In York they are snickelways, in Liverpool jiggers, in Plymouth opes and in Northern England ginnels and here in Worthing we know them as twittens.
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines a twitten as “a narrow path or passage between two walls or hedges” – perhaps related to Low German twiete for alley or lane. In 1875 William Douglas Parish placed twitten firmly in Sussex in his A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect and Collection of Provincialisms in use in the County of Sussex. Another suggestion is twitten is a corruption of betwixt and between.
Whatever the derivation Worthing has a long history of twittens which hit the headlines in 2012 when access to one was stopped. Library Place connecting Warwick Street to the seafront running through the Stagecoach bus garage was closed on health and safety grounds. The twitten dated back to the 1790s and was thought to have been used by Jane Austen when she stayed at Stanford’s Cottage (now the Pizza Express) in Warwick Street. The threat of closure prompted a public enquiry.
Do you have a twitten near you? If so Jan Green of Transition Town Worthing (TTW) would like to hear from you as the TTW Transport Group is trying to organise, print and publish a twitten map for residents and visitors. Jan says there are a great many twittens in the town and they do not want to miss any off the map. Please let Jan know the location (between which roads) and any name given to the twitten – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org with “Twitten Map” in the subject heading.
It is thought that Jane Austen’s last novel Sanditon was based on Worthing but the work was unfinished. Worthing Daily commends the work Transition Town Worthing are doing mapping our twittens – be an alley cat and make sure you help them finish.