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Thu 14 September 2017
Our glorious county is blessed with a fabulous vernacular, which over the passage of time has given rise to some very curious and interesting place names, many with origins you might not have expected.
Many towns and villages have been the subject of abbreviation and an evolved misspelling or mispronunciation over the centuries. The pretty rural village of Luppitt for example is suggested as stemming from love pit, lovapit or Lufa’s pit, derived from early religious settlers in a low pit or hollow.
A more straightforward nomenclature, however, can be assigned to the town of Honiton or honey town, originating, it is said, at a time when the surrounding hills were covered with thyme.
Geographical or natural features have long been associated with place names and obvious examples include Sidmouth, mouth of the river Sid, and Seaton, sea town. But perhaps a more obscure one is the quirkily named Newton Poppleford, which simply means new town on the pebble bed.
Another is the curiously-titled fishing village of Beer, not derived from the drink at all, but from the Old English word bearu, meaning grove and referring to the original forestation that hid the smugglers and their contraband from the world at large.
Whimple is an example of pronunciation and geographical feature. The early name Winpla being a Brythonic Celtic name meaning white pool, referring to the stream that passes through its heart.
But East Devon has escaped rather lightly in comparison to some of its West Country neighbours. One can only surmise where the Dorset hamlet of Happy Bottom came from!