Chez nous

If your house has a name, did it influence you choosing to move there? Go on be honest. Who could resist living in … Hall or … Manor? Or perhaps The Old Schoolhouse / Vicarage / Forge or even Curiosity Shop. The corollary of this is perhaps to touch the brakes with the estate agent who suggests you might like to view Bide A Wee While or Dunroamin on the grounds of maintaining any kind of credibility with your friends, potential visitors and of course the postman.

Some house names have obvious derivations such as their former function, while others such as Hill Top may reflect their topographical situation, The Chestnuts a stand of trees close to the property, or Edwards Farm after a former owner or occupier. While The Old House may be seen as a give-away to anyone seeking an explanation of its origins, New House can be equally baffling when it is clearly at least 300 years old. Well, it was new once.Property sign

Of course, houses can often be renamed over time, and numbers are a relatively recent introduction although even they can change. A Victorian house I used to live in began life as number 4, and gradually moved down the road as new properties were built, eventually coming to rest at number 26. Even more dramatic is when the street itself ‘disappears’ mysteriously turning up in a later map with a completely different name.

As a house historian I’m grateful for any name at all that has lasted more than a few year, whether it be Foresters Hall, Feverfew Farm or Faerie Nook. And it makes finding out about the person who gave it its name even more intriguing.

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2 Responses to Chez nous

  1. Judy Webster says:

    A house name provided a major breakthrough in my family history research. My great-grandfather’s death certificate said, “Born at Barton, Yorkshire”. There are several places named Barton in various parts of Yorkshire, so I thought I had a long search ahead of me. Then I discovered that relatives in Australia named their house ‘Barton-le-Willows’. Bingo! I searched census records (long before they were on the Internet) and immediately identified my family in that little village within the parish of Crambe in North Yorkshire.

    • That’s a great story, Judy, and also a good piece of detective work. I wonder if the practice of naming your house after your ancestor’s home village was widespread. It would have kept memories alive, and probably caused mystification to later occupants of the house who would have had no idea where the name came from.

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