59455256); it was composed of cobbles and clay and approximately 25 ft. wide (YPSR (1954), 13–8). Prolongation of the line would pass through the gateway of St. Mary’s Abbey; according to a 13th-century document quoted by T. Widdrington (Analecta Eboracensia (ed. C. Caine, 1897), 121–2), the abbey grounds included the site of an ancient street. The road was clearly designed to pass in front of the fortress, to the S.W. gate and the river crossing before it.
I still take the short-cut through the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey, across the outline of the abbey chancel, and across the (now) York Museum Gardens, and so into Lyndal and Coney Street.
Usually the A19, coming into York, is a static car-park, particularly so when the bourgeoisie are delivering or collecting their spawn from the two prestigious private schools either side of Redfellow Hovel.
This morning we headed out, and — mirabile dictu! — the road was clear. This prompted the thought that the godless English respect (by non-observance, and staying at home) only two main Christian occasions: Christmas Day and Good Friday. The first because there’s little ‘news’ (outside the Murdoch press). The second because it’s a sombre sort of Sunday — and, until recently, it was Sunday opening hours at the pubs (noon to 2:30pm and 7pm to 10:30pm).
But why is this Friday ‘Good’?
It seems to have been ‘Good Friday’ since the time of Edward I Longshanks.
Around 1300 we have a version of St John’s Gospel:
A-morewe, ase on þe guode friday, ase he deide on þe rode.
However, the OED predates that with a Dutch Goede Vrijdag from around 1240.
But still no clue about the day’s ‘goodness’.
Friday is, in superstition, on balance a ‘bad’ day, not only because of the Crucifixion, but because it was also supposed to be the day Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. The Hatton Manuscript in the Bodleian has this, from the 11th century (my Wessex dialect of Saxon being … err … a bit rusty, in modern English:
If he be born on Friday or its night, he shall be accursed of all men, silly, and crafty, and loathsomevto all men, and shall ever be thinking evil in his heart, and shall be a thief and a great coward, and shall not live longermthan to mid age.
I’ll hard many sermons, preached today, will offer that as an ‘expalnation’. It is as likely be followed bty a frolic on the German Karfreitag, with a derivation from the High German for wail, sorrow or lamentation. Since many German Lander retain laws banning entertainments and sports on Karfreitag — and enforce them — I see that point. My study of philology in many decades past, but I do not instantly see why the different ‘O’ sounds in God and good could easily be confounded.
I suggest there is an easier explanation for ‘Good Friday’. It’s an extreme form of litotes (‘a rhetorical understatement in which a negative is substituted for a positive’) or meiosis (‘lessening’). This involves the use of euphemism for a harsh truth.
So, I’ll correct my opening statement. Just after breakfast time this morning, the A19 road through Clifton and Bootham was clear of traffic. This afternoon, the Lady in my Life informs me, the centre of York is solid with bodies. The Brigantes (the tribe that inhabit these parts in Roman days) are indulging in their modern religious observance of retail therapy.
Then, and only then …
… did I reach down my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1970 edition. Nothing on ‘Good Friday’, but there’s this:
The name given in Scotland to a strip of land or corner of a field left untilled in the belief that unless such a place were left, the Devil (called Goodman as a propitiatory gesture) would spoil the crop.
Sure enough, that’s there in the OED, with a citation from 1650:
It was demandit if ther wer..heir..any plot of land unlabored, dedicat to the dewill, called the gudman‘s croft.
As for ‘goodman’, after a long listing of usages for, among others, ‘landlord’, the OED has:
7. Scottish. euphemistic.
The devil. In later use frequently in the auld goodman. Now archaic and hist.