The story behind Wareham's Street Names
By Lilian Ladle, MBE
Walking around Wareham, we take the street names for-granted – after all, they have been there, unchanging for centuries – or have they?
For example, they describe location (North Street, South Street, East Street, West Street), buildings such as churches (Trinity Lane), lost buildings (St Michael’s Lane), occupations (Roper’s Lane) and often commemorate people who were associated with the town. We must also remember that the majority of the two north quarters of the town were not built on until the 20th century. Before that they were mostly allotments and gardens. Some of the street names in the north-east quarter of the town however, are not quite what they seem….
Antique postcard of Wareham showing North, South, West and East Street (view from West Street).
When I came to live in Wareham in 1965, our first house was in Folly Lane. Why was it called Folly Lane and where was the folly? Long demolished it would seem. This had been a tower-like brick building known as Dugdale’s folly, located in a small grove of trees north of St Martin’s church and recorded in a Town Guide of 1860 (the Dugdale family owned various plots of land in the vicinity). The north end of Folly Lane turns west and becomes Mount Pleasant, an incredibly steep, narrow lane which exits into North Street, first recorded in 1767 and assumed to allude to the grove of trees associated with the folly. Perhaps not as agreeable as the name implies, for in 1865 a Mr Squire was fined for ‘depositing night soil and noxious material’ near the Folly.
Mount Pleasant c. 1920 At this time the cottages were ‘unfit for human habitation’ and the owners were asked to urgently to repair them
An 18th century map of Wareham which clearly shows that the majority of the town remained unbuilt on. The map is from ‘The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset by John Hutchins’ published by 1774.
Most people are unaware when they drive into the town’s major car park in Howard’s Lane that its name has been changed a number of times. At various times in the 18th century, it was known as Black Lane, Hayward’s Lane, Howard’s Lane and Dugdale’s Lane. William Dugdale owned a house in the lane in 1763; ‘Howard’ may be a corruption of Hayward, a medieval occupational name for an official who controlled straying cattle and horses on the common and ‘Black’ may refer to it being a dark thoroughfare.
Howards Lane alias ‘Black Lane’, ‘Dugdales Lane’ – there were no buildings here until the early 1800s
Nearby, the short and very narrow Carrion Lane runs east to west. The name means ‘dead or rotting flesh’ and in the ‘1663 Town Constitutions’ it was stated ‘that no carrion, filth or noysome thing be put or laid in or about the town to the grievance of the people. It is ordered that such material be burned in some convenient place’. It seems likely that Carrion Lane was that designated place. In 1770, it was bounded by gardens, and those tending them were urged not to throw their rubbish into the lane. Old habits obviously died hard!
Moreton’s Lane originally ran from East Street as far as North Walls, its northern extent becoming Folly Lane in the late 18th century. The Mortons, a well-to-do professional family, had lived in Wareham since the 1500s. It was also known as ‘Groop Street /Groupe Lane. The derivation is from the Anglo-Saxon meaning ‘a dark, disreputable alley’. The disreputable acts can only be imagined!
Moretons Lane once a ‘dark, disreputable alley’
Finally, Nundico which is not appended with ‘street’ or ‘lane’. This very odd name occurs from the mid-19th century and referred to open plots of land east of Folly Lane. A strip of land to the west side of the Morden road in Sandford and recorded on the 1846 Tithe Award, also bears this name. From the latin ‘non dico’ meaning ‘I do not say’, it possibly alludes to ‘a place with improper associations’. Its proximity to Morton’s Lane and Carrion Lane is suggestive…..It’s a great pity that the early town records were ‘lost’, as they may have been able to throw much needed light on the derivation of these intriguing names.
Other lane names in this quarter commemorate the Bonnets, Brixeys, Dollins and Bells, all of whom owned or rented pieces of land in the 18th century and contributed their family names to Wareham’s historical street pattern.
Lilian Ladle, MBE, is a local historian and archaeologist. She has written several books on local history, and directed the Bestwall Quarry Project in Wareham. She was awarded the MBE in 2008 for Services to Archaeology. She is also a founder member of the Wareham and District Archaeology and Local History Society which have regular events throughout the year. Find out more about the society on the Love It Local website community pages.