Maryland: an American place-name in east London?

The east London district of Maryland is probably best known for its station on the Liverpool Street suburban railway line.[1] It has been assumed that it owes its name to Maryland in the USA. This note offers an alternative explanation. 

Part of the Borough of Newham (a neologism coined in 1965), and formerly included in the parish of West Ham, Maryland is located half a mile from the major east London rail interchange at Stratford. It takes its name from a small settlement named Maryland Point, which formed a residential enclave, slightly detached from the noxious industries that characterised Stratford itself.[2] The Victoria County History of Essex states that the name first appeared on J. Oliver's map of Essex, published in 1696.[3] In 1722, Daniel Defoe noted that the area around Stratford had "increased in buildings to a strange degree, within the compass of about 20 or 30 years last at the most." Stratford itself had "more than doubled in that time", while "two little towns or hamlets", one of them "Mary-land-Point", had sprung up as "entirely new" settlements.[4] Forty years later, the Essex historian Philip Morant described Maryland Point as "a cluster of Houses near Stratford: The first of them were erected by a Merchant, who had got a fortune in that Colony, from which they took their name."[5] The acceptance of this explanation by P.H. Reaney, in his influential study of Essex place-names,[6] has naturally fostered the assumption that Maryland represents a rare counter-example of reverse transatlantic transfer of nomenclature, an American name that has taken root in England.[7]

This note accepts the possibility that the received explanation may be correct, but argues that it is more likely that Maryland derives from the Old English word "mære", meaning a boundary. The case largely depends upon the existence of similar place-names which do not seem to have any American connection. These are discussed below. First, however, it is appropriate to search for the wealthy merchant who allegedly invested his transatlantic fortune in east London.

The mysterious Maryland merchant

The editor of the Victoria County History of Essex, W.R. Powell, was naturally interested to identify the successful merchant who had founded Maryland Point. He suggested Richard Lee, a Virginia plantation owner who had briefly owned property at Stratford in the mid-seventeenth century. Although nominated as "[t]he most likely candidate", Lee seems to have been an accidental discovery. In 1954, the Virginia historian Ludwell Lee Montague published an extensive article on Richard Lee in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. Montague was certainly in touch with both the Essex Record Office and the West Ham Central Library. A bleak comment on modern Stratford ("a depressingly urban working-class district") suggests that he crossed the Atlantic to undertake his research in person. The small Victoria County History team overlapped with the archives community, and it was likely that Powell became aware of Lee through this network. In fact, it is not clear whether Powell himself regarded Lee as the mysterious Maryland merchant: the Victoria County History tended to present evidence in noncommittal form. However, it was noted that Montague did not accept the identification.[8]

Lee had emigrated to Virginia around 1640,[9] establishing himself as a major landowner and an active participant in colonial politics. He made several return voyages to England, mainly to lobby for colonial tobacco producers. In November 1658 and March 1659 he purchased a variety of property in Stratford: "lease land, free land and copyhold land, and houses." This was clearly an investment, but he also owned and apparently occupied a comfortable house, returned as having nine fireplaces in the 1662 hearth tax, ranking eighth in size in Stratford ward. He sailed again for Virginia in the summer of 1659, family tradition reporting that he intended to hand over the management of his estates to an agent. He brought his family to England in March 1661, conforming to the Restoration regime by arranging for his five-year-old son to be christened at West Ham parish church in June of that year. He was briefly back in Virginia by March 1663, and a Will signed in England a year later made it clear that he now wished his family to settle in America.[10] He then crossed the Atlantic again, dying in Virginia early in 1664. The Stratford property portfolio was sold, although part of it was held over until 1678 for the benefit of his two daughters.[11]

Even if Richard Lee may seem to be the most likely candidate for the merchant who built the first house at Maryland Point, the case is hardly overwhelming. His association with Stratford lasted for just over five years, from the end of 1658 to the beginning of 1664 – in which time he made three visits to America, failing to return from the last of them. There is also nothing to tie him directly to Maryland Point. He owned eleven messuages (sites, each probably including a house and yard), one of which was an inn – almost certainly urban property, as well as five small pieces of land. A descendant in 1771 reported that they yielded a rental income of between £800 and £900 a year, a remarkable sum even allowing for the fact that Stratford was a booming industrial suburb.[12] It is not clear whether these properties included Lee's own house. When the last of the estate was sold in 1678, the holding comprised three messuages and a "toft" (a strip of land not yet built upon) which were described as "abutting on the High Street to the east". Stratford High Street is to the west of the centre of Stratford, and cannot refer to Maryland, some distance to the east. The 1678 sale was to one of the sitting tenants, William Symonds, whose status of "gentleman" perhaps suggests that he occupied what might previously have been Lee's own residence.[13] However, the 1678 sale only included part of the 1658-9 purchase.

Of course, it is possible that Richard Lee built a house in the clean and peaceful fields just beyond Stratford, but it does not seem likely. A mansion would have taken some time to construct, and Lee was evidently a resident parishioner by June 1661. Morant's grammar may also offer a clue. Writing of the "cluster of Houses" at Maryland Point, he stated that "[t]he first of them were erected" (emphasis added) by the unnamed returned American. Unfortunately, the original settlement was obliterated by nineteenth-century urban development, and no engraving of it is known to have existed. The Rocque map of 1746 suggests that Maryland Point began as a mixture of terraces and individual houses, and Chapman and André's atlas of 1777 indicates little likely change before Morant's time.[14] Morant, it would seem, believed Maryland Point had originated in a speculative development, not as a single residence.

