Is it pretentious to give your house a name? Obviously not if you live in The Manor or The Grange? But what if you live in a road on an estate of similar houses?
Well I have never bothered. Mainly because I have never been able to think of a suitable name and also I have always had a number (19 at the moment).
Carol Midgley, writing in The Times today talks of Jeremy Clarkson (who doesn't - he does rather invite controversy doesn't he) and how he insists that the locals who have made such a fuss about his new farm shop (Diddly Squat Farm Shop no less - rather opening the whole debate don't you think?) tend to be incomers (Londoners) those whose houses have been given fancy names rather than those who just use addresses like 22 Oak Avenue.
And I thought back to my childhood Lincolnshire Village where, as far as I know there were no road names (very small village) and where every single house had a name. And yours truly knew them all. I used to push my red doll's pram from one end of the village to the other. There were only houses on the top side of the road. The bottom side was low lying and close to the River Witham which was subject to flooding in the Winter.
Every house had a name on the gate, Were they pretentious? I don't know - I never thought of them as such and I am sure that the postman appreciated the help they gave him. I can only remember one now all those years later - and that was EMOCLEW - if you haven't realised by now that is Welcome backwards!
This was of course long before television and our evening entertainment was usually pencil and paper games (obviously organised by my parents as an important part of my education - for which I thank them all these years later). When it was my turn to choose I often chose house names in the village because all those walks with my pram paid off - I was always nosy (still am) and I knew all those house names off by heart so I always won.
But food for thought here: Carol Midgley speaks of Billy Connolly and his wife Pamela Stephenson buying a house near Windsor and changing the name to 'Gruntfuttock Hall! When they came to sell it and wished to do so privately with as little fuss as possible, the Estate Agent advised them to change the name and they changed it back to Forest Lodge.
Yes I suppose we are all pretentious to a degree. On the front of my bungalow, as well as the number by the front door, I also have a Green Man on the wall. It was given to me by friends but I did put it up didn't I?
I will be very interested in the comments on this post. I live in a home (in America that was built in the 1980s) on a small street of just 5 houses. The street is deeded to my property and is also named for the original owner. I am told the original owner (a war bride from Germany) was quite proud of her small modest home that she designed and had built (the surrounding homes are very large). I sometimes think of how she must have loved it here especially when I am gardening and find plants or little objects that may have been parts of planters or bits from her many outdoor parties. The same holds true when I see a bit of wallpaper behind a cabinet. We are not from the area but I have been told a lot about her by people here that knew her quite well. I had a plaque made using her last name (also the name of our street) in honor of her. I suppose one could say it is pretentious on my part to name my house but I disagree. If one loves a place and wishes to name it, why is it a concern to anyone else? Why does it matter to those that are not involved? I have always named my cars too and that is another example of "why is it anyone's business?" Love your blog and look forward to it every day!
I don't find house names pretentious at all. It is a free country and if someone wants to name their house then that is up to them. If it gives some pleasure, joy, laughter so much the better. My nearest neighbour has a bungalow named as if it is a large house with turrets, it is his business and I have no problem with it.
Interesting post, as always, Pat!
My in-laws lived in the house first owned by my FIL's parents and all of the homes on that street were known by the last names of the first owners: The Lindsay house, The Grayson house, etc!
Our last house was in a rural location with only 3 or 4 houses close by. We all had house names and no numbers. Our current house also has a name but that is because it is not on a conventional street with house numbering. In both cases we didn't choose the names but have just inherited them with each property. Sometimes it is a nuisance when giving our address by telephone. A number would be easier!
No numbers in this road where I live so we all have house names, same at previous home and at the smallholding and the home where I grew up.
I've lived in roads with just numbers and homes with a number that someone had named previously, which we never used.
Someone I knew lived at number 10. They called the house 'Wunno' !
House names are fascinating, often telling of the history of the building
Difficult.Especially if you live in Wales.We have recently moved over the border into England and my OH reckons in 50 + years of being married he can actually pronounce our address for the first time!!!
I always thought it was just terribly English. My Auntie lived at Gate Farm and my granny lived in a house called Lismoyle, it was a short walk from Gate Farm. I like the idea.
Often names say something of the history or situation of the house. I a imagine that the house names of your youth could have been like that?
In that there is meaning. I used to live in a house called Hill view....it was on top of a hill..and you could see hills from there. I wonder what they call the houses on the estate that was built when they demolished it?
