Location is everything but is it worth enduring sniggers, titters or jeers when you divulge your address?
The owners of Elderberry cottages and barn in Booze, a beautiful rural hamlet in Arkengarthdale, have just put the historic property on the market and will almost certainly have to endure a few wisecracks. They’ll also have to explain that the place name has nothing to do with alcohol and is thought to originate from the old Anglo Saxon words “hus” and “boga”, aka “house on the bend”, although it is only half a mile from the Red Lion at Langthwaite.
Its proximity to the pub will be a selling point as will the remote and peaceful location, up a track that the Post Office once deemed too steep to deliver to. The £300,000 asking price, which includes two cottages and a barn in need of renovation, is also a big draw.
Estate agent Richard Thompson, of Marcus Alderson’s Richmond office, says having a Booze address won’t dissuade buyers. “There is a certain cachet that comes with an interesting name, though buyers may be put off by living somewhere like Loose Bottom in East Sussex.”
Yorkshire is a hotspot for unusual place names. They range from tongue twisters like Ugglebarnby, near York, and Yockenthwaite in Wharfedale to Wetwang, near Driffield, which sounds a bit rude but translates as “wet field.” There’s Bedlam, near Harrogate, which is actually serene and has nothing to do with a lunatic asylum. It derives from the old English “botlum”, or “at the buildings”.
Jump, near Barnsley, got its name after a stream that local miners had to jump to gain access to the village. Sexhow, near Stokesley, is thought to have started life as Saxhoe and a Google search for it doesn’t bring up anything unsavoury unlike Shagg, near East Lulworth in Dorset. You’re fairly safe with the “bottoms”, which always raise a smile, especially Slack Bottom, near Hebden Bridge
“At least it makes people laugh,” says one resident who is pleased that she doesn’t live in Scratchy Bottom or Shitterton, both in Dorset and the top two in a 2012 poll for “Britain’s worst place names”.
Fryup, an idyllic hamlet in Great Fryup Dale, near Whitby, is a crowd-pleaser and is said to take its name from the old English Frig Hop. Frige was an Anglo-Saxon goddess and hop was a small valley.
The Land of Nod, near Holme on Spalding Moor, is another place with happy connotations but is said to come from the Bible as Genesis 4:16 reads, “So Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and lived and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” Crackpot in Swaledale comes from the Viking word “pot” meaning a deep hole and the old English kraka, or crow, according to Paul Chrystal, author of the book, “The Place Names of Yorkshire”.
“Yorkshire has some wonderful place names. The oldest stretch back into the mists of time before the Romans. Others are from the Roman period, the Anglo-Saxon period, the Viking years, or date from after the Norman Conquest. They’re like the fingerprints of our ancestors, lying across the land.
He adds that the language of the ancients is most often found in the names of hills and rivers. The Nidd is olde English for brilliant while Wharfe translates as winding and Ure means strong.
Paul’s book also includes pub and street names and the strangest is Whip ma whop ma gate in York, which Paul says is a mash-up of Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, early English, early French and Norman French.
Some say it was the place where dogs called whappets were whipped on St Luke’s Day.
It possibly tops the lot when it comes to unusual Yorkshire place names, unless you know better. If you do, drop us a line at [email protected],.uk
*The Place Names of Yorkshire by Paul Chrystal is published by Stenlake, priced £15.