Even if Richard Lee had built the first house, would he have called it "Maryland"? The colony he was most closely associated with was Virginia, where he was reputedly the largest landowner and certainly took a prominent part in public affairs. Most of his holdings were close to the Potomac river, which divides Virginia from Maryland, and he did acquire some property in the adjoining colony, although probably not long before his death. Since he bequeathed this land in his Will, it cannot be argued that he sold his Maryland investments to fund his Stratford purchase. Indeed, it seems likely that his purchases in the American Maryland were only made in the last year of his life – after he had established his home at Stratford. Lee had secured substantial landholdings in an area of Virginia called the Northern Neck. In 1649, Charles II had granted the Northern Neck to Royalist supporters. As the young king was then in exile with little prospect of recovering his recently beheaded father's throne, the grant was effectively a dead letter – until December 1662, when Charles, now restored to power, issued orders to the colony's governor to enforce the award. Richard Lee took a prominent part in resisting expropriation, but it is assumed that it was at this time that he purchased property across the Potomac, as an insurance policy. His Will indicates that his Maryland holdings were occupied by a tenant.[15] During his return visit in 1663, he led a delegation to an intercolonial meeting, where the Virginians proposed the limitation of tobacco output in order to bolster prices. The Marylanders refused to cooperate.[16]

The case against identifying Richard Lee with Maryland Point may be summarised. His brief association with Stratford hardly implies a profound connection sufficient to impose any place-name on the district. The only traceable part of his local portfolio was located in Stratford High Street. His economic interests were almost entirely in Virginia, and it may even be the case that he only acquired property in Maryland after establishing a home in Essex. There is reason to suspect that Lee was nominated as the mystery merchant largely thanks to the accident that the American scholar Ludwell L. Montague happened to be following up his Essex associations while the relevant volume of the Victoria County History was in preparation. Montague could not comprehend why a Virginian would name his house after an adjoining colony in which he had at most a marginal interest (although Lee did call one of his American properties "Stratford"). A politically unstable colony in Richard Lee's time, Maryland was hardly an attractive name to flourish.[17] In any case, Richard Lee died in 1664, a quarter of a century before the cluster of houses arose at Maryland Point. Far more convincing evidence would be required to place him in contention as the settlement's founder. That conclusion would suggest an even bleaker question: if not Lee, who else might be the Maryland merchant? There does not seem to be any candidate.

"Hark to an exiled son's appeal": the mythical merchant?[18]

Unfortunately, consigning the entrepreneurial Maryland merchant to the realms of mythology involves rejecting the evidence of the county's first major historian, Philip Morant. Anyone interested in the Essex past owes a debt of gratitude to Morant, whose sometimes quirky personality comes down to us through his two massive volumes of solid and worthy commentary. But while Morant devoted an antiquarian's diligence to charters, he was remarkably casual in referring to more recent property owners, often identifying them by unadorned surnames. In the case of Maryland Point, he could cite no name at all. He could also be endearingly gullible in his more speculative comments, such as his assumption that Ilford "was so named from the ill ford that must have been here before the causey [causeway] and bridge were erected."[19] In short, take Morant away from his parchments, and he became something of a credulous gossip.

In fairness to Morant, a wealthy returned merchant from Maryland was a more plausible figure in the middle of the eighteenth century, when the colony was booming, than it might have been in its developing phase eighty years earlier. Furthermore, there was a local candidate if not for the role, then at least as a more recent role model. Thomas Bladen had been born in Maryland in 1698, but settled in England as a young man. Following the death of his father in 1718, he sold the family property in the colony, becoming a major landowner, for instance purchasing Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, wealthy enough to secure a seat in parliament. He returned to Maryland to serve as governor between 1742 and 1747. At some stage, he became the owner of Leyton Grange, a handsome mansion two miles north of Stratford: the Victoria County History of Essex dates the purchase to 1756, but Bladen may have owned property at Leyton as early as 1720. He was presumably living there, or nearby, at the time of his death in 1780, since he was buried at Leyton. He may have been responsible for the portrait of Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria, after whom Maryland was notionally named, which was removed from Leyton Grange shortly before its demolition in 1861. His brother, Martin Bladen, army officer and politician, lived nearby, at Aldborough Hatch in Ilford, probably from 1728 until his death in 1746.[20] Obviously, Thomas Bladen could not be responsible for houses constructed at least two years before he was born. However, the coincidence of a wealthy ex-colonial living just two miles from Maryland Point probably fostered and certainly would have reinforced the foundation legend.

Morant's speculation may also have been connected, albeit more vaguely, with John Lomas, who sold his Maryland plantations and sailed to England, as an Annapolis newspaper put it, "Never to Return", in October 1752.[21] The decision to come home was perhaps connected with the death of his brother, Henry Lomas, a wealthy Londoner.[22] By 1754, John Lomas was the joint-inheritor of property owned by his brother on the banks of the Roding at Ilford, which stretched back to Cranbrook Road along the north side of the High Road, and must have included much of the urban real estate of the growing town.[23] Morant presumably travelled that route frequently between his home in Colchester and the muniments and fleshpots of London. Given his interest in property ownership, he may well have become aware of the background of the new joint-owner. John Lomas would make even less impact on the neighbourhood than Richard Lee. Styled "of London, gentleman" in 1754, he moved soon afterwards to Glasgow, presumably to become a tobacco importer, and he died there three years later. But – like Bladen – he may have unwittingly added colour to the tale of an earlier Maryland trader, and a link to the settlement barely three miles away.

There is one further mystery about the toponymy of the tiny Stratford settlement: it was not just Maryland, but Maryland Point. The place-name element appears to be unique to the London area, at least to an inland location, and its use even for coastal and estuary features seems to have been sparing prior to the nineteenth century.[24] Assuming that the word was not simply chosen at random, there seem to be three possible explanations. One is that it reflects the L-shaped arrangement of the two Maryland terraces. The second is that it referred to a milepost denoting distances to Woodford and London, a feature marked on the 25-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1869 – but, apparently, a term not used elsewhere in Essex.[25] The third, favoured by the Victoria County History, would note the existence of a feature of that name on the Potomac, charted noted by John Speed in his 1676 map of Virginia and Maryland, and still a navigation feature.[26] Perhaps the duplication of names is simply a coincidence, but it may also suggest an intriguing possibility – that the entrepreneur who erected the cluster of houses beyond Stratford might have been a successful mariner, investing his savings in a building scheme. It is certainly likely that its proximity to maritime districts like Shadwell, Stepney and Wapping would have made Stratford an attractive refuge for sailors home from the sea. William Hill of Stepney was a mariner who took the precaution of making his Will in 1690 as he was "bound for the sea", but he retired around 1696. "Lived at Stratford in Essex about 6 years and there dyed 11 Feb[ruary] 1702" says a note on the Will, which also describes him as "Captain".[27] Hill probably moved to Stratford after the erection of Maryland Point, and it is not known where exactly he lived. He is useful to this study as demonstrating that there were local residents whose maritime experience might lead them to associate "Maryland" with "Point". The unusual element in the name should be noted, but it is entirely compatible with the assumption that the developer who erected the first houses encountered an established local place-name which reminded him of his days sailing along America's Atlantic seaboard.[28]

It is also worth noting that the tale of the unidentified Maryland merchant has obscured the fact that late-seventeenth-century London (and its environs) saw the rise of the speculative building entrepreneur. The ruthless Nicholas Barbon rebuilt much of the City after the Great Fire of 1666, before developing Bloomsbury. After 1678, he was building at Wapping (where progress was slow). Barbon maximised profit by employing "off-the-peg" building methods, using standard designs and fittings – a template that could easily have been applied to a small enterprise in the fields beyond Stratford: he remained active until his death around 1698. In fact, Barbon despised small-scale projects that "a bricklayer could do" – but his rocketing success probably inspired some to try.[29] If Morant had not given us the doubtful story of the unknown American merchant, historians would probably take for granted that Maryland Point was the result of a speculative building enterprise.

