The History of Names and Numbers

A brief overview of the tradition and history of house names and numbers in the United Kingdom

In 1765 a bill was passed which required newly built streets to be named and houses numbered. The display of door numbers on all houses became mandatory in London in 1805. On estate villages the cottages were often numbered regardless of position simply to identify them and were given plain white ceramic number labels on the door.

In rural communities houses and farms had historically been verbally defined by names which related to their purpose, their ownership, their geography or local landmarks.

The custom of naming one’s home began with the English gentry naming the properties on their estates and was based on who the property belonged to or where it was located. For example, the Earl of Eddington could have properties named Eddington Manor, Eddington Lodge, Eddington Hall, Eddington Gate House and Eddington Cottages. Property naming then became popular, with tradesmen naming their properties based on their occupation. For example, The Forge, The Dairy, The Bakery, The Mill House, The Stables and Wool Cottage.

The practice of naming property became desirable within the general population with property owners naming their homes based on the most prominent and cherished features of their property and land. Some examples based on these features are The Orchard, Rose Cottage, Three Oaks, Honeysuckle Cottage, The Willows, Holly Lodge, The Pines, Primrose Cottage, Yew Tree House and Red Tiles.

While detached houses first claimed a right to a name, terraced houses soon followed suit, even though they had a statutory number as well. Often a plaque was incorporated into the design of the facade so that the owner could have the house name added if they wished. Alternatives included gilded lettering on fanlights or even coloured leaded glass.

With the burgeoning of the suburbs naming took on a greater significance with the desire to emphasise individuality and, critically, ownership.

In contemporary times house naming has evolved from many different inspirations. The view from a property is often the inspiration for a house name as in Meadow View, Sea Vista, Hillview, Ocean View and Lake View House. Inspiration from the previous usage of the property has resulted in The Old Bakery, The Old Barn, The Forge, The Old Vicarage and The Old Dairy.

Personalising your home by giving it a name is a relatively easy procedure although it is advisable to check with your Local Authority if there are any requirements for approval when the property is already numbered.

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