By: Blonde Two
Title image – copyright Ordnance Survey 2017
English place names are all fascinating (and sometimes quite rude) but during my 18 plus years of living in Devon, I have particularly enjoyed the peculiarities and patterns of Devonshire place names. We have many that are interesting and a fair few that only those who have lived here for at least 100 years can correctly pronounce (Aveton Gifford, Dittisham, Woolfardisworthy). We also have some that appear to be whole sentences (Doddiscombsleigh, Combeinteignhead, Broadwoodwidger). Learning Devons place names is a bit like learning a new language, most of them can be broken down into constituent parts that, if you do a touch of translation, start to make sense. Here are 10 examples of ‘bits’ of Devon place names:
Doddi – an enclosure or pound (to keep ‘dods’ in maybe)
Combe – a valley, but sometimes more specifically a closed-ended valley (also comp, as in ‘Compton)
Leigh – a clearing in a wood, but sometimes a wood (also sometimes meadow)
Worthy – a homestead or farm (loads of these on and around Dartmoor)
Borough – a fortified enclosure (presumably safer than a doddi)
Kerswell – a watercress stream (all the ingredients for a great soup)
Beare – a wooded place (Devon still has a lot of trees)
Buckland – a small estate whose ownership was recorded in a book (only for those who could write)
Sampford – a sandy ford (not the off-yellow coloured motor vehicle)
Ham – farm or homestead (sadly nothing to do with pigs)
Those of you who are feeling quick-witted enough will have noticed that the first 3 of my 10 above give a rough translation of Doddiscombsleigh (I apparently wasn’t wrong about the ‘whole sentence’ thing).
Doddiscombsleigh = The Enclosure in the Clearing in the Valley
All you need to add is a postcode and you would have a perfectly serviceable postal address. If you lived on the Isles of Scilly by the way, that address would almost certainly get your Christmas card to the right house!
B2, Dartmoor… (‘Dart’ by the way, means ‘oak’).