Maryland: the boundary hypothesis

The argument advanced here is that Maryland derives from the Old English word "mære", denoting a boundary, and refers to its position close to the north-east corner of the parish of West Ham, abutting on Wanstead to the north, and East Ham to the east.[30] Comparison with four similar place-names in Essex and three closely related versions from Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, which are discussed below, suggests that the name may originally have been plural in form, referring to a wider tract of ground, perhaps originally common land. It seems reasonable to concentrate upon evidence from these three counties, which had common origins in the East Saxon kingdom. The colony of Maryland may have influenced the form of the late-seventeenth century development of some names, but this does not establish that the name was American in inspiration.

It should, of course, be emphasised that this explanation can only be tentative. Even place-name experts (of whom I am not one) often have difficulty in deciding between possible alternative explanations on the basis of sparse available evidence. Thus, in devoting almost four pages to names beginning with Mar-, Ekwall's Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names posits a bewildering range of derivations, with elements meaning "pleasant", or referring to lakes, marshes and the sea, to mares, martens and the plant gentian, and even including the possibility of a little known Cornish saint.[31] One complication here is that "mære" is very close to a synonym, "mearc", and any distinction of meaning between them is not clear.[32] It may be worth noting that the relatively nearby manors of Mark in Walthamstow (remembered in Markhouse Road), and Marks in Collier Row, Romford, both straddled parish boundaries – Mark extending into Leyton, Marks into Dagenham.[33] A south Essex river, the Mardyke, which joins the Thames at Purfleet fourteen miles from Stratford, was "marcdice" in 1062. The Beam River (the River Rom south of Romford), which divides Dagenham and Havering, was similarly "Markedich" in 1247 and "Markedyke" in 1301. But nearby Mardyke Farm, which preserved the name, was recorded by the topographer John Norden in 1594 as "Merediche", which suggests either confusion between the two words, or (as is suggested below) the fact that "mære" retained some meaning as late as the sixteenth century – and within eleven miles of Stratford.[34]

In the case of Maryland Point, and the related place-names discussed below, the difficulties of interpretation are compounded by the relatively late written examples: only three of the "Mary-" names can be traced as far back as the seventeenth century. Consequently, the argument for derivation from "mære" is advanced through two oblique contextual approaches. The first seeks to demonstrate that the word itself retained some sense of its meaning perhaps as late as the seventeenth century. The second examines similar place-names which scholars have explained as referring to boundaries.  

** a] "mære" and Mary It seems likely that derivatives of the term "mære" retained a dialect meaning of a boundary until the sixteenth century, and maybe for longer. Barnet, thirteen miles from Stratford, straddled the border between Hertfordshire and Middlesex, which was referred to as "le Shire Mayre" in 1552 and "Normeare" in 1639.[35] At Sewardstone, ten miles away, the River Lea split into three branches. The middle stream, called Mare Dyke on nineteenth-century Ordnance Survey maps, marked the Essex-Herts boundary: it was recorded as "Marditch" in 1648 and 1670.[36] Just three miles from Stratford, Mare Street is a well-known neighbourhood of Hackney. It takes its name from a hamlet originally located close to the parish of Stepney, "Merestret" in 1443, "Mayre Street" in 1605.[37] Further afield, the term was well entrenched in Cambridgeshire, where a ten-mile-long ridgeway track, the Mareway, followed parish boundaries across the south of the county: it was "Mareweie" in 1199, "Meerway" in 1600, settling in its modern form by the nineteenth century. Cambridgeshire has seven other Mereways, mostly marking dividing lines between parishes.[38] The wide distribution of the place-name element suggests that its meaning continued to be understood, since Cambridgeshire, with its extensive fen country, also has many examples of its near-homonym, "mere", a word that still denotes a lake.

"Mære" also generated the term "meresman", defined in the English Dialect Dictionary as: "A parish officer who attends to the roads, bridges, and watercourses". The Oxford English Dictionary associates it primarily with Sussex, where it was recorded in 1875, but regards it as a word that is still (just about) generally extant.[39] Certainly, the Place-Names of Surrey, published in 1934, referred to testimony regarding a place-name at Bisley given in 1870 by "one of the meresmen" without feeling any need to identify the term.[40] It does not seem to have been used in Essex, but its durability elsewhere suggests that the core meaning of "mære" remained widely understood.

The three examples within thirteen miles of Stratford indicate that its derivations were pronounced to rhyme with "air", whereas south of the Thames the vowel sound was closer to "here": Cambridgeshire examples included both versions. The final letter "e" was often eliminated but, as will be seen in the compound examples discussed below, it could also develop into a distinct syllable, creating "Mary-" forms. It is these versions that make it important to establish that the significance of "mære" remained understood – for, by the seventeenth century, Mary was a controversial name.

In common with the rest of Christendom, reverence for the Virgin Mary was deeply entrenched in late-medieval England, where people were encouraged to believe that their country was under Our Lady's special protection. A popular devotional primer, the Book of Hours, has even been described as "in some sense a Marian prayer book." There was much naivety in the cult: even so staunch a Catholic as Thomas More mocked the credulity shown by many believers.[41] In rejecting the need for saints to act as intermediaries between Man and God, Protestants especially targeted Heaven's holiest resident: in the immediate aftermath of the breach with Rome, as Henry VIII sought his own middle path, the Litany was drastically pruned and "invocations of Mary herself were all but suppressed".[42] The few places preserved the name thanks to connection with their churches, not with the saint herself. The most notable example in south-eastern England was the London suburban district of Marylebone. The name, originally Marybourne, applied to a local river, and seems to have evolved during the fifteenth century. It survived the Reformation because it sounded preferable to the stream's original name, Tyburn, which was associated with London's principal gallows.[43]

