It was while fossicking through an old box of memorabilia recently, that I came across my very first bank book, sporting our home address from years past:
“Summit Drive”, Mt Clear, Vic was the family’s home as I was growing up, a white brick house built for, and named by my parents. It was perched on top of a hill at the end of a steep drive in a small town on the outskirts of Ballarat.
No number, no street name, no Roadside Mail Box. Not even postcodes back then. They were barely a twinkle in the Post Master General’s eye. Nothing more than a descriptive house title and the hamlet where it was located.
This led me to ponder the genesis of other house names and onto my latest activity:
#81 Research House Names
Most of the names I’ve uncovered on walks around my current town seem to date from the early years of last century. Name plates, cast in copper or brass, the letters fading into illegibility, are attached to the front facade of the homes. Some titles have been created using the bricks of the building, while other are add-ons to gables, entrance arches and fences.
But all tell a story.
From history to geography, botany to animals, play-on-words to puns, it’s all there on display if you look for it.
First there was Roanoke, a grand home around the corner whose name, judging by the shine on its name-plate, is still loved.But where does the term Roanoke originate?
My internet search uncovered random queries that suggested mystery and intrigue, questions like, ‘What really happened in Roanoke?’ and ‘Is Roanoke a real story?’
Well, yes, it is. Back in the 1580s, none other than Sir Walter Raleigh tried to establish a permanent English settlement in North America on an island called Roanoke, off North Carolina.
Bit of a mistake, unfortunately.
The first colony was abandoned due to difficulty shipping in provisions, but, in a worrying sign that no lessons were learned from this, the second attempt failed even more spectacularly and became known as the Lost Colony. This is because of the unexplained disappearance of Roanoke’s entire population. Think the Mary Celeste but involving a fully inhabited island rather than a boat.
To this day they’re not sure what happened to the people who mysteriously vanished, so countless conspiracy theories have arisen.
It’s a fascinating story—but I doubt I’d be rushing to name my home after it …
There are several house names that suggest a longing for mother England, like Orwell, a town in Cambridgeshire, and Ince, a village in Cheshire. You can imagine new arrivals suffering through a summer heat-wave wondering if they’d made the right choice as they thought wistfully of winter snowfalls and roaring log fires back in old Blighty.
And then there are several names pointing to a homesickness for the highlands of Scotland, names like Inverness, Dalrye, Iona and Strathnaver.
Alliteration is all the go, too, with these two catching my eye:
which led me to briefly consider calling my house Whippet Wonderland, and
that’s Tulip Terrace … though the tulips seem to have faded.
A European name gives a home a certain cachet …
because isn’t Bella Vista so much more exotic than ‘Pretty View’?
There’s also acknowledgement of our indigenous heritage in some house names, with
said to mean ‘dry country’ which is quite apt around these parts, and
the indigenous word for ‘Beautiful.’
Some names combine alliteration with a play-on-words, like
I read this as Mye-Den, before being advised it’s actually My-Eden. Oops!
I didn’t find an example of the once popular Emoh ruo, the name that spawned an Aussie movie in the ’80s. It’s a title that only makes sense when read backwards.
However, I did come across one house-name forever seared into the bricks of a 1920s building. If you buy the house, you’re compelled to get the name, too.
I can imagine whoever commissioned this back in the day thought it was the height of fun. (If you’ll pardon the pun.)
When searching for houses in Brisbane that my ancestors once lived in, I sometimes come across addresses that are a house name, street and suburb. Especially in the early 20th century. Not helpful when I want to search google earth to find an image of the house.
I liked reading about your name research.
Glad you enjoyed the post, Trish.
Your experience would be quite frustrating and one I hadn’t considered. Google earth certainly isn’t sharp enough to pick up a name on a house! From my experience locally, even standing right in front of a house doesn’t always mean you can decipher the name. 😆