How would you cope if, every time someone asked you where you lived, you had no choice but to reply: "Bell End"? Let’s role-play some scenarios.
You: Hi, yeah, I’d like to place an order, please.
Dominos: Can I take your address?
You: [13 seconds of silence] Bell End Road.
You: Hi, yeah, I’d like to book a taxi, please.
Taxi guy: What’s the address?
You: It’s... number four.
Taxi guy: Number four what?
You: Number four *series of mumbles*. Taxi guy: Sorry, can you repeat that, mate?
You: Bell End Road.
Taxi guy: What did you just call me?
You: Haha, yeah, look, I know it’s weird, but it’s 4 Bell En—
Taxi guy: Sod off.
Teen boy: Look! It’s the bellend kid. Oi, bellend! Where do you live again?
You: Ugh, I’v—
Chorus of teen boys: BELLEND!!!!
Scenario 4 (bonus scenario):
Peter Kay: BELL? END????
What I'm saying is: maybe you’d have a hard time, living on Bell End. Not explaining Logan Paul to your parents hard, but a minor inconvenience, like thrush, or the phrase "unexpected item in the bagging area". Anyway, there’s this street in Rowley Regis called Bell End, and according to the news its residents are engaged in a Change.org petition war over whether or not to change it.
In one camp there are, at the time of writing, 80 people in favour of changing the name of the road to Bells End or something.
"As you may be aware," the petition begins, "the term 'Bell End' can be seen and used as a rude and/or a offensive word. As well as this, it can affect people and children including children being bullied and teased at school and generally now become a laughing stock as seen very recently on Facebook and other social media sites and it’s time for a change. Further to this, it’s one of the rudest road names in England! Feel free to Google and the results will confirm this."
I can confirm that "Bell End" does indeed appear on a 2014 Mirror listicle of the top ten rudest place names, coming fourth after Minge Lane, Slag Lane and Fanny Hands Lane. All of which are also completely inappropriate and not at all funny.
Meanwhile, there are well over 4,000 people backing a counter-petition to "Leave the Historic Name of Bell End Alone!" It was started by a woman called Linda George, who firmly believes the street is part of the local fabric.
"My Great Uncle's family lived and kept a shop there, long after his death in WWI," Linda writes. "Moving forward to today, none of the residents and locals and those that have long standing family connections, that are known to me want this pointless change and in fact find the suggestion that it should be changed, deeply offensive."
It all seems like a lot of fuss over a name that, at best, sounds like something out of a Lord of the Rings porn parody, but Sandwell council has promised to look at both petitions and their requests in detail. You’d think the whole 80 people vs 4,000+ people thing would settle it, but, in fairness, consider this: how many of those 4,000 signatures do you think are from people who have never been to the West Midlands in their life, but read about this in the news and chose to rally behind the noble cause of banter? I would throw in for at least half.
So, to form a true picture of the situation, we travelled to the Black Country to ask the good people of Bell End about one of Britain’s most "instinctively take a photo of it through the car window and draft a tweet which you will lose confidence in with every passing second and then delete" road signs.
VICE: Hello there. How long have you lived around here?
Chris: All my life.
What do you think about the road name "Bell End"?
I’m not really that bothered. It’s just a road name.
Have you heard anyone kicking up a fuss about it?
There was a group of people who come and done a documentary about the funny names of roads on YouTube or something, and it mentioned Bell End… but that’s all I know.
You’ve not known of anyone being picked on for living on Bell End or anything?
Load of rubbish then, is it?
Susan (works in a salon on Bell End)
How long have you worked here on Bell End?
Susan: Oh, about 26 years.
Do you get people in a lot asking about the road?
We do now, but not normally. When you order something and tell them the address, they do sort of do a double take. Especially the men. It’s usually easier to say "we’re at the top of Mincing Lane" [laughs].
Have you seen the petition going around to change it?
Yes! I’ve just opened this [holds up petition to change the street name].
How are you going to vote? Do you think they should change it?
No! It’s ridiculous! It’s just the name of a road, and if it’s bullying that’s the issue – which this says it is – it’s the bullying that’s the problem, not the road name. I did live over there as a little girl, and it was the same name then.
I’ve read it’s the name of an old colliery from the 1930s. Is that true?
Well, some years ago we had some road works. Three months, they had this road up. It was really troublesome for us. I asked how long it was going to go on for, and [one of the builders] said they’d discovered a five-foot deep tunnel they didn’t know was there. It wasn’t on the plans. It was Victorian, and it must’ve run from the colliery right across the road. They had to fill it in [phone rings]... one second. "Hello, B 65, Susan speaking, Bell End [bursts out laughing]. The Bell End Crew! Oh hello, Ann, you alright…"
I’ll have a chat with this guy while you’re doing that.
What are we up to today?
Dylan: Just getting a trim.
Nice. Do you live on the road yourself?
Nah, I don’t live around here.
Have you clocked the name of it?
