What's in a Name:   RAMESDANA!

Did it mean Ramsdale, Ravensdale or Ransonsdale?   You pay your money and take your choice, we'll never know for sure.    What we do know is "Bellhouse" descends from the "de Belhus" family, as does Crays from the "de Crei" family.   It's not necessarily only the ancient families that are remembered by place names.   Two generations of farmers at Woolshots, late last century and early this century, has left us with "Jacksons Comer", after the family name.   By the same token we're inherited "Gardiners Lane".   Besides names that commemorate, other names inform.    We know Church Road must lead to a church somewhere, and Mill Lane must lead to a Mill, if it hadn't been blown down in 1873.   But what about Glebe Road? Glebe, not exactly an "in" word these days, was land owned by the church for the benefit of the incumbent.   A glance at an 1892 auction map, answers the question, showing fields of some three acres, clearly marked "Glebe"; at the end of the road.

So how about Orchard Avenue?   The same map provides the answer, showing an orchard of some 6 acres, smack in the middle of the road, some unkind car owners claim the roots are still there!   No marks for Homestead Road, the company that first developed the area in the early 1900's.   Ramsden Park Road not only informs, it also commemorates, leading as it does down to what was indeed a park.   Not in the sense we use "park" today, no swings or roundabouts etc., but a huge uncultivated area, put down to grass, where deer and other wild life roamed free, where the Lord of the Manor took his ease.   Park Lane leading from the Heath to the same Park, takes its name for the same reason.   What is puzzling, is that while two roads commemorate the Park; the name of the Manor to which it belonged, seems to have been erased from the collective memory entirely.   The name being Ramsden Barrington.   This manor occupied the western half of the Parish from around 1250, yet nowhere is the name used.   Not even a Barrington Avenue, Crescent or even a Close.   Some of our senior citizens, born and bred in the "Bellhouse"; have never heard the name, yet the Manorial Roll exists still, in the Essex Record Office and shows the last sitting of the Manorial Court took place early this century!    What a chance was missed when the new Fox and Hounds in Church Road took over from the old one on Heath Road in 1927!   If they'd only made a clean break and given the new pub a new name we could have had a local called the "Barrington Arms".

Although the present pub is some 100 yards outside the manor boundary, it would at least, have maintained the link with this famous family.    Mind you, to be fair, a similar chance was missed about 1873, when the then "Army & Navy" changed its name to the present "Nags Head", and that is within the manor boundary.    But I suppose then as now, local history was not exactly a first priority.

Most of the developers of the recent past, have tried to include local names into their estates, giving us Moat Close for instance, reminding us of the moat that existed around that area for centuries and which should never have been filled in, at least until it had been dredged.   What treasures lie buried under the Close?    Dovetail Close takes its name from the old farm house that stood almost opposite the White Horse in Church Road.

The Allen Farm Estate off Dowsers Lane is a good example of local naming.   "Allen Road" speaks for itself of course.   "Recreation Walk" takes us into the Recreation Ground itself, two acres of land allotted during the enclosures of 1858 to John Johnson Esquire, subject to, "permitting such land to be at all times used as a Place of Exercise & Recreation for the Inhabitants of the said Parish & Neighbourhood".

As the aforementioned "Inhabitants" had previously taken their "Exercise & Recreation" on 160 acres of Ramsden Back Common and 36 acres of open heath land, they must have felt pretty well hemmed in by a miserly 2 acres.   No doubt the further award to the Churchwardens of 3 acres, as an allotment for the "Labouring Poor of the said Parish of Ramsden Bellhouse"; must have helped cushion the blow.   "Tipplers Bridge", the road, takes the name directly from Tipplers Bridge the bridge, if you see what I mean.    Though who Tippler was and what he was tippling we've never been able to ascertain.   No satisfactory explanation of this name has been forthcoming, so any suggestions welcomed.    "Birds Close" is an acknowledgement of the family that occupied Aliens Farm for many years, and not a reference to the wild life.

One minor mystery remains.   Cocks or Cox Green; different maps give different spellings at different periods.   Today the name is preserved as a single house name, but Cocks or Cox, it was most definitely a "Green" in the real sense.   Church Road opened out as it approached Short Lane to three or four times its average width, into what must have been a very large, open, quiet secluded green. How did it get its name?

The mystery deepens when you follow the short walk along the aptly named Short Lane to find that a similar quiet secluded green once opened out in Park Lane.    The name, long since forgotten, but clearly marked on the early Ordnance Survey maps; NYMPHS GREEN!   Now there just has to be a story there somewhere.

So to sum up, we had Cocks Green in Church Road, a sixty yard dash through

Short Lane to emerge into Nymphs Green, or of course vice versa.   Now if there's anyone out there who's ever made this sixty yard dash, in any direction, for what­ever reason, strictest secrecy observed, I'd be very interested to hear from them! You may be able to provide the missing link in the History of Ramsden Bellhouse!    Fortunately for me, having run out of space, I can happily slope off, leaving you all to ponder; after all, what's in a name?

Frank Fisher

This article was first published in "Thoughts on Ramsden - A Brief History of Village Life" Compiled and Edited by Isabel Johnson.