Ventongimps and Goonhavern are two of my favourite place names in Cornwall. “Goon” in Cornish means “down,” hence Goonhilly, Goonown and Goon Piper. Ventongimps, tamely, means a well or spring in a flat place.
There are lots of other colourful monikers across the UK’s southwesternmost peninsula. How about Water-ma Trout, home to an industrial estate, or Enquire-the Way?
Here are a few enjoyable place names to raise a smile:
Jolly’s Bottom and Skinner’s Bottom
Jolly’s Bottom is close to Chacewater and Truro, and straddles the main line railway. The settlement may have been named after the Jolly family: hopefully they were as good humoured as the name suggests. Skinner’s Bottom, near St Agnes, has been home to humans tor a long time; there are iron age buildings and prehistoric flint arrowheads. Hopefully those didn’t get too near anyone’s bottom.
The Quaker meeting house, built in the 1700s, was surely the source of this charmingly named hamlet near Carnon Downs. Others say it’s from Cornish Cwm-ty-coit, meaning “the coombe by the dwelling in the wood”. Or, a pun on the phrase, presumably coined by non-Quakers.
This is a Grade II listed house in Quethiock near Saltash, presumably where everyone stopped to ask for directions. It dates back to the 1600s, well before road signs were standard, obviously.
They used to say of the mining Cornish: “Find a hole in the ground and there’s a Cornishman down it.”
Well this hole is above ground, near St Neot. We don’t know the origin of the name: was it near a mine? Owned by the Hole family? Inherited in whole by someone who couldn’t spell? Anyway, you can book a stay at Hole Barn on site.
This means, in Ye Olde speak, “Wet my throat”. It could have referred to a dry field; or maybe it’s where, on a long journey to Helston, you need to stop for a good drink.
Break My Neck Farm
Set on Break My Neck Lane in Newmill, Penzance, this three-bedroom farmhouse is close to Ding Dong Mine and Noongallas campsite. Clearly worth a visit just for the stories.
Brown Willy, Cocks, and Booby’s Bay
A moorland tor, a Perranporth area parish and a lovely beach, OK? Now get your mind out of the gutter.
The author would like to cite author June Lander’s research on Cornish place names for some of the material in this article.