Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Name That House

When I first moved to England, one of the first things I noticed they did differently was addressing post (not to mention calling it post instead of mail).  I don't think I ever got my head around the punctuation business, putting a comma at the end of each line, or even after the house number.  It didn't take me long before I decided that there must be a correlation between the number of lines in one's address and the prestige of one's address.  For example, an address in the US might be

Ms. Shelley S. House
55 Blogger Street
Google, OT  01234-5678

and you would add USA at the bottom if sending it from abroad.  If I wanted to be posh here in Britain, I'd try to eek it out:

Mrs. Shelley S. House,
The Brick House,
55, Snooty Lane,
Posh Village,
Postal Town,
NE99 0DR,
Great Britain

Actually, I think you lose points if you have to put a house number and street name, but you can probably only get away with this if you live in The VicarageThe Old Rectory or The Old Post Office in some tiny rural crossroads, in which case you would chock up loads of prestige points for
(a) being rural and (b) having a landmark house.  The post office has rules about all this these days, though.  You can name your house whatever you like but it still has to have a number and a street name. 

Now, if you live in Beechfield TowerLauder Grange, Shirley Lodge or the like, I completely understand the house naming business and if you're like me, you could spend days wandering through the listings of this particular real estate business.  I must admit that when I owned two houses in Oklahoma City, I referred to the one on Pennsylvania Avenue as 'Penn House' just for convenience.  (Do you think I could have got more rent if I'd painted the name on the house?)

More frequently, though, the houses here with names are more like The Cottage, or Sunniside, Tyne View or something house, which is particularly boring.  I do think that having an older house with the name engraved on the stonework above the door gives a bit more authority to this convention, but it would never occur to me to get one of those little ceramic plaques for the front wall.

Until now. 

I was doing some filing and realised I was just going to have to remove some material before more could go in.  One of the fatter folders contained the paperwork for my house that the mortgage company handed me when I paid them off.  (Yes, I know it should be in a bank deposit box somewhere, not in my filing cabinet.)  I'd never looked through the file before, but I opened the plastic package and found the original sale of the property by the Duke of Northumberland (I believe it will have been the 8th Duke) and learned the names of the builders.  The early deeds are written on large, folded sheets of stiff paper with fountain pen and give the street and town of the purchasers, ie Mrs. Ellen Purchase, formerly of Saltview, Gateshead, and the like.  The house was built in 1920 as I've always known.  What I didn't know was that it was given a name at birth, so to speak.  It was christened Seaholme.  

'Holme' is apparently a Danish word for 'island'.   Trust me to find a Sea Island in the North Sea.  There is a suburb with this name in Melbourne, AU; also a company in the UK that rents marquees; and we are twinned with a holiday cottage for rent in Rye, on the SE coast of England.  The rest of the internet listings have dropped the final 'e' and I'm just not having it. 

Personally, I want it to be crystal clear to the emergency services precisely where they can find my house if I need them.  However, I've been weighing up whether and where I might display the name, given I have no stone work over my front door.  I've seen some names painted or written in leaded glass work in the window above front doors, but on the whole, I'm leaning towards continuing in anonymity, at least until I get my next set of address labels printed - or maybe I should add it to the name of this blog!?  Yes, I still think naming houses is rather silly, but this is a fun finding anyhow.  Must remember to check with the neighbours about their house names - none are displayed in our immediate vicinity - as I'm pretty certain they will all have been given names when they were built.

If you want to think up a name for your house - where ever it is, here are some tips to get you started.


Boywilli said...

Those big sheets of stiff paper are parchment.
I think all houses built then ere given a name. My parents' first house was called "Ellesmere House" and it was even more modest than "Seaholme"

Gill said...

Shelley, I'm sorry I have no email address to respond to your comment on my 365 blog. I hope you don't mind my reply appearing here - I must say, I'm pleased to have discovered your blog, too!

My 365 is a kind of visual diary - no theme, just a photo a day tracking where I am, what I'm doing and so on. I began it with friends, but they've all fallen by the wayside and I soldier on for my own benefit, enjoying the challenge of selecting a photograph which is visually interesting but which also captures the activity of the day.

The machine you commented on was part of a model cotton mill in Lowell MA - with your heritage, perhaps you know it? We've been in Boston for a few days, post Thanksgiving, and ventured out into the country to explore a little when the shopping got too much Often, the 365 photo links from my other blog, An Elegant Sufficiency - but if you simply stumbled upon the 365 one, I can imagine that it appeared a little odd!

Love the thoughts about UK/US addresses - especially since we live in a village with only named houses, no numbers whatsoever, and the name of the village is rather odd too....I can't tell you how many times we have to spell it out!

Best wishes from Gloucestershire and thanks for the comment.

Bourbon&Pearls said...

So funny about mail/post I've never picked up that before.
I wish I could rename our house, I'm going to go look at that link and come up with something new - not that I can of course but for my own satisfaction - will report back!

Bourbon&Pearls said...

OK, a place I've been or a place I love, do you think I could get away with calling ours The Beverly Hills Hotel?

Shelley said...

Bill - Are you sure? It looks closer to cardboard than to paper...then again, you would know about these things...

Gill - Hello! Of course I don't mind your dropping by. Pleased to see you do words as well as photos and glad you got back home from Boston in spite of the general strike! Nope, I've never been to Boston, so you're one up on me there.

B&P - I'd be perfectly happy for you to name your house The Beverley Hill Hotel - so long as we can come visit (happy to make a reservation...). Thanks for dropping by!

Rick Stone said...

I've always referred to our place as Stone Manor. It used to be Stone Manor on the shore of Lake Joanne. Of course, that was before I took out the "lake" this past summer and put in a real yard. ;->

Shelley said...

Rick - So it's a pasture now, instead of a lake, right?

Rick Stone said...

I guess you could call it a pasture. Bridgit Jeane seems to like to chew on the grass back there. Of course, she chews on about everything, including on one of each of our hearing aids. (I'm getting a new one tomorrow. Jo does not need hers anymore. Her hearing is perfect now.)