In Brighton they call them twittings; in Scotland
they are vennels, in Yorkshire people say ginnel. They can
be called snickets and jetties and twitches. In Nottinghamshire
they are known as twitchings. We call them ‘twittens’
and they are one of the best things about Lewes. I was always
told that ‘twitten’ was a derivation of ‘betwixt
and between’ but a consultation of the (biggest) Oxford
English Dictionary reveals this to be untrue. The word probably
derives from the Old English ‘twicen’ or ‘twitchel’
which meant a narrow passageway between two walls or hedges.
David Edy’s fascinating walks around the castle area
of Lewes end up examining these remarkable sloping alleyways
so particular to Lewes.
But there’s much more besides. Edy, a member of the
Sussex Archeological Group and an approved tour guide, loves
to paint a vivid picture of Lewes’ past using visual
clues from the buildings and monuments still around today.
He is a font of information, and once you go on one of his
walks you will never see the town in quite the same way again.
You will, for example, find out where the Victorian ‘lovers’
twisting’ spot was specially constructed for romantic
dalliance. Why Pipe Passage is called Pipe Passage. And countless
other fascinating facts. “I can tell you, for example,”
he tells us, “exactly where the chef from Bull House
used to sharpen his knives. And why the craze for mathematical
tiles in Victorian times created the traffic problems we have
in the High Street today.” Intrigued? We are. AL
Not a twitting, a twitching,
a snicket or a jetty or a twitch.
A Twitten, and a nice one at that