Kent Place Names - B

The mere element of Badlesmere represents an Old English word meaning pond, lake, sea, also found in the first syllable of Margate. In this case, the towns name is probably an eponym meaning Bæddels pool, and it was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Badelesmere.


Bapchild has nothing to do with kids or bread rolls. The child element is actually the Old English celde meaning spring, while the bap probably goes back to a personal name, so that we have a name meaning something like Baccas spring. The etymology is clearer in its first recorded form, Baccancelde, from the late seventh century.


Barfreston is probably an Old English eponym, denoting a tun or homestead belonging to a man called Beornfrith. It was first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Berfrestone.


Barhams final syllable indicates an Old English ham, a village or homestead. In this case, the first recorded spelling of Bioraham in 799 suggests a village belonging to Beora.


Bearsted does not, sadly, commemorate a time when bears wandered the Kentish woodlands. Its first recorded form, Berghamstyde, from 695, gives a better clue to its etymology. The first element is Old English beorg, a hill or mound, while ham, which has since disappeared from the name, indicated a settlement of some kind. The sted at the end goes back to stede, a general word signifying a place, site. The general meaning is therefore of a village or homestead on a hill.


Bekesbourne was originally just Burnes, as recorded in the Domesday Book. The name indicated an estate on the river Burna, burna being an Old English word for stream and referring in this case to the Little Stour. By 1280, though, this had become Bekesborne, the town having gained a manorial affix from the de Beche family who were here in the late twelfth century.


Benenden looks back to an Old English personal name, and denotes a denn or woodland pasture belonging to a man called Bionna. It is first found on record back in the late tenth century, as Bingdene.


The final syllable of Bethersden shows that we are looking at an Old English denn or woodland pasture. The first element is probably from a personal name, so that the town is literally a pasture belonging to Beaduric. It is first mentioned around 1100 as the somewhat less-catchy Baedericesdaenne.


Betteshanger is literally a wooded slope by a building. It looks back to the Old English hangra, a wood on a steep slope, combined with bytle house or building. It is first recorded in 1176 as Betleshangre.


Bicknor probably signifies a slope below the pointed hill. The Old English bic or bica was used to describe a pointed hill or ridge, while ora indicated a shore or the slope of a hill. Bickor is first seen on the records in 1186, as Bikenora.


The borough of Bidborough is not Old English burh, a fort or stronghold, but rather beorg, a hill. In this case we are looking back to an Anglo-Saxon personal name, giving us a literal meaning of Bittas hill, seen more clearly in the villages twelfth-century form, Bitteberga.


Biddenden, like Benenden and Bethersden, is an eponym describing an Old English denn or woodland pasture. In this case it was associated with a man called Bida. The place was first recorded back in the late tenth century as Bidingden.


Bilsington is one of the few Kent place-names to be derived from a womans name. The town literally recalls an Old English tun or farmstead belonging to someone called Bilswith, and it was first recorded as Bilsvitone in the Domesday Book.


Birchington was first recorded as Birchenton in 1240. The name comes from the Old English bircen birch-tree and tun farmstead, village, so that the underlying sense is of a farmstead where birch-trees grow.


Birling probably signifies simply Bærlas family, the ing element of its name representing the Old English -ingas family, followers. It was first mentioned on record as far back as 788, in the form of Boerlingus.


Bishopsbourne originally had the same name as its northern neighbour Bekesbourne, both towns being called simply Burnes in the Domesday Book. The name meant an estate on the Burna, which was the Old English word for stream and used for what is now known as the Little Stour. Bishopsbourne had acquired its religious affix by the eleventh century, from its possession by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The place itself is first found recorded  in the form of Burnan  as long ago as 799.


Blean was first recorded as far back as 724 in the same spelling it has today. Like Chartham and Chatham, Blean probably indicates a place in rough ground, although in this case the derivation is from the Old English blea rough ground.


Although Bobbing looks like a verb, its ending actually represents the Old English -ingas, used to denote family or followers. In this case the suggestion is that the town was once associated with the followers of Bobba, and its earliest form on record is the early-twelfth-century Bobinge.


Bonnington is another Old English eponym, and its final element tells us were looking here at someones tun or farmstead. In this case the sense is of Bunas farmstead, and it appears in the Domesday Book as Bonintone.


Borden is either a valley near a hill or a woodland pasture near a hill. The exact derivation depends on whether the words final syllable represents Old English denu valley, or denn woodland pasture. The first element seems certain to be bor hill, and the town was first recorded as Bordena in the late twelfth century.


Borough Green is fairly self-explanatory, assuming that borough here comes from the Old English burh meaning borough, manor, stronghold. An alternative and equally-plausible derivation is from beorg hill.


Old English boc beech-tree is the source for Boughton, a common English place-name which means literally farmstead where beech-trees grow. Kent has three examples, all with manorial affixes which record the presence of important families of the area. Boughton Aluph takes its affix from the thirteenth-century owner Alulf, Broughton Malherbe from an early possession by the Malherbe family, and Broughton Monchelsea looks back to the thirteenth-century de Montchensie family. All were first recorded in the Domesday Book as Boltune or Boltone.


Boxley takes its name from the box-tree, unchanged from the Old English box. A leah was a field or woodland clearing, and so the sense is of a field of box-trees. It was first recorded in the Domesday Book as Boseleu.


Brabourne is etymologically a place at a broad stream. The source is Old English brad broad combined with burna stream (also found in Bekesbourne and Bishopsbourne). It was first mentioned back in 860 as Bradanburna.


First recorded as Briestede in the Domesday Book, Brasted is literally a broad place. As with Brabourne, its first syllable represents the Old English brad broad, while -sted goes back to stede, meaning simply a place, site.


Bredgar is literally a broad triangular plot. It takes its name from the Old English brad broad, as with the previous two entries, this time joined with gara, a triangular plot of land. The town first appears on record around 1100 as Bradegare.


Bredhurst was not recorded before 1240, when it appeared as Bredehurst. The last syllable represents Old English hyrst wooded hill, while bred meant simply a board. The general sense seems to be a wooded hill where boards are obtained.


Brenchley is first found on record as Braencesle around 1100. It describes an Old English leah or woodland clearing, in this case one that was originally associated with a man called Brænci.


Brenzett is literally a burnt stable. The roots are Old English berned burned and set stable, fold; the place is first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Brensete.


No great shock to learn that Bridge means exactly what its name suggests, a place at a bridge. It appears in the Domesday Book as Brige, but the root is the Old English brycg.


Broadstairs is simply a broad stairway or ascent, from the Old English brad broad (found also in Bredgar and Brasted among others) and stæger stairway. Its spelling has adapted over the years to reflect its original meaning, and the town is not found on record before 1435, where it appears as Brodsteyr.


Brookland, as we might expect, indicates the cultivated land at a brook, and was first recorded in 1262 as Broklande. The roots are Old English broc brook and land land.


Broomfields name still reflects its original meaning, which comes from the Old English brom broom and feld field. It is first found, as Brunfelle, in the Domesday Book.


Burham is a typical Old English place-name meaning homestead by the fortified place. The elements are burh stronghold, fortification and ham homestead, village. It was first recorded in the tenth century as Burhham, an even clearer indication of its etymology.


Burmarsh is literally the marsh of the townsfolk, the town in this case being Canterbury. However, we have to look to older forms of the place-name to see the meaning clearly  its earliest recorded spelling of Burwaramers right back in the seventh century shows that Burmarsh as it stands has lost part of its name. The missing piece is that wara, which goes back to the Old English ware dwellers. Here it is combined with burh, for a stronghold or fortified town, and mersc marsh, which are the only two elements to have survived.