It is a problem when incomers change a name without too much thought..whether in English or any other of the languages of Britain. It is often a great loss to the locality
My husband's family came from a small village in Somerset where many of the houses had names not numbers. My late parents called their home Joybelle, they were Joyce and Bill (William) it was only an ordinary semi but never thought of it as pretentious.
In the village where I spent the first 12 years of my life the houses only had names - no numbers. This was hard on any new postmen who took on the round. We lived in Ashlyn, which my grandmother named from the ash tree at the front gate and the lane that ran alongside. One of the village's great characters was a man called Wally who had several children and had to build a bigger house for the family. The men at the local social club had a sign made and put outside under cover of darkness - "Wally's Folly!", a name which remained for several years
My parents had to have a name (Wyndhurst) for there house the road was not numbered for another 20 years and the post office mandated no name no post.
All the houses along my lane have names but no numbers. It must be very confusing for delivery drivers; I often get a phone call from would-be deliverers asking where my house is.
And I'd love to know who named my bungalow 'MIME'. It's actually the French word Mime with an accent over the final 'e'. Strange name, to my mind.
We're in the countryside and all the time we've been in Wales have lived in established houses with long-established names. This one translates to Holly House - we have a long holly hedge. No house numbers round here, just names.
Growing up in the town, it was mainly house names though they did start numbering the road eventually. People named their houses after holidays (Lyndhurst, Lynmouth, Ilfracombe e.g.) or you had Dunromin, Chrislin, Sunnyside, The Lilacs. Some of the Victorian ones I've seen (here in the town too) were assigned names when first built and have them in glass over the front door.
I don't think they're pretentious, but I have to say I have seen a couple of real bloomers here in Wales - both originally very Welsh name and the new occupant changed one to Nirvana Springs! Another - a former farm which English folk bought - was for sale after just a couple of years and described as a "gentleman's estate" (!!) and called after somewhere in Lord of the Rings (the name escapes me).
The house name which has stuck in my head for years was a former penpal who called their house "Bogglehole" - I think they used to be potholers.
And Mom had a plaque made with the name Ashlyn, which she put on our house in Manassas, then later on her new house in Warrenton. I think one of my sisters had the sign now, and I wonder if she has the sign on her house now.
No house names where I live, but natural features have names, like Pole Bar Hill, Tater Bank, High Knob, Ken Parrish Hill, etc. Properties have names too. Like Hawk Hollow, Murray Hollow, and we live in Fulmer Hollow just over the ridge. These first two have no houses on them, and ours didn't until we built there almost 50 years ago. Such names help identify the places in conversation, but there are no signs with these names on them.
Private homes typically have no name, just a street name and a number. Historic homes do have names. For example, in Concord, MA: The Old Manse, Buttrick House, and Orchard House. Each has a historic relevance and draw tourists and school children for tours.
I live in a subdivision called "Indian Hills" and all of the street names are Native American tribe names. We have one of the longest names for our cul de sac - Pottowattomie! It's an address I always have to spell out for people!!
It's mostly names here in our Welsh village except in some newer roads where they have numbers and names. Luckily there are only 10 houses on our road. To make things even more confusing many homes are known by the name of the previous owner. We live in Chick's house (that's a whole other story) and next door is Paul's house.
My parents were Anglophiles and spent a lot of time in England. When my parents built there American style ranch house in 1950 they named it Kendall Cottage, Kendall being the family name. They had been so delighted with names of residences in England so gave their house a name. The house was built on a lane named after the developer's son Dick. So I inherited the house 25 years ago and everything went along fine for awhile until the emergency number system was put into place. Kendall Cottage on Dick Lane was not acceptable. The 9-1-1 system could not accept a name for the house, only an address which included a number along with the Dick Lane designation. I never used that numerical address until I was forced to when I applied for my Social Security benefits. My stationary was engraved with Kendall Cottage, Dick Lane. Now that I have sold and moved into my retirement apartment I feel odd living at a numerical address and a building with no name. I ordered something from a local shop that my family often dealt with and it was to be delivered. They automatically assumed the address was Kendall Cottage on Dick Lane and didn't ask for an address. A few days later the delivery person called and asked when I was going to be home. I said I am. He said he was at my door and I said no you are not. I knew right then he was at the Kendall Cottage. So my point is that the Kendall Cottage was a well known address and was held in esteem by many over the years. Now we are all just numerical addresses and about as unpretentious as can be. I heard someone at the coffee shop not long ago saying zip codes were what determined a property was a good address or not. Go figure. Pat, this was another great topic for discussion. Keep them coming!
