I moved into a house, a new house, brand new, and I called it ‘Ongers’; there was a reason, of course, a little story which shows why I think I must have a very strange brain. We were on holiday in Pembroke and became quite excited by a shop, sadly closed, called Elsdon’s, which was so like our surname, Elsden. After Elsdon’s, it said ONGERS, which we all tee-hee’d at as it sounded so funny, Elsdon’s Ongers… So that was how I arrived at my house name… it was only much late I realised it must have been Elsdon’s Fishmonger’s, or Ironmonger’s…

In my novel which I’m editing at the moment, a lot of the story-line takes place in two houses, one very large and extensive, and one, still large, but an ordinary town house size. I had to give them names, so they became Ongers and Little Ongers… I’ve already played around with the names of my characters in the story, and now I just feel that these house names aren’t quite right… maybe they will be used another time somewhere else, but now I need two more names.

I want the names connected in some way… and I first of all thought about location, or place names, then I thought about geographical aspects, ‘hill’, ‘mount’, ‘lower/upper’ etc or something about the local vegetation firs/elms/oaks etc… Nothing seemed quite right, and then I thought about the appearance of the house or what it was made from, and then I thought about the roof… maybe there is a local slate quarry near my houses, and the roofs are made from a particular sort of slate…

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock apparently, which before it was metamorphosed, was sedimentary rock. The great thing about slate and why it is so useful, is that it can be split into sheets, useful for all sorts of things including roofing! Because of the type of stone it is it can be used as a work surface in a kitchen or a laboratory, for a billiard or snooker table, for blackboards, tombstones, insulation and old-fashioned slates for writing on in school.

The actual word ‘slate’ comes from old french meaning to split or splinter, which perfectly describes what slate does. It has been used for a very long time, and in fact, as something to write on with a chalk it’s been in use since the 1300’s.

So… To my two houses… there is a connection as they are both owned by the same family and have been in the family for over a century… so Slate Hall, Slate House, Slateholme/Slatholme, Slathall/Slatthall, Slates/Slaters… Slatters… Hmmm… i think I’m on the right lines here, but I need a few days of mulling and pondering…

If you are intersted in slate, here are a couple of sites i came across:

http://www.englishstone.org.uk/documents/Stone%20slate%20glossary.pdf

https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/horsham-stone-roofs/horsham-stone-roofs.pdf/

By the way, my featured image is of Walford House – my maternal family were Walfords, but this house has nothing to do with them, just a coincidence!

 

4 thoughts on “House names

  1. I remember doing a project at primary school ( yes, a very long time ago! ) on the use of slates in school. Our school used them until after the war as there was a shortage of paper so we had examples. The slate – foolscap size – had a wooden frame and was written on with a steel stylus. It had to be used very lightly or ‘you couldn’t rub it out’ and you got severely told off.
    Many English expressions come from slate – ‘wiping the slate clean’, ‘starting with a clean slate’, ‘put it on the slate’ etc. I am sure there are many others. I think of a writing slate as being a prototype i pad that you didn’t have to charge as the batteries didn’t go flat.
    I liked the bits about metamorphism, bedding and cleavage – difficult to sort out on metamorphic rocks in the field – best seen in the rain.
    Fascinating subject.

    Liked by 1 person

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