Heather's Monthly Articles

Odd Place Names

October 2019

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. No. I didn’t just let my cat walk over my keyboard. This is the name of a community in Wales. It’s the longest place name in Europe and the second longest in the world. (The record for the longest goes to Taumatawhakatangi-hangakoauauotamatea-turipukakapikimaunga-horonukupokaiwhen-uakitanatahu, a hill in New Zealand. Or Taumata for short.)

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The longest train station sign in the world

 

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch started life as Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll until the 1860s, when it was decided to boost the community’s attraction to tourists by adding 30 plus characters.

 

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River Piddle

Despite what you might think, these old time PR experts didn’t just insert a bunch of random letters, the name actually has a meaning. "St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the fierce whirlpool of St Tysilio of the red cave." You’d think that quaint, but slightly creepy, sounding description would have enticed more visitors than an unpronounceable (unless your Welsh of course) moniker, but the forward thinking PR gurus wanted a one-word name to put on the village’s train station sign. That sign is now Instagram famous and has become a major magnet for the community’s 200,000 visitors a year.

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Puddletown cottages
© Eugene Birchall

Unusual place names are not unusual in the U.K. Some of my favorites are Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Affpuddle and Briantspuddle. Collectively and affectionately they are known as the “Puddles of Piddle Valley.”

Puddletown was formerly known as Piddletown but for reasons I’m sure you can guess put in for a name change. For centuries many residents replaced Piddle with Puddle, but it was all done informally. Finally, in the late 1950s, when after what was described as a “long County Council debate,” it was “solemnly decided Piddletown should be Puddletown.”

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A Puddletown street
© Richard Slessor

Residents of Piddle Valley, which lies in the heart of the county of Dorset, and through which runs the River Piddle, seem to have no such qualms. There’ll be no taking the Piddle out of Piddle for them. In fact, residents maintain and update a very informative website in which you can find news on Piddle Valley pubs, parish happenings and what seems to be a thriving community theatre, The Piddle Valley Players. Peruse it for yourself at http://www.piddlevalley.info.

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