Inside York

The Snickelways, York

The Snickelways of York (often misspelt Snickleways) are a collection of small streets and footpaths in the city of York, England. The word Snickelway was coined by local author Mark W Jones in 1983 in his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, and is a portmanteau of the words snicket (a passageway between walls or fences), ginnel (a narrow passageway between or through buildings) and alleyway (a narrow street or lane - see alley). Although the word is a neologism, it quickly became part of the local vocabulary, and has even been used in official council documents, for example when giving notice of temporary footpath closures.

The Snickelways themselves are usually small paths or lanes between buildings, not wide enough for a vehicle to pass down, and usually public rights of way. Mark Jones provides the following definition for them:-

"A Snickelway is a narrow place to walk along, leading from somewhere to somewhere else, usually in a town or city, especially in the city of York."

York has many such paths, mostly mediaeval, though there are some modern paths as well. They have names like any other city street, often quirky names such as Mad Alice Lane, Hornpot Lane Nether and even Finkle Street (formerly Mucky Peg Lane). There are similar streets and paths in other British towns and cities, often with their own dialect names. For example, they are known as Opes in Plymouth, Chares in the towns of North-east England, Jiggers in Liverpool and Twittens in Tunbridge Wells.

In 1983, local author Mark W Jones devised a walk taking in 50 Snickelways within the city walls. He wrote and published a book, A Walk around the Snickelways of York, describing the walk. This soon became a local bestseller. The book was unusual in being completely hand-written rather than using printed text, with hand-drawn illustrations, a technique which Jones explicitly acknowledged as inspired by the Pictorial Guides of Alfred Wainwright. At least eight editions of the book have been published, each revision incorporating necessary changes, such as the closure of Snickelways which were not public rights of way or the opening of new paths.

The popularity of the book led to the author being called to present talks on the Snickelways, complete with a slide show. This in turn led to the publication in 1991 of an expanded, hardback book, The Complete Snickelways of York. This combined the original hand-written text with printed text and photographs. It also included information about Snickelways and other footpaths in the suburbs of York.

(Above text taken from Wikipedia.org, if you are interested in helping contribute articles for Inside York - please contact us.)

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