The Place Names of Gosport by Philip Eley

Place names in England are generally either descriptive, reflecting natural features possibly long-since lost, or possessive, commemorating the name of the founder of the settlement, often reflecting the waves of invaders, successively Roman, Scandinavian, Saxon and Norman.

The place names within Gosport Borough are of both types, with a few oddities thrown in. Some have been in use for over a thousand years, some less than a hundred, each representing a small part of our history.

The Saxons

Most of the oldest place names mentioned here have their roots in Old English words of Anglo-Saxon origin. In the seventh century the coast from Titchfield to Emsworth was home to the Meonwara, a branch of the Jutes who had settled in Kent. In 661 King Wulfhere of Mercia gave the Meonwara to the King of the South Saxons.

For the next 25 years, until 686, Gosport was part of Sussex; then King Caedwalla won the territory back for the West Saxons. The next three hundred years were relatively settled times for this part of Wessex, allowing the establishment of the place names familiar to us today.

The Sources

Our knowledge of ancient place-names is restricted by the survival of written records. It is only from the chance survival of an Anglo-Saxon deed dated 956 that we can be certain of the original names of Rowner, Elson and Gomer. Sometimes a tradition is recorded, as in the case of Alverstoke in a note in a 13th century Bishop of Winchester's Register.

Were it not for these survivals the Domesday Survey of 1086 would be the first written record for the larger administrative units which became the manors. Even here some places are not named, while the sub-divisions of manors were not of interest to the compilers.

It is only from the end of the 13th century, when continuous manorial records survive, that names of Alverstoke Manor's tithings, known here as 'ranks', become known. Haslar, Stoke, Privett, Bury, Forton, Brockhurst, Elson and Woodcot were undoubtedly names from earlier times, originating from individual farms or smallholdings.

Bedenham is known from similar records as a tithing of Fareham Manor, whilst a less complete set of records for the Titchfield Manors, from the 16th century onwards, cover the United Manors of Chark and Lee Britten.

The old manors of Lee, Rowner, Gosport, and Alverstoke, together with the latter's 'ranks', have their present day counterparts in the ten electoral wards, although the old names have been supplemented by the more modern names of Anglesey and Leesland. Where the old name survives, the modern ward boundaries rarely correspond with their ancient counterparts.

Since the start of the 19th century there have been a number of planned housing developments most of whose names have survived to the present day. There is a wealth of contemporary documentary evidence in the form of newspapers (from 1799), maps, trade and street directories, decennial census returns (from 1841) and electoral rolls (from 1896). Unlike the more ancient place-names, there is usually little doubt about the meaning and derivation.

The Place Names

Alverstoke, Stoce, Allwardstok
10th century. Old English stoc - a farm or place. Legend has it that Stoke was given to St. Swithun's Priory in Winchester by the widowed Lady Alwara, the name thus becoming Alwarstoke. The village, with its parish church, continued to be called Stoke until the 1820s when it became known as Alverstoke Village (to distinguish it from Alverstoke Parish). The original form lives on in Stoke Road and Stokes Bay.

Anglesey, Angleseyville
1820s. An attempt to establish Stokes Bay as a spa and seaside resort, it was endorsed by Henry, first Marquis of Anglesey, hence the name.

Anns Hill., Annswell
14th century. Annswell probably derives from Old English enadawiell - ducks' stream - reflecting the stream that once flowed into the head of Forton millpond. Later the name transferred itself to a natural spring at the corner of Mill Road with Brockhurst Road. The transformation from well to hill, decades before the first railway bridge, is quite obscure. Perhaps there was once a slight rise in the otherwise flat landscape (now lost to brick-earth excavation) which was ironically called a hill.

Bedenham, Bedeham, Bednam
13th century. Old English hamm means dry land in marsh, an apt description of this area. The first part may be the personal name Biede.

Bingham Town
1810s. A speculative development on land laid out by Rev. Richard Bingham. The streets, now mostly demolished, were named after his sons Charles, Henry, Joseph and Elliot. This was the first planned estate in the parish and was inevitably also known as Newtown

Bridgemary, Bridgmery
17th century. Old English brig bridge and mere lake. Frater Lake almost certainly stretched as far inland as the start of Brewers Lane (where Bridgemary Pond survived until the twentieth century), thus the main road would have required a bridge.

13th century. From Old English hyrst copse, by a broc brook.

This coastal expanse in Lee Britten most probably takes its name from the Brune family who had claimed certain rights in the land as part of the Royalty of Richmond Crofton since the fourteenth century.

Burrow Island
17th century. Burrough Island, Rat Island. Joined to Priddy's Hard by a causeway, the name derives from the fact that the island is within the boundary of the Borough (now City) of Portsmouth. One may surmise that the name Rat Island stems from rats leaving decaying hulks moored in the harbour, heading for the nearest land.

Bury, Berry
13th century. More likely to derive from Old English bery new farm, than burg which means fortified place.

Camden Town
1860s. A speculative development with streets named after prominent reforming politicians, including Camden. The area of the same name in London was a speculation by the first Earl Camden.

Chark, Cherc, Cherke, (Cherque)
12th century. The derivation of the name is obscure, possibly from burnt wood (as in charcoal). Cherque is 12th century 'Franglais'.

Clarence Town
1850s. Short-lived name for speculative housing in Victoria and Albert Streets off Forton Road.