Inconveniently, Mary was also the name of the Tudor monarch who attempted to roll back the Reformation by roasting Protestants alive. On 15 May 1556, two men – one lame and the other blind – were burned at Stratford-le-Bow, on the Middlesex side of the River Lea. Casting away his crutch as he was tied to the stake, the physically handicapped martyr offered his fellow victim the consolation that the bishop of London "will heal us both shortly; thee of thy blindness, and me of my lameness." Six weeks later, on 27 June, eleven men and two women, one of them pregnant, perished in a further horrific execution.[44] To the thousands who witnessed these abominations, and passed down stories of them in their neighbourhoods, "Bloody Mary" was something more than a mere term of sectarian abuse. Both London and Essex were predominantly Puritan in the Civil War: in 1650, West Ham residents were subscribing £100 a year to give their minister a respectable salary. Three years later, when the Commonwealth introduced a system of lay registration for marriages, births and burials, West Ham was one of the few parishes to operate the system effectively. Their generosity and their efficiency probably stem from the fact that the community was dominated by wealthy Londoners endowed with sound business habits, but it is still difficult to see the parish as the ideal district to promote a property development under the name of Maryland Point. Nor, in a paranoid and Protestant culture, was the colony of Maryland much help either. Founded as a refuge for Catholics, its name was officially chosen in honour of Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria, a fairly obvious cover story. Although Puritan incomers diluted its original identity, also contributing to its political instability, its capital remained at St Mary's City until 1707.

However, the name Mary perhaps briefly conveyed a more Protestant aura at just the moment – assumed to be between 1689 and 1696 – when the cluster of houses at Maryland Point may be assumed to have arisen in the fields. In 1689, following the exiling of James II, Parliament bestowed the Crown upon co-rulers: William III and his wife Mary II. Although Mary was charmingly apolitical – apart perhaps from her enthusiastic enforcement of the Sabbath – she did indeed function as the sole reigning monarch during her husband's frequent absences in Ireland and on the continent. Her English birth and upbringing appealed to those who resented the dubious dynastic claims of "Dutch William". The fact that she was the elder daughter of the ousted James reassured traditionalists and crypto-Jacobites that the cosmic order had been temporarily disarranged rather than permanently disrupted. Smallpox killed her, at the age of 32, in December 1694. Could the choice of Maryland represent a fleeting evocation of an England newly saved from the renewed threat of tyrannous popery? It seems unlikely. The royal couple were usually commemorated as a duo, most famously in Virginia's oldest university, William & Mary, which she helped to found in 1693.[45] As with the Richard Lee hypothesis, Mary II was surely on the scene for too short a time to obliterate memories associated with the fires of Stratford.

** b] the other Marylands

All of the above speculative explanations share one fundamental assumption: that Maryland Point was a unique name and therefore required some special explanation. Different perspectives emerge once it is accepted that there were other Marylands, with no obvious American connections or regal overtones.

Clues suggesting that Maryland Point was not a unique and manufactured name could indeed be traced in Reaney's Place-Names of Essex. He noted that Chapman and André's Essex atlas of 1777 mapped a farm called Marylands in the parish of Kelvedon, 43 miles from Stratford and just off the main Essex highway. Reaney's interpretation illustrates the process of personal, even random, interpretation of place-names. Even though no medieval examples of the name were available, he suggested: "It is on the parish boundary and is possibly for merelands." The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments classified the farmhouse as a sixteenth-century building. This did not prove the antiquity of the name itself, although it may be taken as suggestive.[46] Morant's unsupported tale of an anonymous colonial merchant had presumably obliterated the possibility of a similar speculation for Maryland Point.

The field names section of the Place-Names of Essex included another important example, from Finchingfield, also around 43 miles from Stratford. It was recorded as Marylands alias Whiteings in 1653, and Reaney identified it with Mary Croft on the Finchingfield tithe map, surveyed in 1840. No interpretation of the name was offered, but since Mary Croft immediately abutted the parish boundary, derivation from "mære" seems plausible. It seems unlikely that there could be any connection with the American colony of Maryland, which had been chartered in 1632 and first settled in 1634. The addition of a byname is an example of a widespread process in Essex, by which early locational place-names were replaced by the names of owners or tenants: here the alias serves to emphasise the primacy of Marylands as the original identifier, thereby further back-projecting its origins.[47] A similar example from nearly Little Sampford, discussed below, may suggest that it had once referred to a much larger area.

The third example does not appear in the Place-Names of Essex. A 1736 estate map of Hockley, 33 miles from Stratford, marked Mareland Wood. By the nineteenth century, this had become – and remains – Marylands Wood.[48] It is located on the parish boundary, in fact in the right-angle of a zigzag, and it seems reasonable to regard the name as probably derived from "mære". The ecological historian Oliver Rackham describes the wood as "almost undocumented", but considers that its fragmentary earthen embankments date from 1300 – at the very latest. He also classifies it as woodland dominated by hornbeam which resembles the nearby Betts Wood, for which written evidence can be traced back to the sixteenth century.[49] As with the Kelvedon example, the antiquity of the wood does not prove the longevity of the name, but there seems no reason why it should have evolved in comparatively recent centuries, the more so as no connection can be imagined with the American Maryland.[50] Located close to Hockley's railway station, Marylands Wood remains a local feature, coexisting with a housing development – in North America it would be called a sub-division – with some streets borrowing its name.

The fourth example of Marylands also eluded the Place-Names of Essex. A farmhouse located alongside the main Essex highway at Mountnessing, nineteen miles from Stratford, it was not particularly close to the parish boundary, and I have not traced it before the six-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1881, which had been surveyed about a decade earlier. (A building on the site is indicated on the one-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1843, but not named. Other examples may exist.) Unfortunately, the Mountnessing tithe map supplies relatively few names, the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments did not report on the building, and the site is now occupied by modern housing. Oddly enough, it is the most prominent survival of the four examples discussed here, giving its name to the Marylands interchange, Junction 12, of the modern A12 highway.[51]

