Strangest place names in Somerset
As one of Somerset’s busiest, and dare we say, best, home improvement companies, we’ve installed windows, doors and conservatories in lots of different towns, villages and cities across the region over the past decade. Here’s a few of the strangest place names we’ve seen in Somerset whilst we’ve been installing our windows, doors and conservatories!
A parish in the southern limits of Somerton – once the Saxon royal capital of Somerset – the name Catsgore is thought to be a corruption of the Old English ‘catt’ + ‘gara’ meaning ‘place where the wild cats live’. Nowadays you probably won’t find many wild cats: you might find the odd tabby though if you look hard enough!
2. Temple Cloud
Halfway between Bristol and Wells, Temple Cloud is a quiet, unassuming village with a mysterious history. The first word, ‘Temple’ takes its name from the shadowy Knights Templar: one of the most wealthy and powerful orders of Christian soldiers who held the manors of Cameley and Cloud in the 12th century. Not much is known about them and this has fuelled various myths and legends about the order. The second word, ‘Cloud’ is thought to refer to the personal name, ‘Cloda’.
3. Queen Camel
Despite what you may infer from its name, this small village seven miles north of Yeovil didn’t once have a camel as a queen. Instead, it refers to the name of the village in the 10th century: ‘Cantmael’. ‘Cantmael’ is thought to derive from the Celtic words, ‘Canto’ meaning ‘district’ and ‘Mael’ meaning ‘bare hill’.
The ‘Queen’ part of the name probably comes from Queen Eleanor, Henry III’s wife, who held the land in the area around the 13th century. No royal camels involved in the name at all.
A thousand years ago, the Somerset Levels were mostly underwater. Scattered amongst this inland sea, however, were occasional bits of high ground that formed islands. In Old English these were known as ‘zoys’. The small village of Chedzoy on the outskirts of Bridgwater, means ‘island or dry ground in marsh, of a man called Cedd’. If you look carefully at the surrounding landscape, you can see how Chedzoy is on higher land than everywhere else. Try imagining it completely surrounded by water and you’ll get a good idea of what the landscape used to be like.
Legend has it that King Alfred hid on a ‘zoy’ near Burrowbridge whilst planning a campaign against the Vikings. It was here that he burnt the cakes. Silly Alfred.
5. Nempnett Thrubwell
Just north of Blagdon Lake, Nempnett Thrubwell is a tiny village comprising just 177 inhabitants.
The curious name Nempnett Thrubwell is thought to be a combination of the Celtic words ‘nemett’ meaning grove, and the Old English ‘wiell’, meaning well. Thus, Nempnett Thrubwell means ‘The grove by the well’. Most people nowadays will know Nempnett Thrubwell more for the references to it in various songs by The Wurzels, rather than for any impressive grove.