Play­ing the nam­ing game…

House names are re­veal­ing even if you’ve ‘dun­roamin’, says Adam Ed­wards

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - CHANGINGPL­ACES -

The house is called Dun­bankin and last month Stan­ley Ru­bin, from Manch­ester, wrote to the let­ters ed­i­tor of The Daily Tele­graph point­ing out the apt­ness of the name in the cur­rent eco­nomic cri­sis.

He was not alone in not­ing a per­ti­nent prop­erty moniker. Bar­bara Bor­ring­ton from Der­byshire saw a house in Hors­forth, Leeds, called Kantafordy­t, while an­other reader spot­ted The Bank’s. Dr John Glad­stone said his mother had crossed out one of the Os in his home, Stoney­brooke, while Brian Arm­strong wrote from Saudi Ara­bia to say that friends of his lived in a base­ment flat in Lon­don called Wuther­ing Depths.

David Hill, from Hamp­shire, wrote to ask if it was “an in­di­ca­tion of Bri­tish­ness” that at a time of po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial may­hem The Daily Tele­graph de­voted its let­ters page “to the quirky names we give to our houses”.

And the an­swer to David Hill’s ques­tion is yes.

The Bri­tish house name is res­o­nant of this is­land’s cul­ture. It has even been nom­i­nated as an icon of Eng­land by the Depart­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport.

“House nam­ing is a hugely pop­u­lar English custom,” states the Icons of Eng­land web­site. “It may all have be­gun with the Halls and Manors of the gen­try, but since our homes are prover­bially our cas­tles, many of the rest of us have been drawn to giv­ing a name to the fam­ily pile, be it ever so hum­ble.”

It was a let­ter about the house name Bal­labaalamb on the Isle of Man that prompted the flurry of cor­re­spon­dence to the let­ters’ ed­i­tor.

John Shaw fol­lowed up the orig­i­nal mis­sive to say that dur­ing the years that he strug­gled with a mort­gage his house was called Mill­stone. He changed the name to Mile­stone when the money was paid off. Stephen Wood­bridge Smith mean­while claimed to live in a house called The An­swer – he added “but I don’t know what it is”.

The his­tory of Bri­tish house names can be traced to the Ro­man grandees whose vil­las were given ti­tles like Villa Faus­tini, Villa Magna and Villa Ros­trata.

Later, when Bri­tons emerged from the Dark Ages world of me­dieval cas­tles to the castel­lated manor house, the prop­erty name tended to­wards lo­ca­tion (for ex­am­ple Belvoir Cas­tle over­look­ing the Belvoir Val­ley) or one’s fam­ily an­ces­tors (Cas­tle Howard af­ter the Howard fam­ily). Then, when the bour­geoisie be­gan to move into their own smaller vil­las, names like High­lands, Broad­lands and Belmont also tended af­ter lo­ca­tion.

“In the late-19th cen­tury, the less pros­per­ous mid­dle classes be­gan to colonise sub­ur­bia and they tended to choose diminu­tives to dig­nify their bay-fronted semis and ter­races,” says Joyce Miles in her book Owl’s Hoot: How Peo­ple Name Their Houses. “Villa be­came ville in names like Ro­seville and Woodville. Fern­dale and Fern­leigh – pop­u­lar names at the time – were based on grander prop­er­ties such as Fern Hill and the Ferns.”

It was the huge ex­pan­sion out­side Lon­don in the 1930s that saw the emer­gence not only of the blended per­sonal name – Frankville, Maryville and so on – but also the cosy Chez Nous, Mon Re­pos and Dun­roamin.

To­day, the most pop­u­lar house name in the UK, ac­cord­ing to re­cent Hal­i­fax re­port, is The Cot­tage, fol­lowed by Rose Cot­tage and The Bun­ga­low. The Coach House is fourth in the list and The Or­chard fifth. Other re­cent ar­rivals in the top 50 in­clude The Old Post Of­fice, The Old School House and The Barn while names that have lost pop­u­lar­ity this cen­tury in­clude The White House, The Gables and Greenacres. Noth­ing with the pre­fix “dun…” makes it into the top 50.

“The most com­mon source for the nam­ing of houses has al­ways been the trans­fer of names,” says Joyce Miles. “Henry VII, for ex­am­ple, named Rich­monde [now Rich­mond] in Sur­rey af­ter his es­tate in York­shire. Newquay in Stafford­shire, Rugby in Som­er­set, and Tip­ton in Es­sex are named for sim­i­lar rea­sons.”

Flow­ers, fruit, trees and an­i­mals are the next most pop­u­lar fol­lowed by per­sonal names twisted and con­torted into all man­ner of puns and puz­zles, many of which will re­flect our new eco­nomic cir­cum­stances.

“I used to live in the Cork and Bot­tle,” says Mark Houldswort­h of Mo­ray, “in th­ese trou­bled times I would hap­pily dis­pense with the cork.”

How­ever, it is Bar­bara Drum­mond, from Der­byshire, who has found the house name that prob­a­bly most ac­cu­rately re­flects the times. She reg­u­larly cor­re­sponded with a dis­abled per­son who lived in a house called Llame­dos.

“When it is read in re­verse, it showed her feel­ings for those who made life dif­fi­cult,” said Ms Drum­mond.

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