6 Of The UK’s Funniest Place Names, And The Stories Behind Them

From Shitterton to Pity Me to Brokenwind and Dull, the Brits are known the world over for their wicked sense of humor. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the names they have given to their towns and villages. As a small taster, here are just six of them.

Illustrations by Teresa Bellón

1. Rest and Be Thankful, Argyll and Bute

What sort of a place would you expect to see with a name like that? Rest and Be Thankful, also known as The Rest, is what the A83 road in Scotland has been known as for centuries. Not far from Loch Lomond, it is a very scenic 160km-long road that takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside in the Highlands. The original road was built by soldiers in the 1750s. Its highest point, at 246m, soon became a place where travelers of old would stop to “rest and be thankful” for the breath-taking scenery that unfolded in front of their eyes before carrying on to their destination. After the road’s completion in the mid-18th century, a stone with the words “Rest and Be Thankful” was erected to commemorate this particular viewpoint. While it would have taken considerably longer to get there on foot or in an 18th c. horse-drawn carriage, today it is an easy day trip distance from Glasgow, so be thankful, be very thankful indeed.

2. Dull, Perth and Kinross

Although the name may have originally come from Pictish or Gaelic, this did not stop Dull from becoming somewhat of a global phenomenon when it was twinned with Boring, Oregon, back in 2012. In a street party that the local Dull and Weem community threw for all of its 84 inhabitants, this little town, in the Scottish Highlands, proved to the world that it was neither dull nor boring and that it had in fact a good eye for publicity. The two towns which now celebrate Boring and Dull day on 9 August (and have their own Facebook page) have seen such a significant rise in tourism that in 2013, Bland, Australia decided to join forces in what is now known as the “Trinity of Tedious”. Ssshhhh….next we’ll be hearing that Draby in Poland, Monotony Valley in Nevada and Tedious Creek in Maryland want a piece of the action too!

3. Once Brewed/Twice Brewed, Northumberland

Once Brewed/Twice Brewed is a tiny Northumberland hamlet along Hadrian’s Wall. It’s got an inn, a youth hostel, a few cottages and a post box. So how did such a tiny settlement end up with such a long name? According to a story, 18th c. farmers used to brew and serve a very weak ale and so those who visited the Twice Brewed Inn knew they were guaranteed to be served a proper, strong one. Another story talks about how the inn was once visited by thirsty workmen who, disappointed by the first sip, demanded that their ale be brewed a second time to make it stronger. It is however more likely that the name comes from the brows of the two large hills that overlook the inn. Fast forward several years, on the day the youth hostel was inaugurated in 1934, Lady Trevelyan of Wallington Hall, a historic Northumberland estate owner, mentioned the inn and announced quite staunchly in her inauguration speech that “of course there will be no alcohol served on these premises, so I hope the tea and coffee will only be brewed once.”

4. Pity Me, Durham

This is another of those names whose origins are lost in the mists of time. According to the Oxford Dictionary of British Place Names however, Pity Me was considered a “desolate, exposed or difficult to cultivate” place in the 19th century. Others believe the name to have derived from the Norman Petite Mer (little sea) but locals prefer a more colorful story according to which St. Cuthbert cried “Pity Me” when monks accidentally dropped his coffin there, on their way to Durham. Similar stories are told about Pityme, Cornwall.

5. Shitterton, Dorset

In a 2012 survey by findmypast.co.uk about “Britain’s worst place names” (yes, the Brits love surveys like that!), Shitterton came top of the list as Britain’s most unfortunate place name after beating Scratchy Bottom, also in Dorset, Brokenwind in Scotland and Crapstone in Devon. In 2010, Shitterton made the news when locals, who were fed up of seeing their town’s road signs being stolen by pranksters all the time, pooled their resources to buy a £680 one-and-a-half ton stone version of their town’s name set in concrete.

6. Indian Queens, Cornwall

Precisely who that Indian Queen was supposed to be is not known, but an inscription on a local inn that was demolished in the ’60s may have held the answer. According to the inscription, back in the 18th century a Portuguese princess spent the night in the inn on her way to London, and it is believed that her dark complexion may have led the locals to believe she was Indian. At the end of the 18th century there was also a signboard that displayed an American Indian on one side and Queen Victoria on the other, but, ever the jokesters, the locals may have another story to tell you. Apparently, the town was named in honour of Pocahontas who visited the village in the 17th century. Despite there being absolutely no proof to back this up, there is a street in Indian Queens today called Pocahontas Crescent.

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