[picappgallerysingle id="74425" align="center"]Hmmm…quite a lot, actually.
I’ve read loads of articles about ‘silly’ English place names such as Lower Piddle, Pratt’s Bottom, Doddiscombsleigh, Wigtwizzle and the like. I love them, but then I was taught to love them by my wonderful father who used to make up long poems about the places we drove through on our journey to the seaside each summer. A man who would willingly make a five-mile detour just so he could add the line “then through Broughton Poggs, where the men bite dogs” to his rhyme. Silly, silly, lovely poet of a Daddy.
But many English Place names are incredibly logical; a fact that seems to have passed most of my American friends by. So I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of some of them…
Stratford-upon-Avon – okay, an easy one to start with. The river Avon flows through Stratford and the town of Stratford grew around it (or ‘upon’ it).
Brentford – A ford is a crossing-place in a river, and so Brentford is a shallow crossing place in the river Brent. There are lots of place names ending in ford. Usually the first bit refers to the name of the river the ford crosses, but occasionally it can refer to other things, such as Oxford, which is thought to refer to a ford where oxen used to cross the river – “Oxenford”.
Yarmouth – A mouth is where a river flows into the sea, so Yarmouth is the town where the river Yar flows into the sea and many other coastal towns share this nomenclature, for example Exmouth, Cockermouth and Bournemouth.
Hebden Bridge – This one is pretty straightforward; a settlement which grew around a bridge built over the River Hebden where packhorses used to cross. Edenbridge is so-named for the same reason. However, Cambridge is a little trickier! The river Cam does indeed flow through Cambridge (and yes, there is a bridge). But the river used to be called the Granta, so they actually renamed the river after the town this time!
Swindon – Anywhere called “something-don” will be on a hill, as the word “dun” in Anglo Saxon meant hill. Swindon (pronounced Swindun) was Swines Hill, where pigs were kept. Huntingdon was “Hunter’s Hill”.
Hunstanton – Places ending in “ton” or “by” were probably farms that grew over time into villages. Hunstanton is Hunstan’s farm. Colby was Koli’s farm. There are a THOUSANDS of these!
Ousden – “den” was a valley, and Ousden was “Owl’s valley”.
There are so many origins of English words, that there is no straightforward guide, really, but I’ve tried to list a few that are common to help you see why English place names are…how they are. So hopefully when you take a vacation in, say, Devon and you stay in Lynton or Lynmouth you’ll easily remember that Lynton is the village at the top of the hill and Lynmouth is the one down the hill where the river Lyn flows into the sea. Easy-peasy.
And Broughton Poggs? Originally Brocturn Pogeys, an “enclosure by the stream” belonging to the Pogeys family.
Just don’t ask me about Pratt’s Bottom, eh?