What’s In A Name

A part of Abingdon, Va.

Who’s in the mood for a little history lesson?  Okay, so you don’t like history. I don’t either, but please, hang around a bit before you click, “exit.”  So, I’ve been thinking of this off and on now, for some time.  The more I thought of it, the more I needed to research the issue.  Then, the Olympics came along taking place right in England.  It all helped me decide to just put this down on paper, and get it out of my head.  Now, there are three other States in the Union other than Virginia that are known as Commonwealths: Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Massachusetts, which means they too may have towns and cities with names connecting them to England.  But, I will stick with the state of Virginia, because this is where the first settlers set up shop.  Yes, Christopher Newport guided his ship, the Susan Constant, the larger of the three ships on to these shores in 1607 with three separate groups of people.  They then, set up a colony at the expense of The London Company – naming it Jamestown.  What am I talking about?  I’m talking about so many towns in the State of Virginia, having the same names as towns in England.  As I searched, I found this list – the exact as Great Britain:

Abingdon;
Bath;
Bridgewater;
Bristol;
Chatham;
Chester;
Crewe;
Gloucester;
Halifax;
Isle of Wight;
Lancaster;
Lincoln;
Norfolk County;
Oxford;
Plymouth;
Portsmouth;
Salisbury;
Suffolk County;
Southampton;
Wakefield;
Winchester; and
York County – All Virginia.

In Hampton Roads there are also communities (developments) named after English towns:

Bradford;
Birmingham;
Worcester;
Sheffield;
Manchester;
Liverpool; and
Leeds.

Now, as I dug a little deeper, I realized there are also a host of streets in Hampton Roads clearly named for their English connections. Here are just a few:

  • Botetourt Street – named for Lord Botetourt of Gloucestershire, England; appointed Governor of Virginia in 1768;
  • Captain Newport Circle – of course after Captain Christopher Newport;
  • Governor Berkeley Road – William Berkeley of Middlesex, England and Governor of Virginia from 1641 to 1652, as well as 1660 to 1677;
  • Christopher Wren Road – Sir Christopher Wren, highly acclaimed English Architect.  William and Mary College named the building in honor of Wren after a Reverend, one of the college  professors, wrote that the building had been modeled by Sir Christopher Wren;
  • James Blair Drive – Born in Scotland, but later ordained to the Church of England. He traveled to the New World with a mission to revive the church in the Virginia Colony;
  • Sir George Percy – an English explorer, author, and early Colonial Governor of Virginia.  Notice, this is simply the person’s name: no street, road, place or drive after the name.  Many streets in this area are noted this way.

Lastly, there are the weird named streets that I myself questioned their origin. Such as:

Pettus Ordinary;
Padgett’s Ordinary;
Matthews Grant;
Chanteraine Close;
Hague Close.

These names, left me scratching my head and wondering where the heck they originated.  Now, since I have no degrees in Toponymy, I continued to scratch my head until I found this little blurb – “Place names in the United States are often taken from the European nation that first colonized the land.”  Then to seal the discussion, one day as I read Charles Dickens Great Expectations, there before my very eyes – a street named “?? (I don’t remember the first part of the name) Chase.”  Suddenly a light bulb went on.  “Uh huh!”  This, in turn, shone a light on the statement on Europe colonizing the land.

There are many more street names that I could have listed, but I didn’t, because I wanted to keep this interesting.  Therefore, this ends our little history lesson for today.  I also, just need to add – as an African-American, you might think none of this would interest me, since at these particular times, my people were contracted slaves.  But, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – to bury ones head in the sand, makes that person as narrow-minded as their captors. If you found this at all intriguing, please leave a comment.

Images courtesy of Google Earth
Information via Wikipedia

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