Monday, April 27, 2009

Mavis Enderby and Old Bolingbroke

click photos to enlarge
The place-names of England offer endless fascination and not a little fun. I was raised in the Yorkshire Dales market town of Settle, a place with a name that has the distinction of being a settlement, a verb and a noun. Across the River Ribble from Settle is the unlikely sounding village of Giggleswick, a word that the comedian, Tony Hancock, found humorous enough to use in his act. A couple of miles down the valley is the equally strange Wigglesworth. As a child I was intrigued by the names of some farms not too far from my home-town, one called Israel and another Rome, presumably founded by people of a strong religious persuasion. But how, I wondered, did the adjacent farms of Higher Wham and Farther Wham come to be given such improbable titles?

When I grew older and began to travel around the country I discovered that my corner of Yorkshire wasn't the only place where strange names abound. A journey by train (from Giggleswick) to Morecambe in Lancashire passed through a place called Bare where there existed, so I was told, a branch of the Women's Institute - yes, the Bare Women's Institute! This national organisation, with branches in most towns, is probably also found in the village of Loose in Kent. In Derbyshire it's possible to live in Hope, Dove Holes and Flash (the villages of), whilst Dorset offers Whitchurch Canonicorum, Gussage St Michael and Plush (with the nearby Scratchy Bottom). However, a strong case can be made for the county of Lincolnshire as the area with greatest number of place-name oddities. Here's a selection of them from the top of my head - Anton's Gout, Ashby Puerorum, Bag Enderby (surely an inspiration to Tolkien), Bicker, Boothby Graffoe, Cowbit, Hop Pole, Pode Hole, Quadring Eaudike, Saracen's Head, Spital in the Street, Swallow, Twenty, Wasp's Nest and Wrangle.

I was reflecting on such things as I cycled to the church of St Michael in the Lincolnshire village of Mavis Enderby the other day. I had recalled a story, possibly apocryphal, that a passing wit, noticing the road sign that said, "To Mavis Enderby and Old Bolingbroke", added the words ", the gift of a son." Above is the photograph of this medieval "greenstone" church that was comprehensively restored in the nineteenth century. A couple of days previously I'd been at Old Bolingbroke, the birthplace of Henry IV in 1367, and so here is a view of its old church (also featuring greenstone) as well.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/1250 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On