One of the things I find fascinating about living in Britain is names. They are so pregnant with history.
Names in America often indicate something about their origins, too, of course, but names on this side of the pond go back thousands, even occasionally, more than ten thousand years. In America only names left by the original American Indians have a history that go back more than 500 years or so.
We live, for instance, on Stocks Lane. The village was founded in 543, and our house is just below the hill from where the church tower dominates the residents. There is no doubt in my mind that the “stocks” were not for cattle or fruit, and obviously not for trading stocks & shares. It was the local “correction centre.”
Further afield there is Roman Hill, which was carved out by the Romans who were here until the year 410 AD. I have not been able to discover yet whether it was people or pigs or sheep washed at Wash Pit Lane, but perhaps it was all three. Even in the 20th century, there was many villages where people used public baths and out houses because bathrooms were not included in the houses.
There are thousands of names like these: Cheddar Lane, Prime Close, Abbey Gate House, Kings Cross.
But I’ve just been introduced to another newly-minted name, which nonetheless is resonant with the past.
It’s Stinking Bishop Cheese.
Seriously, it’s a cheese made in Gloucester which seems to be tremendously expensive and popular not only here but in France. It became the rage about ten years ago when it was used to revive Wallace from the dead in a Wallace & Grommit film. The politically acceptable version of where the cheese got its name is that the Cistercian monks used to produce cheese in a highly odoriferous process.
Yes, but what’s that word “Bishop” doing there?