Update – Hamton Bridge

In the run-up to completing my essay on the “Surrey Fens” causeways I noticed that Senex’s county map of 1729 and Rocque’s better-known equivalent of the 1760s both feature the name Hamton Bridge in the locality (the former can be seen on the sixth page of the pdf and the latter as part of the relevant post on the homepage). This immediately sparked my interest, having failed to spot any reference to its existence in the course of my preparatory research for a rather shambolic talk I once gave on Surrey’s rather modest population of tun place-names (I still harbour intentions of revisiting the topic in a much more focussed manner one day, but I say that about a lot of things don’t I?). Given its floodplain-edge position, I suspected that “Hamton” could bear interpretation as an Old English place-name, hamm-tun – the first element being preferably translated as “river-meadow” in this instance (what place-name scholars classify as a hamm 3 form). Such an interpretation could hence be used to connect it to the considerable meadow resource recorded at Send in Domesday Book. However, having no access at the time to my copy of the English Place-Name Society’s standard 1934 county volume The Place-names of Surrey (often abbreviated to PNS, although you may care to use the full title when in polite company to avoid any embarrassing elision of the acronym) I chose to omit it from the essay.

Since then I retrieved said book from my parents’ house, and a quick consultation of the entry for Send parish revealed that the name wasn’t appraised by the book’s authors. Nor does it appear on the 1872 OS 1:10,560 scale map of the area (viewable via the historic map archive on British History). The bridge is still there, two bridges in fact, carrying a bridle path over the Wey Navigation and Broadmead Cut and on across the floodplain towards Old Woking (these are next to a mill that I swear was once occupied by a company named Crack Processing, although that may just be a figment of my youthful imagination). Historical circumstances would suggest that the first bridge there was no earlier than the seventeenth century, the date of the Navigation (unless there was one across a pre-canal watercourse in the same vicinity), but the date of Hamton as a (possible) adjacent place-name is a separate matter requiring different information to be drawn upon and analysed.

I realise it’s a big leap to make backwards from the eighteenth century to the eleventh (or earlier), and what is more there are several serious complicating factors. For one thing, there is no guarantee that it wasn’t a family-name application (i.e. that of the owner and/or occupier from somewhere named Ham(p)ton) of medieval or post-medieval date – this is suggested for nearby Boughton Hall in PNS (page 147). (I am giving a talk at the end of the month on a definite instance of such a name, Frollebury/Frowsbury in Puttenham, brought from Hampshire in the 1230s.) Secondly, there are no shortage of place-names in Hampton (its expected modern form) of alternative derivations; either ham-tun, “home farm”, or hean-tune, “(at) the high tun” (I am citing the latter in the dative singular form on the strength of Victor Watts et al‘s Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, page 275). On the other hand, hamm was certainly used a short distance downstream to denote river-meadow within what was once Send parish at Walsham Meadow near Ripley (see PNS, page 133, for an inconclusive discussion of the name; though late, the 1652 form Wallsome indicates the suffixing element represents hamm).

It will require someone with detailed local historical knowledge, or the inclination and time on their hands to acquire such knowledge, in order to ascertain whether the name Hamton pre-dates its appearances on county maps of the eighteenth century, and by how long. If there are instances to be discovered in documents of the name being attached to a place, moreover a settlement, in Send parish then these might reveal details about it and its association with the river meadows. As things stand, not just the nature but the very existence of a connection between the two remains unproven.

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