Something that visitors (especially from the United States) to Britain find confusing (apparently) is our system of house numbering. You hear anecdotes such as “I was looking for number 127, so walked down the even side of the street to 126 and crossed over. But the house opposite 126 wasn’t 127 at all. It was 233 – I’d missed 127 half a mile back”.
It’s quite simple really. Buildings are numbered in sequential order, odds on one side and evens on the other.
However, plot sizes are not all the same. Buildings on one side of the road could have wider frontages, or there could be a large building such as a school or office block. Road junctions can take up the space of several houses. So yes, by the time you get to 127 on one side, the house numbering on the other could well be out-of-synch.
So why do we have odds on one side and evens on the other? It means that the postman can walk all down one side to deliver to the odd-numbered houses, and then back up the other to deliver to the even-numbered. Saves having to keep crossing the road.
Of course, there are numerous examples where this convention doesn’t apply. I’m sure we’ve all been caught out looking for a house that apparently doesn’t exist. I was once looking for a number 18. The street numbers started off conventionally enough – 2, 4, 6, 8 10. Then there was an alleyway leading to a set of garages so, of course, the house after the alley would be number 12. It wasn’t. It was number 32. No, it wasn’t Diagon Alley. Where had ten houses gone? I walked down the alley and found more houses. Numbers 14, 16 and, er, 20. I then spied a small footway that led to… number 22. But hidden round a corner and down another passageway (and by now I no longer felt that I was in the original street at all) I found number 18.
One of the streets in the town where I live has an interesting quirk. Halfway along, the house numbers reset to 1. The reason? The road name changes from “Newbury Street” to “Newbury Road”. No warning, no indication – not even any street name signs. Just a change in house numbering. The road name changes, incidentally, because that is the limit of the medieval town. “Street” for thoroughfares inside the town; “road” for those outside. All the roads leading out of the town do this – but it’s only Newbury Street / Road where the house numbers start again from 1.
Would any other country use a building numbering system (or variety of systems) that is so complicated that signs such as these were needed?
What’s happened to house numbers 22 to 31?
Oh, you get to those via another road –
Odd numbers between 25 and 27?
This one confuses me – what other odd numbers are there between 25 and 27?
I once did some work on an IT system for a commercial estate agency. In the world of commercial buildings things can get even more complicated. For example, the occupier of an office block might rename the building after the company – Amalgamated Durables House, for example. But if the occupier changes, the name of the building will change – so you have a different address for the same building. At the other end of the scale, the building might be knocked down and rebuilt to a different design. So now you have a different building with the same address.