Multitude were the towns and cities of England that had streets bearing this loathsome name. London led the way with this for prostitution, hence the crude name was rife in our green and pleasant lands but nowhere more so than the nation's capital. Being the worlds oldest profession, the ladies plying their trade were not backward in coming forward, not slow on spotting where best to make money. It was Southwark where the entrepreneurial whores began offering their underparts for the pleasure of all and any in need of sexual gratification. Such was the success of this business venture that the name along with the practice soon spread. Smithfield, Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and, where more than one kind of nob hung out, Westminster saw the sex trade flourish.
Although Gropecunt Lane has seen its graphic, indecent yet descriptive name altered over the years until now what exists is unrecognisable to what once was, that has not happened with Cock Lane. It is a lane that has retained its name and still leads folk from Giltspur Street to Snow Hill. I can only surmise that having sexual organs used for street names along with the functions taking place in them was seen as better than having Fuck Lane. Why? I cannot say. Perhaps even people of medieval times had certain standards.
Of course, Love Lane was another, far gentler and less coarse pseudonym for the activity taking place. We even have a Love Lane in a town near where I live. Hard to believe it was a road that allowed lust and fornication to take place as it runs parallel to a Salvation Army Citadel.
Firstly though we should see the word cunt in the context of the times it was used. Geoffrey Chaucer, in his 'The Millers Tale', uses the word as does Philotus with this "put doun thy hand and graip hir cunt." Cunt would have been thought of as vulgar but not obscene. It was rather like having someone say arse rather than the genteel backside or bottom.
It wasn't just London though that capitalised on the salty business of whoredom, Newcastle and Bristol both had their Gropecunt Lane's as did York, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Norwich, Hereford and that seat of learning, Oxford.
By the 14th century, the street name fell out of favour and has since been amended. It is not Gropecunt Lane that I like best though. That dubious privilege goes to Tickle Cock Bridge. It was, still is although rebuilt and modernised in recent years, a pedestrian underpass in Castleford. Since its refurbishment Tickle Cock was changed to the more decorous Tittle Cott. However, local residents disliked the loss of historical reference insisting the former name be used. Nowadays one can pass under the road in Castleford via Tickle Cock Bridge although one can no longer enjoy the pleasure once found there.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.