I often muse upon the origins of the names of many of the places that my journeys take me to and through, but last week I was spoilt for choice. Not by the town of Coalville of course; the colliery villages that surround the town serve to confirm that the obvious meaning is correct, and there is plenty of visual evidence too.
One of those villages, Whitwick, is notorious for being the site of a mining disaster in the late 19th Century which resulted in the deaths of 35 colliery men. Little evidence of this pit’s existence now; following its closure in the 1980’s the site is now occupied by a Morrison’s supermarket.
Nevertheless the place has plenty to stimulate my curiosity. Whitwick’s name, reminiscent of a Hogwarts Professor, is listed in the Domesday Book and probably referred to a farm at an outcrop of white sandstone. The locality is certainly geologically varied; coal and sandstone are joined by a granite quarry in neighbouring Bardon, on the site of a long extinct volcano, but I digress. Back to the names.
Despite being so small, Whitwick is locally described as containing three cities. This is partly explicable by the fact that there are street names for City of Dan, and City of Three Waters, but there is no third to justify the claim.
The Three Waters location is at the foot of Dumps Hill; another unusual location name, and not such an obvious one either. This was no refuse disposal area; its name either referring to a former pig farm (Dumblies) or more likely the name arises from the cottage industry that was once commonplace in Whitwick; framework-knitting, the method that made the Midlands the centre of British hosiery production before the industrial revolution. Doubtless as this declined, the workforce took advantage of the mines as an alternative source of employment.
How did framework-knitting give Dumps Hill its name? Seemingly some types of stocking produced by the technique were called “dumps”. Further evidence to support this can be found in the enlarged first floor windows still visible in some cottages in the village; allowing more light in to illuminate the knitting. This run of cottages is also at the foot of Dumps Hill.
Continue up the other side of the valley on the Loughborough Road and you find the last of my curiosities. Externally it looks just like any other English village pub, meaning it is probably struggling to keep afloat. I hope it survives, if for no other reason than its name. It is believed to be the only pub in the UK called The Man Within Compass, though the origins of this unique nomenclature are unknown.
As if this were not enough, and despite the beautifully painted signage, most people hereabouts know it as The Rag and Mop. I can’t even begin to think why!