Three related examples should also be mentioned. Merrylands was a field name in the Essex village of Little Sampford, located close to the parish boundary and in fact within a few hundred

yards of the Finchingfield Marylands. It is identified in the Place-Names of Essex with "Meresland" in an undated document from the time of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). Although not specifically explained, it seems likely to derive from "mære".[52] Merry Hills at Enfield, about twelve miles from Stratford, was recorded in 1658 as Merry Hill Way. "This is on the parish boundary and may be a corruption of O[ld] E[nglish] (ge)mære, 'boundary'."[53] Slightly further away, Maryleys Brow at Brickendon in Hertfordshire was recorded around 1840 as Mary Lees. "It is on the parish boundary and the first element is probably O[ld] E[nglish] (ge)mære, 'boundary'."[54] When Thomas Bland, gentleman, served on the Essex grand jury in 1709, his residence was recorded as "Merryland Pont". "Pont" may be a mistranscription, but the difference in pronunciation between Maryland and Merryland was – and, in most southern English speech, remains – very slight.[55]

**c] the argument reviewed. This note has reviewed ten place-names from the former East Saxon kingdom. Three, from within about a dozen miles, represent monosyllabic descent from "mære". Two of these, Mare Dyke in the Lea valley and the "Shire Mayre" recorded at Barnet in 1552 seem to indicate survival of some understanding of the meaning of the term (as was apparently also the case further afield in Cambridgeshire). In addition, four places called Marylands have been identified in Essex. Only one, at Finchingfield, has Reaney's expert attribution to "mære", and that example, also the earliest documented, did not survive into the nineteenth century. A second can be traced to 1736, a third to 1777. The remaining example, at Mountnessing, has not been noted prior to the nineteenth century. It seems reasonable to accept a fifth example, Merrylands at Little Sampford, as a simple variation, which appears in a document from the reign of Elizabeth I. Two further examples have expert attributions to "mære": Merry Hills at Enfield was recorded in 1658; Marylees Brow at Brickendon did not emerge until around 1840. Those who subscribed to the story of the Maryland merchant-turned-builder were presumably unaware of the existence of near-identical place-names from within the East Saxon lands, some of them authoritatively associated with "mære". It will be noted that the seven compound examples were all plural in form. This suggests that the names originally applied to relatively wide areas, perhaps of uncleared common land, but that they gradually contracted or came to identify specific locations such as farmsteads. This would explain, for instance, why Merrylands at Little Sampford was two fields from the parish boundary. Similarly, the pivot of Maryland Point was about 400 yards from the boundary with the parish of Wanstead. The West Ham tithe award of 1853 recorded a seven-acre meadow "near Mary Land Point", indicating that the area referred to had once been larger. The singular form of Maryland Point may suggest the subliminal influence of the American colony, but its division into two words in the tithe award would also indicate that the transatlantic association was not universally endorsed.

It may be reasonably objected that the compound forms here attributed to "mære" cannot be traced very far back: Merrylands in Little Sampford has an Elizabethan pedigree, Marylands in Finchingfield dates from 1653. These are sufficiently venerable to cast doubt on any American inspiration, but hardly close enough to Anglo-Saxon times to be conclusive. Early examples of "mære" place-names do exist: Marden Ash, at Chipping Ongar in Essex, was Mereden in 1045.[56] Furthermore, the element "mære" can be traced to the Stratford area in Anglo-Saxon times. A charter of 958 survives, in a twelfth-century copy, giving the boundaries of an estate, Hamme, that is assumed to have included both West and East Ham. Such documents are challenging to interpret, since they refer to names that are now forgotten and features, such as trees, that have long since vanished. Fortunately, the 958 charter referred to two features that can be plausibly identified, the "langan þorn" that gave its name to Stratford Langthorn, and a river called "hile", an old name for the Roding, which survives in Ilford. From these clues, it may be deduced that four landmarks defined the northern boundary of the estate – probably the parish boundaries of later centuries. If these markers were approximately evenly spaced, we might expect the second of them to have been close to the site of Maryland Point. Perhaps it is merely coincidence, but the second of the four was "byrc mære". Reaney identified "byrc" as a local variant of "beorc", meaning birch trees, well attested in early forms of nearby Barking. Of course, it would be hazardous to claim a cast-iron proven connection between two approximately adjacent place-names seven centuries apart, but the possibility should be recognised that the boundary marked by birch woodland became the lands along the boundary that mutated into an elegant name for a late-seventeenth-century cluster of upmarket houses.[57]


Sometime in the late-seventeenth century, probably between 1689 and 1696, a cluster of houses called Maryland Point arose in the fields a few hundred yards beyond Stratford in Essex, then London's most easternmost tentacle. Seventy years later, Essex historian Philip Morant recorded the story that the first houses had been erected by an unnamed merchant who had made his fortune in the American colony of Maryland. The story was accepted by P.H. Reaney in his 1935 Place-Names of Essex. Two centuries after the original story, W.R. Powell tentatively attempted to identify the mysterious entrepreneur as Richard Lee, a Virginia planter who owned property and briefly resided at Stratford between 1658 and 1664. Lee appears to have emerged as the preferred candidate not from any local clues, but because the Victoria County History team had become aware of his association with Stratford through the work of an American biographer, L.L. Montague, who doubted whether Lee was correctly identified. Lee's brief association came a quarter of a century before the likely launching of Maryland Point. He was not a merchant who had made his money in Maryland but a planter who had prospered in Virginia. His associations with the neighbouring colony were slight and may even have originated after he had bought his property in Stratford. Overall, nominating him as the progenitor of Maryland Point was like a scholar innocent of football assuming that an Arsenal fan would have called his house Tottenham because he had attended away fixtures at White Hart Lane. Rather than search for a Maryland merchant who built houses in the late-seventeenth century, it seems more profitable to note the existence of returned colonists whose presence in the area would have given credence to the story in the mid-eighteenth.

The alternative explanation, tracing Maryland to an Old English word for a boundary, "mære", has the incidental advantage of explaining how a place-name incorporating the name Mary could be acceptable in a predominantly Puritan area so close to horrific burnings of Protestant martyrs. The survival of the term in monosyllabic form in three examples within a few miles of Stratford suggested that its distinct meaning was recalled in local dialect. Previous speculation about the origin of Maryland Point had assumed that the name was unique, and therefore capable of explanation as a transfer from across the Atlantic. Once placed in the context of four Marylands and three similar compounds, all from within the East Saxon lands, then its unusual feature could come to be seen in the fact it is singular in form, whereas its hidden comparators are (or were) plural. Here, and here alone, we may suspect the subliminal influence of the transatlantic colony. A final intriguing, although of course not conclusive, piece of evidence is the use of "mære" as a marker in the Hamme charter of 958 to designate what must be the approximate stretch of boundary close to Maryland Point.