It is very rare here in so cal to have a house with a name in country side or town. All residences must have a number for delivery of the mail and other deliveries, and for safety in case you need an ambulance or fire truck. If a building has a name as in the Butler Ranch where we keep out horses it also has a street and number.The numbers are sequential and odd on one side of the street and even on the other. All streets/roads/ lanes have names also. It is amazing to me how things get delivered to the right place in England in the country side unless the deliverer knows where to go before hand. As how does gps or sat nav know ?
When I was the clerk for my township I realized that every road was named for the farm family that originated the road. I wrote an essay for the town record that said every road in the township had a first name.
Another thought, where we are staying in NZ, the houses are numbered by how many metres they are along the road...so 53 is 53 metres....and when a section is subdivided, you can have 53 , 53a,53b and so on....and the numbers are on the postboxes, usually...there are names as well sometimes...
No house names here, only numbers. Very rarely you see a name, too, but it always seems quite pretentious. A name would not be accepted by the mail. My brother lives in a tiny place with only six houses and even they have numbers.
In cities with houses from the medieval, you will often find old house names like Three Pines, Black Dog, The Elephant, with a small basrelief embedded in the wall. But they have street names and numbers, too.
Hilde in Germany
We had a friend who's house was call Giblets. In France the only houses with names are foreign owned (pretentious). Otherwise we all have the same address in a hamlet or small village. It's up to the postman to know who lives where.
In my part of Germany, very few houses have names; it's all numbers. Mine is 1, by the way.
In parts where many private houses offer bed & breakfast or holiday flats, house names are more common, for instance in Black Forest villages you'll often see "Haus Irene" or something like that painted on the wall of the house.
When my mother-in-law still lived in South Yorkshire, her house was simply referred to as 83, as that was its official number on the street. 20 years ago she moved to Ripon into a much smaller house, suitable for just one person. It has of course its official adress and number, but she chose to call it Rose Cottage, as she has this romantic notion of herself sitting in a picturesque cottage with rose-patterned curtains and settees, surrounded by her cats, her books and her garden with roses in bloom. It pleases her when I include "Rose Cottage" with her address when sending Christmas cards etc., and so I always remember that.
Many years ago we named a new home Widdecourt. Our then youngest daughter's nickname was Widdy and she assured us she was the Queen of the fairies. Hence Widdecourt. We learned later that other newcomers were convinced the name had historical connections!
I once worked with a woman who had recently moved into the area, and lived in a small cottage. She had noticed that some houses had simple Welsh names, like Ty Gwyn for 'White House', Ty Mawr for 'Big House'. One day she told us that she had decided to change the name of her cottage to Ty Bach, meaning 'Small House'. By the time the rest of us had finished wiping the tears of laughter away, she was getting quite annoyed. "What have I said?"
In Welsh, Ty Bach is the name given to the little shed at the bottom of the garden, that is, the toilet. People still say "I'm just going to the Ty Bach" even when they mean the indoor bathroom.
Someone in a tiny terraced house here once put up a name plate on their house reading. 'Walcot Heights'. Walcot Street is very low.
Just house numbers here on my street as on most American streets I would say. Growing up, our second house in Torquay - which was newer and built around 1950 - was also just the number 77, but several of the houses along road were much older and had names, usually attached to the front gate or on the wall by the front entry. I always recall the house named Ocho Rios where a couple lived who had actually also lived in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. They grew wonderful blackcurrants in the back garden and we often were allowed to go pick a basketful.
You really have the knack of bringing back a lot of memories Pat - more please!
Here, even if houses were named, they'd need a physical address with a street number. I found your post very interesting, never knowing that house names would be used in lieu of street addresses. I remember in Chester, we walked through the old part of town and the window glass above the door was pointed out. It was claimed that it allowed illiterate people to identify particular houses and for mail to be delivered. I didn't get that part of it, really, how an address on an envelope could be matched to the window above the door.
Houses in hamlets in France are now all being given numbers so the emergency services and postal and delivery vans can find them. We no longer have the same postie delivering our mail so they have to go by the number 3 on our letter box.
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