Curdridge and Curbridge – the same or different ?

          

                 Curdridge                                                       Curbridge

I have often wondered whether the two Curs in our parish[1] are the same or different. That is, are they of same etymological origin, or are they just an historical coincidence ?

The first thing I noticed when I began to explore this mystery is that the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1 inch map of South Hampshire solved the problem by deciding that they were one and the same. According to the map there is no such place as Curdridge. Everything is labelled Curbridge – not only Curbridge itself, but also Curbridge Common (the fields from the top of Station Hill to Lockhams Road, Curdridge Lane and The Plantation) and Curbridge House (now Kitnocks House at the top of Kitnocks Hill). They should, of course, be Curdridge Common and Curdridge House. Either the surveyors got confused or maybe someone in the office decided that the surveyors had made a spelling mistake. Fortunately, this was all corrected in later editions.

The next thing I did was e-mail my friend, and local historian, David Chun. He has written a fine book on the history of the River Hamble and its surrounds so I thought I’d ask what he knew about Curdridge and Curbridge. He advised me that he had read that ‘place name interpretation is complex, and not something that an amateur should dabble in!’

However, he also referred me to ‘The Place-Names of Hampshire’ by Richard Coates (1989). He then pointed out that there was a copy available on Amazon for 79p. I bought it at once. The postage was a good bit more of course, but still, it was a good purchase: it answered my question.

Curdridge originates from an Anglo-Saxon name meaning Cuthred’s ridge. In other words, some chap called Cuthred ‘owned’ or had otherwise been granted possession of what we now know as the village of Curdridge, which lies – largely – on a ridge.

Curbridge, meanwhile, was variously known – or at least spelt –as Kernebrugge, Kerebrigge, Kernebregge and Cornebrigge. These names – or spellings – do not obviously have any connection to our man Cuthred. The common cur component in the two village names is, it would seem, a coincidence.

But then there is another mystery. Mr Coates is not at all sure what the meaning of Curbridgde’s Kerne, etc, might in fact be. He is convinced on historical-linguistic grounds that it comes from the Anglo-Saxon for quern – that is, the lower stone of a hand-driven grinding mill, once a common domestic item. He is then understandably unconvinced that anyone would try to build a bridge over a river with a collection of quern-stones. It is, he says, a question he prefers to leave open.

One possibility, of course, is that kern does not refer to – or describe – the bridge, but was, as it is now, the name of the river. But then why would you name a river after a grinding stone ?

My reluctant conclusion is that what David read is right and that this is not the sort of thing an amateur should dabble in.


Kevan Bundell

  1. The Parish is Curdridge, of which Curbridge is a hamlet.

Murder memorial stone at Botley Station

Behind the Victorian Fountain at the entrance to Botley Railway Station (so called – it is of course in Curdridge) there is a cast iron plaque mounted on cemented stones :

murder-memorial

It reads :

This Stone is Erected to Perpetuate a Most Cruel Murder Commited on the Body of Thomas Webb a Poor Inhabitant of Swanmore on the 11th of February 1800 By John Diggins a Private Soldier in the Talbot Fencibles Whose remains are Gibbited on the adjoining Common

The Talbot – or Tarbet – Fencibles were barracked in Botley at the time. Private Diggins, with two other soldiers, had come upon Thomas Webb, a poor and elderly pedlar, somewhere near Kings Corner (Pinkmead) in Curdridge. They not only robbed him of what few shillings he had, but then – according to a contemporary newspaper report – stabbed him, threw him in a ditch and stamped on him. Despite his injuries, Webb was able to crawl to a nearby cottage and get help – including the removal from his body of six inches of bayonet by a local surgeon. He was also able to tell what had happened – before he died. Diggins was found guilty of the murder at Winchester Assizes and sentenced to be hanged. The other two soldiers were acquitted for lack of evidence. Diggins was hanged in Winchester and his body then gibbited – that is, hung to rot – on Curdridge Common, between the main road to Shedfield and Outlands Lane. Thomas Webb was buried in St Peter’s Church graveyard, Bishops Waltham.

Meanwhile, the stone referred to on the plaque is not the cemented stones on which the plaque itself is mounted, but the undistinguished stone, without inscription, which sits half buried behind it. This suggests that the plaque was a later addition, Victorian perhaps, by when local history had became a subject of much interest.

All this can be found in more detail in local historian Dennis Stokes’ Botley and Curdridge – A history of two Hampshire villages, published by the Botley and Curdridge Local History Society (2007) – http://www.botley.com/history-society

I became curious about the plaque when I came upon the following:

Hampshire Treasures, Volume 1 ( Winchester City District), Page 82 – Curdridge

Memorial Stone Site of murder. Culprit hanged on local gibbet, cast iron plaque removed to Portsmouth City Museum. SU 520 130
1904 27

(http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol01/page082.html )

How can the plaque have been ‘removed’ to Portsmouth and yet still be present in Curdridge ?

I wrote to the Museum about it. Their reply was :

“The original plaque was donated to the Portsmouth City Museum before 1945 & is kept in storage there, although it has been used in a display at Southsea Castle. The plaque at Botley Station, therefore, must be a copy.”

Our plaque a copy ? Why, that practically makes it a forgery !

Or, perhaps, for some reason, two copies of the plaque were made at the same time? But why ?

History, it seems, is full of mystery . . .

Still, if anyone knows anything more about this matter, do let me know.

*

Another account of the murder can be found at : https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/the-gruesome-murder-of-thomas-webb-1800-curdridge-hampshire/