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A selection of unusual Devon place names and their history

Mon 14 June 2021

With an office in every corner of the West Country, Stags has 145 years of experience across the region, from cities to coastal towns, rural hamlets to fishing villages. Here’s a few of the unusual place names we have come across in Devon and their presumed origins.
 

Babbacombe

Beautiful Babbacombe on South Devon’s English Riviera is abundant in tranquil coastal charm. It entered the historical record as Babbecumbe. This derives from a personal name: ‘Babba’, and ‘Combe’, together meaning ‘Babba’s Valley’.


 

Woolfardisworthy

Woolfardisworthy is a picturesque village nestled in the unspoilt North Devon countryside. Strangely, it is one of two places in Devon with this name, and is also known as the village with two names, as it is also referred to as ‘Woolsery’. The name Woolfardisworthy is believed to originate from ‘Wulfheard’s Homestead’, referring to a place where someone with the name ‘Wulfheard’ made a settlement.
 

Noss Mayo

The quaint waterfront village of Noss Mayo is situated on the southern bank of a tidal creek in the River Yealm estuary, upon a headland rich in rugged natural beauty. The name is thought to be derived from the phrase ‘Matheu's nose’, referring to a former landowner who was gifted the land, with the ‘nose’ perhaps referencing the headland jutting out to sea.
 

Sheepwash

Sheepwash is a picture-postcard, charming village in the rural heartland of North Devon. The name stems from the Middle English Schepewast, quite literally meaning a place where sheep are washed, as historically this is where they were brought to be washed before shearing!

 

Nomansland

Nomansland is a hamlet hidden away in the Mid Devon countryside. It is so named because it was at one time an extra-parochial area on a boundary where the Parishes of Witheridge, Thelbridge and Cruwys Morchard met, and therefore out of the jurisdiction of any parish. It is no longer extra-parochial, but the name has stuck!

 

Beer

Beer is a gorgeous village on the East Devon Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. This charming coastal retreat is not named after the drink, but thought to be from the Old English word Bearu meaning grove or wood, referring to the original forestation that surrounded the village.
 


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