Matthew Munson: What’s in a name?

Names can be funny things; my first name, for instance, means “Gift of God”, and I have made a note of all those who sniggered.

But it’s not personal names that I’m talking about today; it’s the names of places. It was only whilst walking the other day (upcoming marathon – I might have mentioned it?) that I looked at directional signs and thought; “Why are these places called what they’re called?”

Well, I’ve been doing a bit of research, and I’m here to help you in case you had similar thoughts. If you weren’t, then take a look at some of the other columnists on here; they’ll be talking about other interesting things. So here we go;

  • Margate: Originally spelt as Meregate in 1264, it refers to either a gate or cliff gap where pools of water were found, allowing swimmers to jump in.
  • Ramsgate was originally spelt either Remmesgate or Remisgat, and means Raven’s Gate – going back to the gap in the fences again.
  • Broadstairs is named after a flight of steps (now sadly gone) which led from the sands up to a shrine of St Mary on the summit of the cliffs; big news in the 11th
  • Kingsgate: This is where King Charles II landed in 1683.
  • Dumpton: Named after a farmer, Dudeman, who lived there in the 13th
  • Minster is named, of course, after the ancient minster abbey in the village.
  • Manston: Originally spelt Mannestone, it means (fairly originally) “farm on top of a hill belonging to Farmer Mann”. I like the simplicity of this one somehow.

However, dear reader, I have failed you in two main regards; I have obsessively researched (well, googled for about 20 minutes) the hamlets of Ebbsfleet and Sevenscore, and I can’t for the life of me find out the histories behind those names. I’m sure there must be some local historians who must know, so feel free to educate me.

But, more than anything, these names show the history of Thanet; that we’re older than we appreciate, and we can deal with change – I won’t say easily, necessarily, but we can cope with it. We’ve seen Roman occupation, Anglo-Saxon control, intense religious concentrations, conversations to a more multi-faith and then secular area, and an influx of people from other parts of the UK and abroad.

We’ve always been the richer, in the long run, because we’ve taken on new concepts and ideas, kept our old traditions, and somehow – for the most part – peacefully united the two. Actually, not always; the debates on Manston, Dreamland, and Pleasurama seem to be more divisive than a lot of issues, don’t they?

Anyway, I seem to be straying into more controversial territory here and, whilst I never normally mind that, I started off talking about names, and so there I shall end. The names in our lovely district have a long and rich history to be proud of, and I for one am glad we’ve got such long connections with our past through our names.

Find Matthew’s last column here