31 Great British placenames

Driving around the UK it’s always worth looking at the road signs. Just off the main roads you will see towns and villages signposted. Some have perfectly reasonable names, others make sense when you know a bit of history like the fact that ford is a river crossing place, wick is a farm or settlement, don is a valley, den a hill and ham is short for hamlet and so on.

Others are just a little bit strange.

Of course if you’re local you barely notice the oddities; some might smile at Pease Pottage and Titty Hill or wonder about Warninglid or the Witterings, East and West. But they’re commonplace for we Sussex folk.

So here are 31 UK villages and towns you can actually visit whose names are bizarre, offbeat or sound downright dirty .

Barton in the Beans, approaching from the south © Chris Downer
Barton in the Beans, approaching from the south © Chris Downer

Agglethorpe. Look for it just off the A1 (M) in Yorkshire. Noted as Aculestorp in the Domesday Book, which just goes to show how names change over time.

Barton in the Beans, Leicestershire. Agricultural reference no doubt and there’s an old saying “Shake a Leicestershire man by the collar and you may hear the beans rattle in his belly”.

Bitchfield, Lincolnshire. A medieval village known as ‘Billesfelt’ in the Domesday Book.

Blubberhouses in North Yorkshire. Nothing to do with whaling or Weight Watchers. Folklore says it’s named for the weeping of children as they headed to work at the nearby mills over 200 years ago.

Hopper Lane Hotel, Blubberhouses © JThomas
Hopper Lane Hotel, Blubberhouses © JThomas

Catbrain a small village to the north of Bristol. Cat’s brain is commonly used in the south of England to describe fields of rough stoney clay.

Crackpot is a tiny village in beautiful Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Its name derives from Old English ‘kraka’ meaning crow and the ancient Viking word ‘pot’ meaning a deep hole. Here it refers to a rift in the limestone which has formed nearby Crackpot Cave.

Curry Mallet in Somerset. Perhaps a heavy-handed chef’s home?

Dull in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Well it is just a single street, twinned with Boring in Oregon USA and Bland in New South Wales Australia.

Giggleswick, North Yorkshire. Not because everyone’s always chuckling there. The name actually means ‘dwelling or farm of a man called Gikel or Gichel’. You can visit the Beggar’s Wife Bridge or grab some food at Ye Olde Naked Man café in nearby Settle.

The Dull road, B846 near Aberfeldy Perth and Kinross © Dr Richard Murray
The Dull road, B846 near Aberfeldy Perth and Kinross © Dr Richard Murray

Great (and Little) Snoring in Norfolk. They are in a pretty quiet part of the country.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on the island of Anglesey in Wales. The longest place name in the UK, a rough translation is ‘St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave’.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch railway station sign Anglesey Wales © Raphael Frey
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch railway station sign Anglesey Wales © Raphael Frey

Lickey End is a village in Worcestershire with a population of around 3,000 people.

Marsh Gibbon in Buckinghamshire. The marsh bit is clear but gibbon? Actually derives from the family name ‘Gibwen’, the 12th century lords of the manor.

Mudford Sock in Somerset. I know the feeling after Pork Belly’s dragged me on a long hike across the moors. It lies on Monarch’s Way, the route King Charles II took after he was defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The road to Muggleswick Village © Dennis Lovett
The road to Muggleswick Village © Dennis Lovett

Muggleswick, County Durham. Not a place full of J.K. Rowling’s non-magical folk but a farming village with plenty of sheep, a ruined priory and an ancient common which is designated a site of special scientific interest because of its heather, bracken and bird-life.

Nether Wallop in Hampshire, near Middle Wallop and Over Wallop. You can have a thumping good time there!

Penisa’r Waun is a tiny village in Caernafon, Wales. Size doesn’t matter.

Don’t miss all the Puddles in Dorset – Affpuddle, Briantspuddle, Tollpuddle (famous for its martyrs), Turners Puddle and Puddletown.

Sheepy Magna (and neighbouring Sheepy Parva) in Leicestershire. Just plain cute.

Shitterton is near Bere Regis in Dorset and has a collection of historic thatched buildings which date back to the 18th century. And yes, its name really is what it sounds like, based on ‘scite’ the Old English word for dung. In the Domesday Book it’s called Scatera or Scetra, a Norman French rendering of the same word and means something along the lines of “farmstead on the stream used as an open sewer”.

The Shitterton Sign © Jameslox
Shitterton village sign © Jameslox

Splott in Cardiff is such a a lovely name. Some say it’s a derivation of “God’s Plot” because the land belonged to the Bishop of Llandaff in medieval times or possibly from the old word plat, meaning a grassy area of land but it’s more likely to be from the Old English for speck, blot or patch of land.

Magic Roundabout, Splott, Cardiff ©freeimageslive.co.uk photoeverywhere
Roadsign sculptures by Pierre Vivant on The Landmark, known as the Magic Roundabout, Splott, Cardiff © freeimageslive.co.uk photoeverywhere

Thirsk, North Yorkshire. I don’t know why this amuses but it makes me think of someone hankering for a shot of vodka.

Bench outside Twatt church, Orkney Islands, Great Britain © Chris Downer
Bench outside Twatt church, Orkney Islands, Great Britain © Chris Downer

Twatt in Orkney gets its name from the Old Norse for a parcel of land.

Ugley is in Essex between Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford. First noted in the Domesday Book it probably means “woodland clearing of a man named Ugga.”

The road to Ugley, Essex © Gwydion M. Williams
Take the road to Ugley © Gwydion M. Williams

Upton Snodsbury in Worcestershire. It’s just a stone’s throw from the equally delightfully named village of North Piddle.

Wetwang sign East Riding of Yorkshire © summonedbyfells/Flickr
You are now entering Wetwang please drive carefully © summonedbyfells/Flickr

Wetwang, 6 miles west of Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire, can be found in the Domesday Book as Wetuuangha. Not to be confused with Wetwang, also called Nindalf, in J R Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

And finally, where else but Westward Ho! a seaside village near Bideford in Devon. And yes the exclamation mark is obligatory!

Westward Ho! road sign © Ronmore
Westward Ho! road sign © Ronmore

Feel free to share in the comments any peculiar place names you find on your travels.

Unless otherwise stated, photographs are copyright their respective owners and reproduced under Creative Commons License.

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