Of course, we shall probably never know for certain. A cache of forgotten documents may yet reveal an ambitious seventeenth-century property developer keen to celebrate his American career on the map of Essex. Perhaps some speculative builder chose to celebrate the Glorious Revolution by naming his project in honour of England's Protestant Queen, in silent disdain for her interloping Dutch husband. Perhaps, indeed, a romantically-inclined bricklayer simply wished to honour his wife or daughter, some blushing Mary long forgotten by History, although such a gesture would seem more characteristic of the sentimental eighteenth century than that harsh and grating seventeenth. Each of these hypotheses may be plausible, and one of them might one day be proven. Yet this note outlines, with a reasonable degree of confidence, the theory that the east London Maryland derives its name not from transatlantic inspiration but from an Old English term, explained by its proximity to the boundary between West Ham and Wanstead.

ENDNOTES Websites were consulted on various dates in February and March 2020. 

[1] The station was opened in 1873 under the settlement's original name of Maryland Point: it was referred to as already functioning in an auction announcement in The Times, 14 March 1873. It was presumably intended to serve passengers from the growing suburban area of Leytonstone. The name was shortened to Maryland with effect from 28 October 1940 (The Times, 23 October 1940). The decision to rename at that precise moment is intriguing: signs were in fact being removed as anti-invasion preparations intended to impede German parachutists: could it have been a bid to assert cousinhood with the still-neutral USA? In 2006, Maryland station survived attempted closure during the planned development of Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line).

[2] For instance, it was the home of Sir Antonio Brady, government official and social reformer, who died there in 1881. Stratford, Essex, was Stratford Langthorne (sometimes Langton), so called to distinguish it from nearby Stratford-le-Bow in Middlesex.

[3] Victoria County History of Essex, vi (Oxford, 1973), 45. Information on Maryland Point was supplied by the volume's editor, W.R. Powell. Oliver's map (said to have been specially surveyed) is handsomely illustrated on, but I am unable to decipher place names. The 1678 map of Essex by Ogilby and Morgan used black shading to indicate built-up areas. It shows the road junction that would become Maryland Point, but with no indication of housing at that time.

[4] D. Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (2 vols, ed. G.D.H. Cole and D.C. Browning, 2 vols in one, London, 1962, cf. first ed. 1724-7), i, 6. Defoe's other new settlement, "the Gravel-Pits", located on the road to Ilford, did not develop as a recognised place name. Unfortunately, the Penguin English Library edition of Defoe (ed. P. Rogers, 1971) is an abridgement which omitted the specific allusion to Maryland Point. Defoe was inclined to exaggerate (as in his use of the term "little towns") and his time frame was influenced by his determination to emphasise the benefits of the Revolution of 1688-9. Defoe was manager of a tile works at Tilbury in Essex from 1696 to 1703, and lived in Stoke Newington from 1709 to 1729, making him well-placed to note the development of Maryland Point. He may also have been correct in dating its development to the Revolution, if not in his assumption of a causal link. When nearby Francis Street was developed in 1825, the title deeds of one property included a summary of ownership back to 1689. (Essex Record Office Seax calendar:, easily searched and cited here as Seax.)

[5] P. Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, i (1768), 18. Defoe, who liked a good story, had not related the tale. J. Rocque's 1746 map of the London area shows Maryland Point as an L-shaped cluster of buildings, along the east side of Leytonstone Road, and on the north side of Forest Lane, presumably benefiting from open views to the south and west. It may be consulted via,_1746#The_Country_Near_Ten_Miles_Round. The 25-inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey map of 1869 is online from the National Library of Scotland at It shows a terrace, probably originally of six or seven houses (allowing for possible out-buildings), with long front gardens facing towards Stratford, probably the 1690s development. These (or their successors) were still standing at the time of the 1893 revision (, and may be seen in the background to a photograph of a large Victorian Presbyterian church (destroyed in the Blitz) on They were replaced, by about 1908, by the red-brick terrace of shops at 7-14 Leytonstone Road. Some earlier buildings survived behind the new terrace, but the available photographic glimpse makes it impossible to date them: For an early aerial view (c. 1910), see Google Street View, April 2019, indicates that some houses opposite retain Georgian features, masked by lock-up shops.

[6] P.H. Reaney, The Place-Names of Essex (Cambridge, 1935), 96 [cited as PNE].

[7] Wikipedia calls it "an unusual example of a place in Britain named after an American location, rather than vice versa":,_London. Wikipedia articles are of course subject to revision. I am obliged to Stuart Goss for this reference.

[8] Victoria County History of Essex, vi, 45n. Powell was appointed the Essex editor for the Victoria County History in 1951.

[9] P.C. Nagel, The Lees of Virginia: Seven Generations of an American Family (Oxford, 1990), 8.

[10] Richard Lee's Will is given in E.J. Lee, Lee of Virginia, 1642-1892: Biographical and Genealogical Sketches... (Philadelphia, 1895), 61-4.

[11] L.L. Montague, "Richard Lee, the Emigrant 1613 (?) to 1664", Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, lxii (1954), 3-49, cf. 35-6 for the Stratford investment. This 1954 biographical article saw no ethical problems about the origins of Lee's wealth: "In his early resort to Negro slavery on a large scale he showed shrewd economic sense." (39) He was a 5th-generation ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

[12] Lee, Lee of Virginia, 1642-1892: biographical and genealogical sketches..., 61n.

[13] Seax website. Another neighbour, Richard Quintyne, was also described as a gentleman. A further property transaction on Seax in 1691 involved William Symonds, who sold a "messuage, yard & garden in Stratford Langthorne" to Samuel Quintine, son and heir of Richard Quintine who had died in 1688.


[15] Lee, Lee of Virginia, 1642-1892: biographical and genealogical sketches..., 63.

[16] Montague, "Richard Lee, the Emigrant 1613 (?) to 1664", 43-4.

[17] Francis J. Bremer, "Calvert, Cecil, second Baron Baltimore (1605–1675)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[18] From the second verse of "Maryland, my Maryland", the unofficial State anthem, sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" (and also "The Red Flag").

[19] Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, i, 8.

[20] Victoria County History of Essex, vi, 187; J. Kennedy, A History of the Parish of Leyton, Essex (Leyton, 1894), 316-18;  E.C. Papenfuse, "Bladen, Thomas (1698–1780)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Confusingly, Bladen's name was spelled "Blayden" locally (Kennedy, 77). A Maryland settlement, named Bladensburg in his honour, was the scene of the rout of American forces by the British in 1814, an encounter mocked as "Bladensburg races". The invaders proceeded to attempt to burn the nearby city of Washington DC: the smoke-blackened official residence of the President was painted white to disguise the damage.

