Look closely and you’ll spot eight different alleyways named “gant” in modern-day Braintree. There’s the Leatherworkers Gant, Bird In Hand Gant, Hilly Gant, and Pig’s Head in the Pottage Pot Gant, to name a few, all of which wind between the tightly packed buildings ultimately leading to the old market square.
The use of “gant” is absolutely unique to the town of Braintree—you won’t find these curiously named passageways anywhere else in England. The word is derived from the Flemish word “gang,” meaning corridor. Flemish weavers brought the term over from the Low Countries when settling in Braintree in great numbers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, establishing the small Essex town as a major center for weaving.
Hilly Gant connects St Michaels church to New Street, and while it is now named after the 16th-century vicar of the church, Reverend John Hill, it was originally known as “Hell’s Gant,” because New Street was notorious at the time for its three pubs. These were The George, The Dragon, and The Three Tuns, which were known colloquially as “Little Hell,” “Great Hell,” and “Damnation.”
Perhaps the most intriguingly named “gant” of all is Pig’s Head In The Pottage Pot Gant… a bit of a mouthful. Deeds dating from 1753 refer to an inn on this corridor by the name of “Dogshead in the Porridge Pott.” A property by such name no longer exists here, however, and over the years the alley’s name has morphed into its current form.
Know Before You Go
The map coordinates point to a sign for Hilly Gant. The other seven "gants" can be found throughout Braintree near the center of town.