Where did the name Farringdon come from? A popular theory is posted on some online spaces that it refers to a “fern covered hill”. Except there never has been any fern in Farringdon, and as it happens, that name origin has been appropriated from the theorised meaning of a place with the same name in London. But does that mean it has to mean exactly the same thing?
Not at all. The name Farringdon is in fact a modern spelling and pronunciation. If you look back at historical records, the name of the area has never been consistent and changed multiple times over the centuries, as the name of this website might remind you. Farringdon has in the past been spelt as Farrington, Farnton, Farendon, Faerendon, the list goes on.
This is because before the age of a printing press, which introduced standardized definitions and spellings for anything, there was no truly agreed standard of how names were to be written. Therefore, the name Farringdon has existed only in oral form and has been subject to many written forms. Thus, it’s misleading to assume that it’s name origin is the same as the one in London.
Undoubtedly, however, the name Farringdon emerged at some point in the Middle Ages. It is quite clearly, a term derived from Old English. What is known as that the term “don” objectively refers to a hill nonetheless, as does the one in London. This pattern is repeated in the name “Grindon” which is said to mean “Green Hill” or as because spellings aren’t consistent, “Hylton” meaning “Hill farm”.
But what is the “Farring” all about? One scholar, Allen Mawer, writing in his landmark book “The place-names of Northumberland and Durham” has his own theory. He argues that Farringdon actually means “The hill of Faer and his sons” with Faer once being a man who owned the land, presumably an Anglo Saxon.
Who Faer was of course, and where he lived on Farringdon, is completely lost to history as no records survive of it. It would not be until the 13th century or so when the estate known as “Farringdon Hall” emerged as a Monastic Grange of the Priory of Hexham, based on the Anthony Road area. But the name did not come with that…
Geography of course speaks for itself, most of Farringdon is situated on a big hill, but the question is who’s hill is it? And who named the hill after what? We know nothing about Faer and we probably never will, yet his name has endured over an area for possibly over a thousand years.