So they are toying with the idea of changing the name STAINES to Staines-on-Thames…
Why? A conceit, I suppose. Most likely because Staines doesn’t sound very nice, well does it? It is like Neasden and Scunthorpe in that it has added much merriment and joviality to many a poor comedian’s script over the years.
But the ‘on-thames’ suffix doesn’t really make sense. Kingston, Surrey has the ‘on-thames’ suffix to differentiate it from Hull or the capital of Jamaica. Walton has the ‘on-thames’ to distinguish it from the Naze or a county in sunny Florida. Sunbury has it just to elevate it from it’s Feltham-fringed neighbour. But Staines is the ‘one and only’ (as local resident Chesney Hawkes sang) and so it doesn’t need any more frills. Other one and only’s like Caversham or Oxford don’t have to call themselves ‘On Thames’ to have a sense of well-to-do snobbery and importance about them. But Henley does.
I have always thought that ‘Laleham St Annes’ has a nice ring to it – and would be a name welcome to most riverside estate agents. And with that name is still possible to keep the ‘Staines’ bit (albeit corrupted into St Annes.)
And why does it have to be connected to the River Thames anyway? The ancient market town has a moor (two actually) so why not go the whole nine yards and rename the town altogether as ‘The Great Dark Moor’ or ‘Little Black Moor’. That would look great in the estate agent windows and on the coat-of-arms and gives the place a certain whiff of ‘Lord of the Rings’ type mystery.
Or why not allude to the enormous amount of lakes and reservoirs in the district … if it is good enough for our close neighbour Virginia and remote Cumbrian cousin Coniston- why not call it Staines Water? Although that sounds like it is one of those regional fat-cat water companies.
We could take a leaf out of the old Soviet book – they liked to name towns things like ‘Tractor Town’ or ‘Electric Town’ . We could call our place ‘Lino Town’. Yes, I know the lino industry is now gone, but it was one of our great claims to fame and provided Staines with a valuable international reputation. Or Lagonda Town? That was a ‘made up’ word anyway, and it sounds like a luxurious brand and, you have to admit, is pretty ‘tourist friendly’.
We were once famous for our mills too, we had water mills, powder mills, mustard mills… what about Great Mills ? No, on second thoughts that makes us sound like a huge shopping mall.
What about delving further back into history and using the names left by the ancient people who lived here by the river. They used the meads (meadows) to farm and their greatest celebration was at Lammas (Loaf Mass) when they had safely gathered in the harvest. So why not Lammas Meads? Now that has a nice ring to it. Although it sounds a bit like a concrete seventies comprehensive school. And there is already a Staines Lammas football team.
It is said that the Elders of this area once used to meet under a Thorn tree (also sometimes an Ash Tree) to decide upon important local matters- thus Spelthorne or the ‘Speilthorne’ – the ‘talking tree’…. so why not use this name? Now the name is used just for a boring local government district but once it was a truly great name, mentioned in the Domesday Book – the whole area that we now know as Staines was called the Spelthorne Hundred. Now that’s a good name isn’t it?
Or why not copy the Bailiwick of Guernsey and name our town after our church – St Peter? Hythe was once a thriving little port so why not St Peters Port? Or Hythe Port. Or St Marys? Like the Isles of Scilly?
When the Romans arrived here back in 43 A.D and created the first crossing point over the river, they had a respect for the sacred name of the river – they knew it as Thamases – they just added Isis to the end of it to make it more sound more, well, ‘Roman’. But they did not want to upset the gentle old river god (Father Thames) by renaming his river any more than they had to. Maybe we could be just as respectful and call our town Thames Isis? Now that would be a nice place to live and prosper in wouldn’t it? And there would be no more little digs from comedians about our silly name.
I suppose, if we couldn’t beat them (the comedians) then we could join them by calling our home town ‘Staines Massive’. Nowadays, the irony of Sacha Baron Cohen’s clever use of Staines for placing his character Ali G is lost on most people you meet. They actually believe we live in some kind of ‘hood’ (conjuring up images of the Lower West Side) where street-gangs like the Jets and the Sharks hang-out… rather than where we actually reside- a fairly boring and conservative geriatric bungalow-town sandwiched uninspiringly between the M25 and Heathrow.
Do you know what the Romans called the place when they discovered it?
Ad Pontes - meaning at the bridges. Now that’s as good a name as any for a town isn’t it?
1st November 2010
For Music, Arts and Going Out in Staines – check out ADPONTES-STAINES