Toponymy: Ugley Nasty Foulness with Shellow Bowells
There are some wonderful names of places in Essex. Shellow Bowells, Steeple Bumstead, Matching Tye, Foulness, Mucking and Fobbing for example. It is a quirk of science that the ladies of the village of Ugley are radiant in their loveliness and remarkable for their gorgeous complexion, though it was a mistake for them to change the name of the Ugley Womens' Institute to the 'Womens' Institute (Ugley Branch). I'm not even sure if the nearby village of Nasty (in Herts) has a Nasty Women's institute. Probably not.
Ugley (Uggelegh on old documents) is said to derive its name from Ugga's Leigh (meaning Uggah's enclosure) This sort of explanation is the place-name expert's equivalent to a shrug of the shoulders.
We are on much firmer ground with Shellow Bowells. This manor (Scheuele) was once, in 1249, held by John and Ralph de Bueles, or Bouelles. The Sceolge was the old name for the Roding river, and the name gradually got corrupted over the years. The village of Nasty is near Sevenage in Herts. One guesses that it actually means the clearing (Tey) on the headland (Nes). I prefer to believe that the name stuck after a particularly violent football match played in the seventeenth century between two villages. Matching Tye is near Matching in Essex. This probably comemmorates a saxon settlement and probably refers to 'Maecca's people'. The Tye probably refers to a cross-roads or clearing. Likewise Fobbing derives from 'Fobba's people', and Mucking refers to 'Mucca's people'. Foulness is much lovelier than the name would suggest and means, in old English, 'a headland frequented by birds'
In honour of the ladies of Nasty, Simon Banks has written the following verses.
The Nasty Women’s Institute
Meets in the Church Hall vestibule,
Discusses who to garrotte or shoot,
Collects for violins for school,
Embroiders rumours, cushions too,
Poisons the constable with tea,
Arranges flowers, makes curates stew
And drops the Bishop in the sea.
The works of God are wondrous strange;
The Nasty women are strange as well.
They spread the mildew and the mange
And pull the bellrope on the bell.
'I'm from Herts, and once passed through Nasty on a long walk. As you entered the village you were greeted by a big sign about the women's institute. It bore the name of the next-door village!
County Durham's rich collection of odd names - No Place, Pity Me, Stony Heap and others? Unlike the Ugleys and Nastys, they are deliberate, and my theory is that coal mines were opened in places where there had been no previous settlement at all, so the new settlements were named by miners with a wry sense of humour.'