[21] R.L. and J. McMurry, John Lomax of Fauquier County, Virginia... (?Bethesda, Md, 2009), 45-7. John Lomas was born about 1694 and arrived in Maryland around 1730 as an indentured servant. As a means of financing emigration, this was a lottery, but Lomas prospered, perhaps thanks to his marriage to the widow of an innkeeper in 1734. He was a member of an elite cultural group called the Tuesday Club. W. Somerville, The Tuesday Club of Annapolis (1745-1756) as Cultural Performance (Athens, Ga, 1996), 16.

[22] Henry Lomas was an important collector of the Land Tax. S. Pierpoint, The Success of English Land Tax Administration 1643–1733 (London, 2018), 273.

[23] Seax. The other heir was Lomas's sister, whose family seem to have held the property until about 1809.
The first
named resident of Maryland Point whom I have traced was Thomas Bland, who served on an Essex Grand Jury in 1709. He had two namesakes who were connected with Maryland, and may this trigger a renewed hunt for the mysterious merchant. I call him Thomas Bland III, although he seems to have had no connection with his predecessors. Thomas Bland I was born about 1632. He was in Maryland by 1676, and apparently married the recently widowed Demaris Wyatt c. 1674-6. Thomas Bland I was frequently mentioned in Maryland Wills down to 1703, evidence of business activities, with no indication that he ever returned to England. He is believed to have died in 1704. If there were children from the marriage, they would not have been old enough to have undertaken a building project in 1690s Essex. Thomas Bland II was a London merchant who died around Christmas 1700, leaving "all his lands, plantations, mortgages ... Negroes, cattle, horses, household-stuff, debts in money and tobacco, ready money, plate, &c, either in England, Maryland, or elsewhere" to his cousin Sarah Pendrill. His plantation was located in Anne Arundel County. Thomas Bland II also left legacies to his sister and to two daughters of his brother, but mentions no male relatives surnamed Bland. The fact Sarah Pendrill and her husband were appointed executors certainly suggests that he had no son: specific provision would surely have been made for a minor. Nor is there is any evidence that Thomas Bland II had any connection with Stratford. Thomas Bland III, "of Mary-Land-Point, in the Parish of West Ham, Gentleman", made his Will in stages during 1736-7, shortly before his death. It describes his kinfolk in entertainingly slanderous terms. He was a member of the Merchant Taylors Company, apparently in business in Whitechapel, leaving money to support apprenticeships  there. He also bequeathed £100 "to be distributed in money and Christian books" among the poor of Blackthorn, near Bicester in Oxfordshire, which was presumably his birthplace. In summary, Thomas Bland I seems firmly anchored in America. Thomas Bland II might fit the picture of the successful Maryland merchant with money to invest in the 1690s, but there is nothing to link him with Stratford, while Thomas Bland III does not appear to have been a relation and was certainly not one of his heirs. His residence at Maryland Point was probably coincidence, a semi-rural retreat convenient to Whitechapel.; N. Carlisle, Collections for a History of the Ancient Family of Bland (London, 1826), 100-01, 229-32. While Carlisle's book is packed with fascinating information, it makes little or no attempt to suggest relationships among the many people called Bland that it chronicles. Seax adds a puzzling item from 1693, the prosecution of four labourers from West Ham for poaching tench and carp from fish ponds belonging to Katherine Bland widow, lady of the Manor of West Ham, at "Gallowes Greene" (later Stratford Green). By a curious coincidence, the chief witness was William Symonds, who had purchased some of Richard Lee's property 15 years earlier. Neither Morant nor the Victoria County History mentions any association of the Bland family with the manor of West Ham: Katherine could hardly have been the widow of Thomas Bland II, although she might have been his mother. In fact, there was a lady of the manor of West Ham at that time: she was Catherine of Braganza, widow of Charles II. Seax is a calendar (i.e. summary) of documents, and it is likely that this entry is a misreading. Victoria County History of Essex, vi, 68-74.  

[24] John Strype's 1720 survey of City streets uses the word only once to describe urban development, referring to "a large Pile of Buildings, like unto a Wedge, being broad in Newgate street, and so running taper wise almost to a Point, against the Sessions House, and formeth two Streets; that on the West side bearing the Name of the Little Old Baily". Strype also referred to Cuckold's Point, on the Thames at Rotherhithe, and used the term for the North Foreland in Kent and the Naze in Essex. (A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Book 3, chapter 12, searched via Chapman and André's 1777 atlas of Essex noted only St Osyth's Point, marking the entrance to the Colne estuary.


[26] There are various reproductions of Speed's map on the Internet.

[27] Seax. Hill was a steward for the annual Stepney Feast in 1694, which suggests both that he had given up the sea and was relatively wealthy. The Rules and Orders of the Stepney Society... (?1760), 58. February 1702 may in fact have been 1703, since the year was then regarded as commencing on March 25.

[28] Alexander Cornwall of St Botolph's parish, Aldgate (five miles from Stratford), was a mariner whose ship was called Maryland Factor. He died in the colony sometime in 1703-4, but is not known to have been connected with Essex. P. W. Coldham, ed., North American Wills Registered in London, 1611-1857 (Baltimore, Md., 2011), 22.

[29] Another energetic builder, Richard Frith, build extensively in Soho during the 1680s. The modern distinction between bricklayer (craft worker) and builder (businessman) had not yet emerged. The 1722 Will of John Roberson of nearby Plaistow in West Ham shows that a self-styled bricklayer could amass considerable resources. R. Porter, London: a Social History (London, 2000 ed.), 122-5; B. Cherry, et al., The Buildings of England: London, 5: East (London, 2005), 487; Seax.

[30] The parish of Wanstead was mainly located to the north-east, but a narrow spur ran westward towards the river Lea, separating West Ham from its 'natural' neighbour, Leyton (officially Low Leyton until the name was changed by the railway company). This transfer may only have come about in the 13th century. Victoria County History of Essex, vi, 317.

[31] E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (4th ed., Oxford, 1960, first ed. 1936), 314-17. Ekwall attributed East and West Marden, Sussex, Marlbrook, Shropshire, and Marley, Derbyshire, to 'mære'. 'Pleasant' is a modern translation of the Old English 'myrige', from which derives 'merry'. The term has acquired a connotation of more energetic enjoyment over the centuries.