Oh yeah. It’s daft, innit, really. I don’t think anybody takes any notice of it, really. Somebody was obviously bored and started a petition. No pictures, please – I haven’t had my hair done yet.
[Susan runs over]: Here, I’ll cover it for you.
Ishmael (left) and Tyrell (right)
Hello! Do you live on the street
Ishmael: He does, yeah.
Tyrell: I’ve lived here my whole live.
What do people normally say when you tell them your address?
Tyrell: They laugh. That’s it! Most of the time they don’t think I’m being serious.
Have you seen the petitions going around to change the name of the street?
Tyrell: Nah, there’s no petitions.
There’s online to change it because it’s rude and kids are getting bullied, apparently.
Tyrell: Personally, I find that stupid. I don’t think it should change! The only reaction I’ve ever gotten out of it is people either laughing or not believing me.
Ishmael: To be fair, when I first heard of his road I started laughing.
Tyrell: Every time I give him my details he’s laughing.
Donna and Shaun
Hello there, sorry to interrupt your quiet afternoon pints, but do you live around here?**Donna:** Local-ish, yeah.
Are you aware of the name of the road just across from us?
Donna: We started coming here recently and were only talking about it the other week, weren’t we? I said, "Oh the name of the road, Bell End" [giggles]. It’s more of a joke than anything, you know?
Bit of Carry On humour for passers-by.
Chris: You’re right there, yeah!
Have you heard of there being a lot of school bullying over it?
Donna: Kids are cruel, to be fair.
Chris: The way children are today, you can expect that a little bit.
Do you think it’s worth changing the name for any reason?
Donna: Not at all.
Chris: They’re making a mountain out of a molehill, I think.
Ruth (left) and Caroline (right)
Hello, good women of the pub. you work opposite Bell End. You must know something about the petition war to change its name.
Ruth: Oh yeah! Caroline, you know they were on about changing the name of that lovely-named road?
Caroline: Oh, Bell... Bell End [laughs]. Yeah, I live there! I moved there the start of the summer. I don’t see the point in changing it, honestly. It’s been there for ages. You move there – you know what it’s called to begin with. It’s daft.
Do people giggle a bit on the phone when you’re trying to order food.
Caroline: Yes… or when I order my clothes over the phone and it gets to the address bit and I have to be like, "I promise I’m not swearing at you!" It’s a bit awkward, but it’s fine, really. It’s just a bit of a laugh.
Do you see people pulling over to take photos with it often?
Caroline: Not that I know of, but I don’t really pay attention to it, to be honest. There’s a few roads around here with quite dodgy names, like Mincing Lane and stuff.
Ruth: Doesn’t it have historical meaning? I’ve heard it’s to do with an old mine, but I’m not sure how true that is. But if you live there and you’re not bothered…
Caroline: I’m literally not fussed at all.
Ruth: It’s quite a conversation starter, isn’t it! If you’re a bit lonely, like.
Caroline: Jade is quite passionate about it, isn’t she? She posted on Facebook about the petition not to change the name. Hang on. Jade!
Hello, Jade! I hear you have some strong opinions on Bell End road.
Jade: Yeah! I’m very much in favour of drawing a line between someone’s culture, someone being offended about that culture, and actually being offensive. If you think about it, bell end is obviously a rude word. But it never used to be a rude word. There’s a pub called The Cock Inn up the road. It doesn’t mean what the public perceive it to be.
That’s a good point, actually. Lots of pubs have extremely naughty names. Do you know much about the history of the name?
Wasn’t it something to do with the church bell? There’s a church on Bell End road that had a pretty iconic bell – you could hear it all the way down the road.
What do you think about the petition to rename Bell End?
It’s being extra. To put it simply. If you’re genuinely offended for the right reasons then go ahead, petition all you want, but the person who started it owns a shop down the road and apparently they can’t get as much revenue or public advertising because of where they’re located. Granted, you want to get your business going, but you shouldn’t impeach on everyone else’s comfort.
So the all the stuff about kids being bullied about it is… rubbish?
Oh, it’s such a lie! There’s two high schools on either side – I’m still in high school, I go to a sixth form, and plenty of kids are from here. I’ve never heard of anyone being bullied over it and I’ve lived here all my life. Everyone just finds it funny. If it was for genuine moral reasons, surely the multitude of churches in the area would have complained about it already. There are plenty of worse sign names in the world....
It is only the fourth rudest road name in Britain, after all.
The [cast of the] Inbetweeners took a picture with it not that long ago! They were going around to stupid road names in Britain for Comic Relief. There’s a picture of them standing by the sign, and also a picture of them outside The Cock Inn.
So: there you have it. The people of Bell End have spoken and they either don't care, weren’t even aware of the alleged local beef until we travelled three hours from London to bother them about it, or think it’s daft. Plus, let’s be honest, even if it does get renamed people are just going to refer to it as "the street that used to be Bell End" anyway.