A recent journey of less than a hundred miles took us through many places with interesting names. Taking a detour from our usual route we came to a group of villages whose names were right out of an Agatha Christie novel. You could imagine Miss Marple coming out of one of the cottages or shops quite easily. Ampney St Peter, Ampney Crucis and nearby Ampney St Mary and Down Ampney derive their names from the nearby river, though. Further on we passed through Knockdown. I have been unable to track down the reason for this odd name though. Our Dictionary of English Place Names ignores its existence, perhaps as it is not a large community.
Further on our route appeared to have taken us overseas as we travelled through Dunkirk and Petty France but turned off before reaching Pennsylvania. Around the country there are many other “overseas” locations including Gibraltar in Buckinghamshire and Egypt in Hampshire.
Other names that have captured our attention in the past are Honeyburge in Buckinghamshire, Red Roses in Pembrokeshire and Farewell in Staffordshire. Look at any page in a reasonable scale road atlas and you can’t fail to find something that sounds unusual and seems unlikely as a place name. Something the use of a Sat-Nav for route finding will deny you. Whilst many names derive from physical features of the landscape or past owners of the land there are just as many it seems that defy a logical explanation.
I am sure there are many more of these unusual names and everyone will have their own favourites.