I’ve always had problems with people pronouncing and spelling my name correctly… Lois only has four letters and is spelled how it sounds and sounds as it’s spelled (sort of) I’ve had the understandable – I guess, confusion with Louise, Lucy and Louis, and Lewis, Loys and Loris, and even Loess the aeolian sediment formed by the accumulation of wind-blown silt… Elsden has been spelt in all sorts of ways from the expected Elsdon, the Helsden and Helsdon confusion to Ellistone and even Halesowen (yup, that did puzzle me too.)
My husband’s name however is in a completely separate league… His name is Sparshott… ok, missing out at ‘t’ and having Sparshot, or confusing it with Sparsholt the village in Hampshire (Sparshott is a Hampshire name)… Today, collecting the car from the garage, he was addressed as Mr Shapcott… there’s a poet called Shapcott, and a wood called Shapcott, neither connected in any way to my husband. Spearshott is to be expected… but Sparshop – does anyone really thing that is likely to be a genuine name? I had to laugh when I had just had our first child, and my hospital notes all had me down as Mrs Snapshot – is it likely? Really?
The name is over a thousand years old – as a place-name, and probably means a grove or plantation or holt of trees used for wood – spears or spars. There are two places with similar names, which have been recorded since the middle of the tenth century, the 900’s, but no doubt existed before that – one is in Hampshire and one is in Oxfordshire, and before a boundary change in Berkshire. The latter is what’s known as a spring-line village – built along a ridge of permeable and non-permeable rocks overlap, and water springs occur. The settlements need to be in that position so they are near enough fresh water but not in a place which might flood… so that’s how Spasholt grew up there. It has a pub, the Star Inn, and a church, the Church of the Holy Rood, or Holy Cross, and I am sure is a delightful place to visit… maybe we should! The Hampshire Sparsholt is more well-known because it has a famous land-based college there. There has been a settlement here for thousands of years, from before the Bronze Age, through the Roman occupation, and up to the present day. Unlike Sparsholt in Oxfordshire, water for the village was drawn by a wind mill from an underground well; the local church is dedicated to St Stephen, and the local pub is The Plough.
Back to names… Sparshott, as well as the unlikely as I mentioned, Sparshop and Snapshop and also Starship (how wonderful that would be! What a name!), there has been every imaginable mangling of the name – including Rimshott, Sparshit, Sharpshot and so on… When my husband was a boy at school, one teacher for some strange reason called him Snodgrass – and even addressed his parents as Mr and Mrs Snodgrass. He called my husband Snodders for short… and then a new boy arrived in the village, and the teacher called him Snodgrass too! The coincidence in this is that the other boys name really was Sparshott!