[32] The boundaries of a charter of 958 which is assumed to include both West Ham and East Ham give "mære" and "mearc" as consecutive identifiers. Obviously there was some meaningful distinction between them which cannot now be recovered. PNE, 94n.; C. Hart, The Early Charters of Essex (Leicester, 1971), 12. The 958 charter is discussed below.

[33] Victoria County History of Essex, v (1966), 267-81 (Marks); vi (1973), 253-63. Two authorities on the history of Anglo-Saxon England agree that the kingdom of Mercia derived its name from a tribal group, "Mierce", meaning "boundary people". However, one argued that they were so called because they lived on a frontier, fighting the Welsh; the other contended that they represented a buffer zone between predominantly Saxon southern England and Anglian Northumbria. The difference in interpretation is considerable. F.M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (3rd ed., Oxford, 1971), 40; P.H. Blair, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1977), 26.

[34] PNE, 3, 8-9, 113.

[35] J.E.B. Gover et al., The Place-Names of Hertfordshire (Cambridge, 1938), 258 [cited as PNH]

[36] PNE, 9. The Mare Dyke was later submerged by a reservoir.

[37] J.E.B. Gover et al., The Place-Names of Middlesex… (Cambridge, 1942), 106-7 [cited as PNM]. Attempts have been made to link the name to problems allegedly encountered by 18th-century stagecoach traffic from a flooded pond.

[38] P.H. Reaney, The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely (Cambridge, 1943), 27-8. Strictly speaking, one of the Mereway examples, at Great Chishill, belongs to Essex. The parish was transferred to Cambridgeshire in 1895.

[39] J. Wright, ed., The English Dialect Dictionary, iv (Oxford 1905), 91.

[40] J.E.B. Gover et al., The Place-Names of Surrey (Cambridge, 1934), 104.

[41] E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400 to c.1580, New Haven, 1992, 256ff.; F. Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 2003), 106.

[42] E. Duffy, Marking the Hours... (New Haven, 2006), 148-9.

[43] Marybourne replaced Tyburn as the name of a local stream in the 15th century. By 1626, it had been amended through the process of popular etymology by analogy with the City church St Mary le Bow. "The substitution of the saint's name was perhaps due to the odium attaching to the name Tyburn itself from its association with the famous gallows." PNM, 137. Maryport in Cumberland was named c. 1750 after the wife of entrepreneur who developed the harbour. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, 317.

[44] T.W. Davids, Annals of Evangelical Nonconformity in the County of Essex, from the Time of Wycliffe to the Restoration ... (London, 1863), 44-6. The Davids account was condensed from Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The tradition that the burnings took place on Stratford Green, on the Essex side of the Lea, seems to date from the nineteenth century.

[45] W. A. Speck, "Mary II (1662–1694)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. But a short reign can leave snapshots on the map: Mary I, who also reigned for just 5 years (1553-8) was commemorated by the Irish town of Maryborough (now Portlaoise).

[46] PNE, 292; An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East (London, 1922), 140-6. The farmhouse was subsequently divided into two tenements, which may explain why the name disappeared from maps.

[47] PNE, 627. Essex tithe maps were surveyed around 1840. Many are available online via Seax identifies a family called Whiteing at nearby Thaxted in 1663-5. This may suggest that the byname for Marylands was relatively recent. Seax identifies a file dated 1649-1833 which refers to a property variously called Marylands, Ladylands, Blaise Green and Whitings. By the 19th century, there was a farm called Witleys or Whitleys, which may represent another twist in toponymy.

[48] Seax. Marylands Wood is so named on the 1843 reissue of the one-inch Ordnance Survey map.

[49] O. Rackham, The Ancient Woodlands of England: the Woods of South-East Essex (Rochford, Essex, 1986), 36-7, 68, 71, 75. In 1867, the local historian Philip Benton, who was minutely informed about the lore and the resources of Rochford Hundred, pronounced Marylands to be one of three woods at Hockley that "produce good carpenter's stuff". P. Benton, The History of Rochford Hundred.... ([Volume 1], Rochford, Essex, 1867), 298.

[50] The establishment of a Maryland plantation called Hockley-in-the-Hole in 1664 seems to be a coincidence. Neither Seax nor Morant indicate any connection between Essex and the Dorsey family who created the estate. J.D. Warfield, The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland... (Westminster, Md, 2008), 55-6. Hockley-in-the-Hole was an alternative name for Hockliffe in Bedfordshire. By 1700, it had become the unofficial name for a dangerous district of Clerkenwell, on the margins of London. It may have existed earlier. Walter Thornbury, Old and New London, Volume 2 (London, 1878), 306-309. (

[51] There is a place called Maryland near Trellech in Monmouthshire (Gwent) but I have found no information about it.

[52] PNE, 643.

[53] PNM, 75.

[54] PNH, 219.

[55] Seax. One spurious example may be noted. During the 19th century, Cockermouth Farm at Dagenham was renamed America Farm. This may have been a joke allusion to its remoteness, on the edge of the Thames marshes. However, a local story connected it with a former owner, Rowland Stephenson, a flamboyant banker who decamped to the United States in 1828 after the collapse of his affairs. Sometime between 1887 and 1896, local industrialist W. Varco Williams "gave it the more jocund designation, 'Merrielands'." The tale forms a pleasant counterpart to the legend of Morant's Maryland merchant. Although Stephenson owned the manorial rights of Cockermouth, the Victoria County History questions whether he possessed actual real estate there. America Farm may have resulted from a subdivision of the Cockermouth estate around 1765 (a date that would fit with the nickname, a joke common at that time). J.P. Shawcross, A History of Dagenham in the County of Essex (London, 1904), 195-6; Victoria County History of Essex, vol. 5, 267-81. The name now incongruously applies to a retail park.

[56] PNE, 73. North-east Essex provides an interesting example, not least because it appears to have inverted the Maryland elements. Landermere Hall at Thorpe-le-Soken (Landemare in 1254) overlooks a creek that forms a boundary touching five parishes. Reaney confidently explained it as "landgemære", a boundary. PNE, 353.

[57] PNE, 94n. For a map of parish boundaries, East Ham had a very short northern boundary, probably because the Normans carved the tiny parish of Little Ilford out of its north-east corner.

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