Posted by: christinelaennec | June 16, 2013

Home away from home?

One of the more endearing things about Britain is the tradition of naming houses.  Some names are self-explanatory:  “The Old Rectory” or “Sea View”.  Some are meant to be funny, for example “Dunroamin”.  “Mo dhachaidh” – My home – is a popular one (albeit grammatically incorrect, since “dhachaidh” in Gaelic is only used to mean “homewards” and not actually “home”).  Houses near the sea may be called “Ceòl na mara,” the music of the sea.  Some houses have made-up monikers that combine the family’s first names:  things like “Craigann” or “ElMarCa”.

Houses are often given the names of beloved places, often Scottish (“Ben Edra” or “Glen Lyon”) but sometimes places further afield.  When we first arrived in Aberdeen in 1992, I was startled and pleased to be greeted by this house.  Can you see the name over the door?

"Oregon" on the Ellon Road, Aberdeen.

“Oregon” on the Ellon Road, Aberdeen.

I’m sure there’s a reason why someone named this house after my home state, and it cheers me to think that someone loved Oregon so much they named a house after it.  There are other far-flung namesakes around.  On the Isle of Jura, of all places, one of the cottages is named “Frisco”.  Perhaps a sailor came home to the inner Hebrides, having had a great time in San Francisco.  And not far from where we live is a house called “Mount Isa,” presumably named after the town in Australia.

I’d love to hear of house names that you like, and the stories behind them.

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Responses

  1. Since I live in Oregon now, I especially appreciate the house name as well, Christine. Can’t remember whether I have typed this to you before, but my uncle’s 200+ year-old house north of Boston was called Stone House and it has a stone with a fossilized butterfly over the front door.
    Hmmmm now what could we name the house we live in now,,,you’ve set me to wondering 🙂
    xx,
    Gracie

  2. i love the naming of houses in Britain. i’m always suggesting that our house should be called “rose cottage” or perhaps something more imaginative. why not? i love the idea of personalizing your house and giving it a name.

  3. I, too, love the naming of houses. We don’t do that here, traditionally. My mother likes to think of her house as Black Walnut Bend, as it’s built on land in the curve of the road and has two or three very old black walnut trees in the yard. The unofficial name of our cabin (which we call “the cabin”) is “The Great Escape,” after Himself’s favorite movie. It’s also appropriate for a vacation home!

  4. Hi, Our house name means, house on the rock, and, it certainly was built on a rock! Interesting post, thank you x

  5. I had no idea this was a British phenomenon. You must have been delighted to see ‘Oregon’ in Aberdeen. There are some strange names round where I live, including ‘Wits End’ and “Shocarjen’, which I think must be one of these ones made up of names of inhabitants. I often wonder what the names are – Shona, Carl, Jennifer perhaps? My dad’s very keen on house names. His already has a name but he wants to change it and is forever coming up with ideas, all of which have been vetoed by my mum.

  6. I once owned a wee cottage, which I named ‘Bag End.’ The man who made the sign had never heard of The Hobbit. And just kept on asking, “Are you sure, really sure?”

  7. The three houses I lived in in Moray all had names, and that seemed quite natural. Down here in the city, however, it would be wildly pretentious to give our little suburban house a name. My favourite house name from my home village has to be ‘Rose Noire’.

  8. I wish people named houses more over here….such a lovely tradition. The house my great-grandmother lived in in Dunblane was called Pitcairn. We always joked we should call our house Kiln Michael (I think Kiln is the word for a monk’s cell???)

  9. It’s so Victorian and romantic to have names for houses, and of course if you live in a place that has stone cottages, it is perfect to name them all! Here, we have ‘Community’ names, such as Lake Forest Park or Cedarview for modern home developments or neighborhoods. But all of the historical homes have names and of course the great estates built by the Industrialists, famous families, artists, or political figures, such as Mt. Vernon.
    Living in rural areas we name the farms and some of those are very funny, such as ‘Belly-Acres’. I think it is a lovely tradition.

  10. Some of the houses have names here, but they are geographical – such as The Quayhouse, or The Millhouse or The Skyeman’s house (the man who built it being from Skye) My favourite house name was gleaned from my long ago job with the Electricity Board, when a consumer (as they were called before privatisation), when giving me his address proudly proclaimed his house name as Nia Roo – helpfully explaining it meant Oor Ain backwards. I still smile at that yet. xx

  11. Thanks so much for your interesting comments!

    Gracie, that house with the butterfly fossil sounds so fascinating, you must do a post about it! Do you have any photos?

    Lorna, I would love to hear your Dad’s vetoed suggestions. I bet they’re very funny!

    Jill, that’s a hoot! Do you suppose he thought you were naming your house after a cigarette butt (as we say in the US, so as not to inadvertently offend any American readers)?

    Linda, since reading your comment I’ve noticed that quite a few houses in the centre of Aberdeen have names. In fact, one is called “Vulcanvale”! I’d love to know the story of that. “Rose noire” begs for a story as well.

    Karen, you’re so right that older and perhaps grander houses on the East Coast of America were given names, like Gracie’s grandfather’s Stone House as well. I’d forgotten about the tradition of naming farms until you reminded me. I adored a farm we used to pass in Illinois. The roof of the barn proclaimed its name: “Just-a-Mere-Farm”. Belly-Acres is funny too: did they mean they complained a lot (“Oh quit your belly-achin'”) or laughed until their sides were sore? Hmm. Maybe both?

    Jacqui, I love Nia Roo / Oor Ain. Someone who knew how to make the most of a house name! It sounds so exotic backwards…


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