Guide to House Names
The name that adorns your home is as much a part of setting the right first impression as choosing flattering front door furniture or displaying colourful plants.
Whether historic, descriptive or sentimental, house names make a statement and the title you choose tells guests something of the property and those who dwell within.
What’s in a name you say? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Perhaps, but a one-bed flat in bustling central London hardly becomes the name ‘Rose Cottage’ now does it? In fact, naming your house is about setting the scene, and getting the tone, description and wording just so can take a beautiful property and make it a welcoming home.
Discover the roots of property labelling and how to christen your place under today’s guidelines in our guide to house names.
A brief history of naming houses
Man’s home is his castle, but many centuries ago, seldom few could boast owning a scrap of land, never mind property. The gentry of years gone by chose to express their pride and power in a given area by naming their castles, manors, halls and so on. These British landmarks were named for their associated location, ancestry or according to the families tied to them. Today, the Queen’s official London residence, Buckingham Palace, takes its name from the Tory politician John Sheffield later created Duke of Buckingham. The palace found its way into the immediate royal family’s hands when George III purchased the property for his wife, Queen Charlotte, as a suitable family home near to St James’s Palace in 1761.
As wealth trickled down from the top peers, so did land. The establishment below slowly followed suit, often affixing their chosen namesake to multiple properties on their land – a reflection of their wealth and authority in the area. For instance, Cardew House in Cumbria was originally built in 1561 for the Denton family, predating Cardew Lodge built in the 1870s.
Over time, merchants and tradesmen would acquire property along with an upwardly mobile position in society. To demonstrate this, names such as Mill House were given to mark the industry that had provided their fortune. Naming houses became a conventional norm in Britain and names were derived from their surroundings. Think Meadow View or Bluebell Cottage.
In 1765, Parliament introduced the Postage Act, which, among other points, decreed that every house and home in Britain’s town and cities would have a fixed number followed by the street name. This small point in the act would change the postal address system in the UK forever but initially sought to improve identification of properties and boundaries to ascertain their value. Today, house numbers help postmen deliver mail and the emergency services reach those in need quickly.
Fortunately, complying with these regulations is not too great a burden, especially with the range of decorative house numbers on offer to elegantly indicate which front door belongs to you.
Popular house names
Nowadays house names take inspiration from multiple sources, but some unspoken traditions remain. Flora and fauna, as well as bird names have maintained their popularity. Similarly, many occupants choose to name a property after the building’s previous use (e.g. The Vicarage, The Old Post Office). Others are influenced by faraway places, the view from their humble abode or a favourite novel. There are no hard and fast rules per se, but it’s important to remember that, much like a picture paints a thousand words, a name conjures up an entire image of the house it’s referring to.
Names with a regal ring to them, such as Sandringham or Clarence, denote a certain air of grandiosity, the Old Coach House transports us to the “stand and deliver” days of Dick Turpin, and then there’s the outright whimsical. In 2014, the Telegraph reported on properties for sale with the funniest names featuring ‘Where The Woozle Wasn’t’ in Devon. The rural 1930s home, with its fantastic views of Dartmoor, was straight out of a book and inspired by the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh.
Other names prefer to play with words, as is the case with another building in the South West. Now a National Trust property, the eccentric A La Ronde was once the home of spinster cousins Jane and Mary Parminter, who commissioned the circular house in the 18th century as a place to retreat to and admire the many mementos they had collected on their travels around Europe. A La Ronde, which translates to ‘around’ in English, is a phonetically witty interpretation of the roundness of the building that playfully fits this quirky residence.
House names could affect property sales, just as postcodes do, with names generally perceived to be suggestive of the building in question. Those looking for extra space will generally steer clear of cottages, quaint though they may be, while a name like ‘The Rise’ might put off a perspective buyer wishing to avoid too many stairs!
Choosing wisely is also important in housing developments, where traditional names such as The Cottage are deemed too far removed from the new builds of today. In many cases developers opt to name houses and estates after known historical figures in the area or architects instead.
How to change your house name
Once a property has been designated a house number, this indication must be included in the address and should be displayed clearly on the building itself. However, a house name can still be added to personalise your home.
Property owners can adopt a house name without informing the local council or the Post Office, so long as they continue to use the appointed house number in the address and also display the number alongside the chosen name on the building. This is generally perceived as the easiest way to add a name, as it won’t require paperwork and won’t alter the property in any way should you decide to put the house on the market in the future.
If you decide to make it official, you can apply to the local council who will review your request and make the ultimate decision. Be warned, some councils may charge a registration fee for this service. Likewise, you must contact the Post Office stating your intention before replacing the house number with the new name in the address. As a general rule, names already in use in the area or those that could cause offence will likely be refused, so it’s worth having a few alternatives should your first choice be declined.
If the property has no allocated house number but does have a pre-existing house name that you’d like to change, you should again contact the local council. Where the house name forms part of the official address for the property, a change of address must be registered with the Royal Mail Address Maintenance Unit, who will determine if the new house name is appropriate and change the official address.
Decorating the front door
Once you’ve settled on a house name, officially or otherwise, you can turn your attention to incorporating this statement into your design for the front of the house. There are multiple options available online for ordering a sign to fix to the exterior and even if you prefer to stick with the house number, displaying this proudly will help the local postie and guests visiting your home to find you.
As you would with the interior of your home, add your personal taste and sophistication to the outside. Hanging baskets, potted plants and bushes are a simple way to freshen up the front, while a brass door knocker is both stylish and practical when people come knocking.
Determine what looks will create a coherent aesthetic as the guest approaches your home and enters. If your hallway is minimalistic, keeping door décor pared down may be more fitting, whereas a home owner with a passion for the golden era could find that adding vintage-themed outdoor lighting will acknowledge their style and light up the new house number or name sign at night.
For more exterior inspiration, see our pick of the best front doors on Pinterest.
The sign you choose can also provide a visual indicator of your decorating tastes. Whether traditional polished nickel or Parisian blue and white, choosing an elegant house number is another way you can demonstrate your home’s personality and make a stylish first impression.