Clayhall, Clay Hall
Late 18th century. This appears to be an ironic name of a cottage in a brick field.

Dock Village. See Seafield

Elson, Aethelswith tuninga, Elston
10th century. Aethelswith's tuninga or farm. Queen Aethelswith, who died in 888, was the sister of King Alfred. The name, being rather a mouthful, became shortened to Elston, and again, in the 17th century, to Elson.

Ewer Common
16th century. Named after the yew tree. See also Haslar, Privettand Oaker (Seafield).

14th century. Old English fleot means 'a creek or stretch of sea-water'.

Forton, Fortun, Fortune
13th century. The farm at the ford. In 1540 a Fordbridge is recorded. The millpond, part of Forton Lake, originally covered the ground where the Criterion bingo hall now stands. The (Forton) road was presumably under water at high tides.

Gomer, Gagol mor, Gamoore, Gale Moor
10th century. Apparently named after the bog myrtle plant, known locally as sweet gale, which once grew here in abundance in the marshy conditions.

Gosport., Goseport
By 1241. The Manor and Borough of Gosport was carved out of Alverstoke Manor at the beginning of the thirteenth century as a counterpoint to Portsmouth on the opposite side of the harbour. The name apparently derives from gosa, Old English for goose, and port, Latin portus or harbour, 'borrowed' from Portchester, Portsea and Portsmouth. The suggested derivation from gorse is clearly nonsense as gorse is a northern name for what is traditionally called furze in this area. Similarly, 'God's Port' is a nineteenth century romantic invention, but one which has 'official' backing in the form of the town crest with its motto of 'God's Port our Haven'.

From Quarr Abbey's Grange Farm in Rowner. A large area was acquired by the War Department in the 1850s, and Fort Grange was built. This became part of Grange Airfield (RAF Gosport), on which the Grange estate was built.

18th century. Hards are natural landing places formed when firmer material is left when the adjacent softer stuff is washed away by tidal action. There were several hards at Hardway with names such as Convict Hard, Dutch Hard,Priddy's Hard, and Carter's Hard. The latter is mentioned in 1587.

Haslar, Haselhurst, Haselhorde, Haselworth, Hazeler
One of Alverstoke's tree names: the hazel. See also Ewer Common, Privett and Oaker Common (Seafield).

The stream which drains into Fareham Creek now crosses the main road in a culvert, but the name commemorates the time when there was a ford there. A Holford Bridge is recorded in 1542. This natural feature marks the boundary between the Manors of Alverstoke and Fareham.

his is a modern name arising when Holbrook School moved from its original home, near Holbrook's Farm (known as such in 1573) in Rowner, to what was once called Nalder's Farm, off the Fareham Road.

Lee Britten, Lye. Lee Bruton, (Le Breton)
13th century. Old English leah means wood or clearing. The suffix comes from the Brut or Bret family who owned the manor in the 13th century. This distinguishes it from Lee Marks, to the north and east, owned by the Marks family.

A name invented in 1884 when Sir John Robinson laid out his vision of a new seaside resort on lands mainly in the ancient Manor of Lee Britten.

1860s. A name also seen in Lees Lane. Presumably Lee was a landowner, but there are no obvious candidates in surviving records.

Alternative name for Bingham Town. Newton was used for a short time in the 17th century as the name of an area near Bury Cross.

Peel Common
Old English pyll, a pool. The original Peel Common was a wider southern part of Newgate Lane in Fareham Borough. Now a 1960s housing estate and a sewage works.

Priddy's Hard
18th century. One of the natural landing places at Hardway by land bought from Elizabeth Priddy in 1755 by the Board of Ordnance for fortifications.

Privett., Pryvet, Prevet
13th century. One of the Alverstoke tree names: the privet.

Rowner, Ruwan oringa, Rughenor
10th century. A Saxon settlement, later a manor and parish, whose name means 'rough slope or bank'. It is still possible to trace the ancient boundary ditches separating Rowner from Chark (at Sandhill Common), and from a disconnected part of Alverstoke (at Brooker's field).

A perfect descriptive name now totally inaccurate after years of sand and gravel digging.

19th century. Presumably named from the low-lying nature of the area, this was originally Oaker Common, one of the 'tree' names in Alverstoke (see Haslar, Privett and Ewer Common). It was known as Dock Village before the proposal in 1839 to build a ship canal here.

Stoke. See Alverstoke

Weevil, Weevle
17th century. This cannot be named after the destructive granary-beetle, as the name pre-dates the formation of the government bakery (later the Royal Clarence Victualling Yard). The theory that the bakery was named after a Navy victualling agent is also wrong for the same reason. Perhaps it just means small settlement?

14th century. Old English wuda cot: cottage in the wood. The clearance of natural woodland in Alverstoke started in the south-eastern parts, gradually progressing north and west. Woodcot, being furthest away from the water, would have kept its trees longest, although someone obviously set up home in a clearing.


G.B. Grundy. The Saxon Land Charters of Hampshire. (1920s. Typescript in Hampshire Record Office).
J.E.B. Gover. The Place-Names of Hampshire. (1961. Typescript in HRO).
R. Coates. The Place-Names of Hampshire. (1989, Batsford).
E. Ekwall. Oxford Dictionary of Place-Names. (1960, OUP).