(This article appeared in the April 2014 edition of the Curdridge ‘Parish News’).
You may have seen my article ‘ Curdridge Myth and Legend – Kitty Nocks and the Curdridge Witch’ published in the March 2013 edition of the ‘Parish News’. (If not, it is available at www.kevanbundell.co.uk ). That article tried to sort out the common confusion between the two characters in question.
This article is an attempt to go beyond the legends and explore the historical origin of the name Kitnocks. So if you prefer myths and legends to historical ‘facts’, you should stop reading now !
Kitncoks Hill is a significant feature of the village of Curdridge. Local knowledge has it that the name of the place derives from Kitty Nocks, a young girl who both lived and was drowned on the hill while attempting to elope with her lover. Exactly when she lived is not known. The alternative explanation is that the name comes from the so-called Curdridge Witch, but this seems unlikely as her name was probably Kate Hunt and she probably lived elsewhere in the village sometime in the Seventeenth Century. Folklore writers appear to have confused the two characters.
Here is what we know about the name Kitnocks from documents held in the Hampshire Records Office :
- · In a document called ‘Customs of the Hundred of South (i.e. Bishops) Waltham’, dated 1259/60 there is mention of a Thomas Kutenok. The implication is that Thomas was a tenant in the Hundred (an administrative area of land).
- · In the Rentals of Bishops Waltham for 1332, a Richard de Cutenok is listed as the tenant of a ‘1/2 virgate’ of land.
- · In the Rentals of Bishops Waltham for 1464, under the heading ‘COURDRYGGE’, we read : ‘a messuage [house] and 1/2 a virgate of bond land called Kotenokes, formerly Richard de Cuttenoke’. ‘Formerly‘ here means that Richard was a previous tenant. This is the first reference to the land itself being known by a name. Elsewhere in this document we find references to ‘the land of Kutenokes’ and ‘formerly Kuttenokes’.
The spelling is all over the place, but it is clearly the same name that is being referred to. In fact the letters ‘c’ and ‘k’ are interchangeable in Anglo Saxon, and the vowels could vary too.
It seems clear that the name of the place that we have today has come down to us all the way from the name of the tenant family that held the land since at least the Thirteenth Century.
As for the name itself, a little research reveals that ‘Cutte’ means ‘son of Cuthbert’ in Anglo Saxon, and that ‘Knock’ or ‘Nock’ is a shortened version of the phrase ‘atten oak’ or ‘at the oak’ (just as the name Noakes is ‘at the oaks’ or Nash is ‘at the ashes’). On the other hand it could be ‘atten nock’ , at a hill or knoll.
Be all that as it may, if you have read this far and still prefer the legend of Kitty Nocks or the Curdridge Witch, you must not of course be swayed by my research. Especially if you are in need of advice. According to one Folklorist’s account it was customary to visit ‘Kit Knox Hill’ at midnight and to circle Kit Knox’s grave three times, ‘Then listen for the answer . . . council and guidance will always be given.’ I assume this custom has now died out, but do let me know if you know differently. I will then be sure to let whoever moves into the new houses just built on the top of the hill know – and tell them not to worry.