“Pretentious? Moi?”

Over the weekend there was a story that silver-tongued Andrew Mitchell, whose Ciceronian eloquence has fascinated us the last week, had a letter from a constituent:

I see you’ve been a banker, and now an MP. Do you intend to retrain as an estate agent?

So, from troubles of the world, we turn to realtors  — as Malcolm’s Noo Joisey resident daughter would insist: she’s trilingual in English, American, and, when necessary, Tottenham.

In particular this gem from Sowerbys:

A charming, three double bedroom link-detached cottage, situated in the fishermen’s quarter of the old part of Wells-next-the-Sea, just a short walk from the Quay.

Le quartier des pêcheurs

The fishermen’s quarter of the old part of Wells-next-the-Sea

O, my Dogger Lane, Wells, my Newfoundland, 
My kingdom, safest when with one man mann’d, 
My mine of precious stones, my empery ; 
How am I blest in thus discovering thee!

Now, when Malcolm wor’ bu’ a lad, and knew Dogger Lane rather better than these bijoux delighted second-home latter-days, it wasn’t quite the home of many fishermen. Exposed flints, rather than the wonders of Dulux, was the usual choice for external cladding — as it had been for centuries.

As he also recalls, “fishermen” was not the normal argot — in Wells they were more specialist, and the proud term was “whelkers”. And they congregated around East End, which is the far side of the Quay: many lived in the new estate around Northfield — which, paradoxically but normal for Norfolk, was again on the eastern extremity of town. In fact, before recent developments (the inspirationally-named “Mainsail Yard”, for example), Dogger Lane was where Freeman Street reached the end of its tether, and became Holkham Road.

Stop codding around!

Yet, “Dogger Lane” clearly has a sea-going connection. Any potential purchasers of the cottage will have fixed in their heads the Shipping Forecast:

Forth, Tyne, Forties, Dogger: Northeast 3 to 4. Occasional showers, Moderate.

Sadly “dogger” has fallen down the spice list: since the turn of the millennium (though the OED has a citation back to 1982) the word has gained an extra connotation:

a person who watches others engaging in sexual activity in a public place.

That may not (or just may — depending on one’s bent) improve the sales-potential of this cottage; but it clearly is not the origin of the name. So let’s investigate.

The Lowlands connection

A wander round any of these north Norfolk towns shows the Dutch influence. This is beautifully illustrated in Matthew Rice’s Building Norfolk. You are quite correct, devoted reader — Malcolm has been this way before.

It isn’t just the structures: even the bricks may have come from Holland. Even when home-cooked products became available the kilns were on the Dutch pattern (there’s one at Baines Road, King’s Lynn and another at Mundesley). Look at a map: the main seaway from East Anglia always has been across the narrow seas to the Lowlands. Chaucer’s Merchant had a wish:

He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.

Read that as Harwich to Vlissingen; and not a lot has changed in over 500 years.

The link is implicit in the culture, the landscape and the language.

Cod would be caught in bag-like nets — and Middle English and Dutch both indicate a link between the cod-fish (dogge) and the net used to catch them. As early as the thirteenth century we have doggedrave — the first root being that dog– bit, the second a variant of “draw”, “drag”. Dutch has doggher  as a sling, a small bag, a net. So a boat for catching cod would be a “dogger”. Dutch maps were identifying Doggerszand as early as 1659, and Doggersbank by 1782.

In the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, we come on a pencil-and-wash sketch, from about 1675, of A dogger at anchor by Willem van de Velde the Younger:

Malcolm would need expert guidance to tell the differences between that sturdy two-masted fishing vessel with bluff bows, resembling a ketch, formerly used for deep sea fishing in the North Sea (the OED definition), a Thames barge and a Norfolk wherry.

On a similar note … what makes a “town”?

By coincidence today’s Times [£] has its usual A Dream Home (the daily property porn spot) on the Daily Universal Register miscellany page.

We have moved just the odd mile or five down the road, to find Bedfords offering us, for the asking price of £345,000:

Burnham Overy Town, Norfolk

A two-bedroom cottage dating back to the 18th century …

That tells us a couple of things:

  • the halo-effect of “fashionable” Burnham Market has done wonders for house prices (or vendors’ expectations)  anywhere nearby;
  • we have a new geographical concept made for us by the estate-agents.

In the neighbourhood of Redfellow Hovel something similar happened. “Highgate” gained peripheries such as “Highgate borders” and “Highgate Spinney” to disguise the change from the prestige of the N6 post-code to the less-upmarket N8 of Crouch End.

But “Burnham Overy Town”?

Well, there’s Burnham Market itself, Burnham Thorpe, Burnham Overy, Overy Staithe, Burnham Deepdale, Burnham Norton. That should be enough for anyone to be getting on with. But “Burnham Overy Town“? And, yes indeed, Malcolm now sees this invention has reached Google Maps — and this is the entirety of it:

For the record, that advertised cottage faces onto the triangular road junction, where the B1155 bears east towards Wells: the cloud cover obscures the spot. You’d be convenient for the hourly (until Norfolk Green has to make further cuts) Coasthopper bus. The ever-useful (ahem!) Francis Frith has an image:

To be honest that’s about all there is to Burnham Overy “Town”.

In the 2001 Census the two villages of Overy and Overy Staithe amassed the grand population of 311. And most of those were in Overy Staithe.



Filed under advertising., History, House-prices, Muswell Hill, New Jersey, Norfolk, reading, Times, Wells-next-the-Sea

3 responses to ““Pretentious? Moi?”

  1. Doubting Thomas

    B****r me boy. North Norfolk’s a going to be as posh as Southwold and Aldeburgh with the Londoners coming down for their country weekends. When do the artsy fartsy culture fests start? Poor old Alan Smethurst’ll be spinning in his grave.

  2. Pingback: Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

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