Monday, 2 January 2012

Sneck

SNECK is a word used in Scotland and Northern England either as a noun or a verb. It comes from Middle English and relates to a door fastening. My dictionary says it is the same as latch, but to me that isn't so. Remember the 1960s term "latch-key kids?" There is a whole different meaning: a latch is something you drop in order to lock the door. A sneck will certainly drop, but it won't lock. The only way you could stop someone getting in from the outside was to ram a stick or an iron bar through the sneck, which effectively jammed it shut.
The first pic shows the outer side of the door, the street side. This is on a pub door in Blanchland, and you grasp the handle and push down the sneck with your thumb - hey presto, the door opens!

This is the same thing, only fancier. This was on the Abbey door in Blanchland, which was was consecrated around 1146.
Set where the green fields turn to rising moorland, the whole village boasts a population of around 140 and was formed in the by then Bishop of Durham, out of the medieval abbey buildings. Click for more info on the Bishop, and here for more on Blanchland. evidently Blanchland hit the news in 1715 when Tom Forster, one of the Jacobite rebels, hid in the chimney of the Lord Crewe Arms, one of the oldest hostelries in England.
The third pic is inside of the church door, showing how the wood is much battered by the constant movement of the iron sneck as it is lifted and closed. Let it drop by accident, and the noise is horrific in the confines of a stone building!

The final pic is the other half of the very first picture; cruder, but essentially the same design on the inside of the Lord Crewe Arms. They're still in common use and though people use them without thinking, they don't always know what they're called.

2 comments:

Joanna Waugh said...

I was under the erroneous impression that "sneck" was the sound of the latch engaging -- as in, "he heard the latch sneck." Your post made me look it up. turns out, I was confusing "sneck" with "snick." Thanks for the heads up, Jen!

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