What’s in a name? 

Ever wondered where your favourite pub, restaurant or hotel got its name? Or how the street names came into being? What about some of those strange sounding village names? Read on to discover the stories behind some of Rutland’s place names. Let’s start with ‘Rutland’… 

The origin of the name ‘Rutland’ is unclear

Some consider it to be a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon Rothland (‘red land’) so called on account of the colour of its soil. In A Dictionary of British Place-Names (2011), David Mills gives an alternative etymology; suggesting that ‘Rota’s land’ derives from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) personal name and land. It is from the alternative interpretation of red land that the traditional nickname for a male person from Rutland (a ‘Raddle Man’) derives. 

The tradition of giving Rutland to Anglo-Saxon Queens started with Emma of Normandy, mother of Edward the Confessor, who was granted ‘Roteland’ on her marriage to King Ethelred the Unready in AD 1002. In turn, Edward the Confessor gifted the land to his wife, Queen Edith, in 1053. Reference to ‘Roteland’ is made in the Will of Edward the Confessor. It is referred to in The Domesday Book of 1086 (William the Conqueror’s survey of newly-won lands and subjects) as ‘the King’s soc of Roteland’. It was first mentioned as a separate county in 1159, but as late as the 14th century it was referred to as the ‘Soke of Rutland’. Historically the county was also known as ‘Rutlandshire’. 


Rutland is peppered with beautiful villages with interesting names

Here are just a few: 

  • Ashwell is thought, by some, to have taken its name from the Ash lined stream near the village. 
  • Bisbrooke is a small village straddling an ironstone ridge between two brooks. It’s from one of these streams that Bisbrooke takes its name. Bisbrooke was first recorded in The Domesday Book, where it was originally spelled ‘Bitlesbroch’. The name has undergone around 19 different spellings over the centuries, including Bitelesbroke, Pysbroke and Butlisbroke. One explanation is that an early settler named Bitel lived next to the brook, but it is also possible that the village’s name is attributed to the fact that the stream was infested with water beetles, as ‘betel’ is an old English word for beetle.
  • Hambleton means ‘the settlement’ (tun) ‘on the crooked hill’ (Hamble). The village is now situated on a peninsula with Rutland Water surrounding it on three sides. 
  • Whitwell is named after the spring which flows from beneath the church, which is called ‘the white spring’, or ‘the white well’. 
  • Edward the Confessor bequeathed Rutland to his wife, Edith of Wessex. ‘The extreme western area of Edith’s lands’ is probably how Edith Weston came by its name.
  • Meaning ‘long village’ or ‘long water meadow’, Langham owes its origins to the Anglo Saxons, although Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman remains have been found within the parish. The Domesday Book records Oakham as having five hamlets of which, it is likely, Langham was one. 
  • Greetham, meaning ‘village on stone’ is a long village that stands on both sides of North Brook, a stream that meanders through the village. Archaeological finds demonstrate that the village has been occupied through the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages, and a pottery kiln from the Roman period has been found.
  • Tickencote; the name of this small village derives from the Saxon ‘ticcen’ and ‘cote’, meaning ‘the place where goats and kids were herded’ when the country around was forest.
  • Uppingham began life as a 6th century Saxon farmstead that came to be known as ‘the settlement of the people on the hill’ (otherwise Uppingham) which developed where the ancient track from Oakham to Rockingham – Tod’s Piece, Crown Passage, Reeve’s Yard – crossed the ridge.

Streets, yards and places of interest

Dean’s Street in Oakham was once known as ‘Dead Man’s Lane’ due to the coffins that would go by this route to church. It’s now named after the Dean of Westminster Abbey, once the owner of this part of Oakham.

Hudson’s Cottage is where Jeffrey Hudson, ‘the smallest man from the smallest county in England’ is thought to have lived. Born in Oakham in 1619, Hudson was so small that he was ‘served up’ in a cold pie before the Duke of Buckingham, King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.

Orange Street in Uppingham was formerly known as Orange Lane. There are at least two versions of how it came by the name. First, that it derives from the annual Orange Fair, March or Lent Fair as it is now called. Quantities of oranges used to be brought into the town to be sold for making marmalade and although the fair was based in the Market Place the stalls selling the oranges extended up the lane, leading to the road to Ayston. The alternative theory is that the street is named after the attorney Thomas Orange, a prominent inhabitant of the town in Elizabethan times who owned land hereabouts.

Bear Yard in Uppingham is another one with multiple theories behind the name. One has it that during the Civil War a troop of Dutch soldiers with their bearskin hats were caught here by the Roundheads on the Sabbath, drinking with local girls, and slaughtered. Another, better founded, is that this was where in Victorian times the dancing bear was kept during the Lent Fair.

Tod’s Piece in Uppingham is a much loved and treasured amenity providing a welcome open space in the centre of town. Legend has it that a man named Tod took a wager that he could completely scythe the field in one day. He won his bet, but dropped down dead from his exertions. 

Beast Hill in Uppingham was where cattle were herded on market days. As you pass by to the right of the Old School, you’ll see on the left the ‘pound’ or ‘pinfold’ as it was sometimes called. The Uppingham pinfold dates back to the 12th century. ‘Beast Hill’ refers to the large sward of sloping grass extending down to South View, and originally was the holding point for animals that had been walked to market, which was the norm pre railway and lorry! It was here that the original twice weekly cattle market was held, with interconnected market activity in the Market Place. 

Sheilds Yard in Uppingham is typical of the many yards in Uppingham. It has a lead-headed pump dated 1805 which you can find out more about in ‘Hidden Gems’ (page ??). The name and spelling derives from a family who lived here. The name Sheild is no older than the middle of the 19th century. A hundred years earlier this was called first Bennett’s Yard, then Gamble’s Yard and the narrow passage leading off High Street West was known as Binnett’s Entry.

Let’s Look at some of our local businesses names…

The Olive Branch, Clipsham 

The story goes that the pub was created from farm-labourers’ cottages in the second half of the 19th century. Before that, there’d been an alehouse near Clipsham Hall, but the Lord of the Manor closed it down. It’s likely he’d become sick of the noise and his workers turning up late, full of too much beer.

The closure of the ale-house caused uproar, so the Lord decided to convert three labourers’ cottages (sensibly located a suitable distance from his home) into a pub. It was named ‘The Olive Branch’ because it represented a peace offering to the village. Today, the pub sign shows an olive branch and a dove above Clipsham’s Yew Tree Avenue.

The Jackson Stops in Stretton was previously called the White Horse, but was for sale for such a long time with the estate agents’ sign outside, that the pub is now officially called by the estate agent’s name!

The Tithe Barn guesthouse in Cottesmore is a handsome building with a 15th century dovecote on the gable end. Originally this was a 100ft barn owned by the Church. Although named the tithe barn, it is not believed that this was ever used for the collection of tithes. It is situated on Clatterpot Lane, so called because of the clattering of pots at the bakery previously at the end of the lane.

The Old Buttercross is named after the medieval market cross in Oakham. The famous ‘Butter Cross’ is shown on Speed’s map of Oakham, dated 1611. Its five-hole stocks are a mystery, but we know that dairy products were sold at the Butter Cross and since it was a cross, it’s likely that preaching would occur.

For more than 60 years, the premises now occupied by The Captain Noel Newton pub in Oakham were the home to the Royal British Legion, having been acquired in the late 1940s from Captain Noel Newton. Newton served in the army during World War I with the rank of captain, then major. He was awarded the Military Cross and later became a member of Rutland County Council.