Elsdon’s Ongers

For some reason I was thinking of house names and I actually hadn’t realised I’d written about this some years ago. At the time I was working on my novel which became ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ and I was pondering on the name of two houses in the story. This is what I wrote – and when I finished rereading it, I have had to add a post script:

I moved into a house, a new house, brand new, and I called it ‘Ongers’; there was a reason, of course, a little story which shows why I think I must have a very strange brain. We were on holiday in Pembroke and became quite excited by a shop, sadly closed, called Elsdon’s, which was so like our surname, Elsden. After Elsdon’s, it said ONGERS, which we all tee-hee’d at as it sounded so funny, Elsdon’s Ongers… So that was how I arrived at my house name… it was only much late I realised it must have been Elsdon’s Fishmonger’s, or Ironmonger’s…

In my novel which I’m editing at the moment, a lot of the story-line takes place in two houses, one very large and extensive, and one, still large, but an ordinary town house size. I had to give them names, so they became Ongers and Little Ongers… I’ve already played around with the names of my characters in the story, and now I just feel that these house names aren’t quite right… maybe they will be used another time somewhere else, but now I need two more names.

I want the names connected in some way… and I first of all thought about location, or place names, then I thought about geographical aspects, ‘hill’, ‘mount’, ‘lower/upper’ etc or something about the local vegetation firs/elms/oaks etc… Nothing seemed quite right, and then I thought about the appearance of the house or what it was made from, and then I thought about the roof… maybe there is a local slate quarry near my houses, and the roofs are made from a particular sort of slate…

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock apparently, which before it was metamorphosed, was sedimentary rock. The great thing about slate and why it is so useful, is that it can be split into sheets, useful for all sorts of things including roofing! Because of the type of stone it is it can be used as a work surface in a kitchen or a laboratory, for a billiard or snooker table, for blackboards, tombstones, insulation and old-fashioned slates for writing on in school.

The actual word ‘slate’ comes from old french meaning to split or splinter, which perfectly describes what slate does. It has been used for a very long time, and in fact, as something to write on with a chalk it’s been in use since the 1300’s.

So… To my two houses… there is a connection as they are both owned by the same family and have been in the family for over a century… so Slate Hall, Slate House, Slateholme/Slatholme, Slathall/Slatthall, Slates/Slaters… Slatters… Hmmm… I think I’m on the right lines here, but I need a few days of mulling and pondering…

If you are interested in slate, here are a couple of sites I came across:

http://www.englishstone.org.uk/documents/Stone%20slate%20glossary.pdf

https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/horsham-stone-roofs/horsham-stone-roofs.pdf/

By the way, my featured image is of Walford House – my maternal family were Walfords, but this house has nothing to do with them, just a coincidence!

PS In the end, I called the two houses Slake House and Slake Hall – slake, it seems is a colloquial word for seaweed and an ancestor of the family who owned these two houses made his fortune from seaweed!

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