A history and a debate: Chippy Lane or Chippy Alley

January 20, 2011 11 Comments »
A history and a debate: Chippy Lane or Chippy Alley

caroline street takeaways

The arrest of Craig Bellamy was a hot topic last week, but online where the incident took place generated the most debate.

The alleged assault was said to have taken place on Caroline Street, informally known as ‘Chippy Lane’, but the street also goes by the name of ‘Chippy Alley’, much to the confusion of the masses.

Those commenting online in the debate claimed those who were born and raised in Cardiff referred to it as Chip Lane while ‘foreigners’, or those from outside Cardiff, knew it as Chip Alley.

Jim Cowan, who runs guided tours of Cardiff, said the street was named after Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of King George IV: “The next street down from Caroline Street was Charlotte Street; Charlotte was Princess Charlotte of Wales, Caroline’s daughter.

Jim also drew likenesses between Caroline and Princess Diana: “When Caroline died, there was a great outpouring of grief. Caroline and Charlotte were loved by the masses, but Caroline had a scandalous marriage to King George, he was basically drunk all the time. In a way, Caroline Street’s riotous reputation is somewhat linked to its history!”

The tour guide, originally from Newport, told how the street has not always been populated by takeaways: “It seemed to have been very much a trading street, butchers, cobblers, all kinds of miscellaneous shops and trades.”

He also added another dimension to the debate, adding it was not ‘chippy’, but ‘chip’: “Chip Alley is definitely part of the Cardiff culture. It’s only in the last 50 years that it’s had a reputation of being a ‘chip alley’. I’ve never known it as Chip Lane.”

Hywel Thomas, PR manager for Cardiff & Co, a company that ‘helps promote Cardiff to the world’ was also insistent in his stance: “It’s definitely not Chip Lane, I can tell you that for a fact. I’m born and bred in the city and it’s Caroline Street or Chip Alley, definitely not Chip Lane.

“It’s part of the city’s character. The city would probably be dull without it, wouldn’t it?”

The original post on YourCardiff saw a vote go in favour of  ‘Chippy Lane’, with nearly half of the 250 votes claiming that was the correct choice.

Delmi Thomas on why it’s Chippy Alley…

As someone who was born and bred in West Wales and only moved to Cardiff in 2001, it could be argued that it’s not really my or other Cardiffised ex-students place to comment on what certain streets should be referred to as in the capital.

Would we like it if citizens of Ely and Roath turned up at our parents houses, calling them bra and rechristening areas right left and centre? Of course not, however with Chippy Alley I firmly believe these rules do not apply.

Older Cardiff residents may refer to it as Caroline Street, others Chippy Lane but I’d argue that their longer affinity with the city is blinding them as to that stretch of tarmac’s true place in the local lingo.

My problem is this: Caroline St sounds quite lovely, a street filled with coffee shops perhaps, where girls smile as you walk past and boys on bikes say sorry if they accidentally cycle too close.

Chippy Lane to me sounds like a fantasy from a child’s novel like a land made of chocolate, let’s go to Chippy Lane where the streetlamps are made of potatoes and the puddles are vinegar.

Chippy Alley however sounds like the place you’d go to in the early hours of Saturday morning if you want to finish your night off with a smack in the face and diarrhoea.

Unblinded by the affection borne of an upbringing here, newly Cardiffian eyes see the truth, even though it may hurt, and that’s why I’m not sorry to nail my colours to the Chippy Alley mast. Although for some reason I’m hungry now.

Delmi Thomas lives in Canton, is 27 and works as a freelancer in tv and film industry.

Jen Thornton on why it’s Chippy Lane…

When I arrived in Cardiff to start university I didn’t know much about the city at all.

Lots of my fellow students told me that they go to Chippy Alley after a night out. As a young, impressionable student I just said what I heard, and adopted the Chippy Alley variant. Not to mention that I’m originally from Merseyside, where we add a ‘y’ to the end of everything!

It wasn’t until after university that my eyes were opened. I mentioned Chippy Alley on a work night out, and the ‘real’ Cardiffians I was with turned as one and scowled. “It’s not Chippy Alley,” they said, “Only foreigners say that!”

Well, that told me.

The argument does seem to centre on whether or not one is ‘Proper Kardiff’. It would seem that we are united on considering Chippy Alley to be the preference of ‘foreigners’ (i.e. students and people from the wider South Wales area) but there are two camps still fighting over whether true Cardiffians refer to Chippy Lane or simply Caroline Street.

Although I can see the argument for Caroline Street – it is, after all, the street’s official name – I really enjoy community spirit, and having a popular name for a popular place is definitely a shining example of that.

Who cares if Charlotte Church coined Chippy Lane? She’s part of our community too.

Jen Thornton is 25, lives in Grangetown and works in PR & Marketing in the Arts

What takeaway owners on Caroline Street had to say

Adel Sfendji, Tony’s Fish & Chip Bar: “It’s Chippy Lane, it used to be Alley, but it’s all changed down here.”

Raz Naeem, Griller: “It’s Chippy Lane, I’ve always known it as that. Always.”

Mehti Kalnitri, Fish & Chip Shop: “It’s definitely Chip Lane. But, some others do seem to call it Chip Alley.”

Image credit to Andrew Wilcox

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  1. @jarede January 20, 2011 at 9:35 am - Reply

    As a lad of Cardiff for 20 odd years, I have never ever heard it referenced to as chip alley but always chippy lane.

    • John Maynard January 20, 2011 at 11:44 am - Reply

      When I was a teenager 52 years ago, it wasn't 'chippy' alley at all. Way back then Caroline Street was known for its 'dirty' bookshops and was rumoured to be a place where prostitutes plied their trade at night. It also had a Chinese restaurant and i had my first chinese meal there – chicken chow mein.

  2. The vicar January 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    When I frequented Cardiff city centre in the 1990's, Caroline Street was well known as 'Salmonella alley'. As a microbiologist, I'm not sure if that was based on an official outbreak in the past, or just a derisory term!

  3. The vicar January 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Disappointed my comment wasn't posted. Talk about the media changing history! If it was called Salmonella alley, that's what it was called. History we feel uncomfortable with can't be erased.
    I feel a letter coming on…..

  4. Mandi0404 January 25, 2011 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Chippy Lane, I'm 33 and even my Grandfather would call it Chippy Lane when we went shopping in town when I was a child!

  5. roy November 15, 2011 at 9:24 am - Reply

    can anyone tell me how to find out if caroline street was a two way road prior to it being a one way then a pedestrian i have eaten here for many years and never had any problems

  6. kimmy March 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    im 22 my mother is 60 and we call it chippy lane. it has always been known as that. when i was at college all the students called it chippy lane. a whole college of people cant be wrong can it?

  7. lisa February 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    i agree "the vicar", it was salmonella alley :)

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