It’s nothing new: Welsh people living in Welsh-speaking communities have long complained about some homeowners replacing their original Welsh house name with an English one. Many say that this, in the same way as Welsh villages, towns and landmarks are given bilingual names, dismisses a place’s – and a people’s – history. Angry that this is still happening even after support from Welsh language minister Eluned Morgan, Welsh speakers are calling on the Welsh Government to act now before the problem exacerbates.
Back in June 2018, Welsh comedian Tudur Owen presented a short programme about disappearing Welsh place names, saying “history is lost when Welsh place names are changed”.
The clip, which aired on BBC Wales Live, sparked a debate on social media, with many other famous figures, as well as members of the public, having weighed in on the issue since.
In January 2020, BBC news anchor Huw Edwards wrote on Twitter: “It’s been going on for years. So Porth Trecastell became ‘Cable Bay’ and the historic church of Nantcwnlle – now a private home – became ‘Dunroamin’. I propose replacing London with its old Welsh name ‘Caerludd’. No? Ah. I thought not.”
Former Welsh First Minister added to the discussion a few months later, tweeting: “The Tremor Arms was opened in Brynaman in 1865, and there, in 1891, the first branch of the Miners’ Union was established. The building has changed a lot over the years but in recent days, an English name has replaced the Welsh one. The owners must rethink.”
In January 2021, a petition was started calling on the Welsh Government to create a legislation to prevent people from changing Welsh house names.
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The petition reached over 18,000 signatures and was discussed in the Senedd. But nothing seems to have been done about the issue, according to many Welsh people.
Twitter user @Taff5351 claimed: “Changing an existing indigenous name to an English name should attract a £25,000 levy at the very least. It’s cultural vandalism of the highest order. What are Labour doing about this at Senedd level?”
User @MeicalW added: “Disgraceful.”
Gruff, 26, who is a secondary school teacher living on Anglesey, agreed that the changing of Welsh house names is “unacceptable”. He told Express.co.uk: “Often a history associated to names of the house, and so by changing the name you’re essentially erasing that history.
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“It’s strange that people feel that it’s an acceptable thing to do.”
Caelan, 27, is from Cardiff but has the same opinion as Gruff, claiming: “I feel that it’s really important for these names to be preserved for cultural and historical reasons.
“We’ve seen in places like Cornwall how cultural erosion is used as a tool to de-legitimise the human rights of people born in culturally distinct areas.
“The fact people are coming into these areas, and changing the names shows, they don’t understand the area they are moving to, they don’t want to be a part of the community, and they’re not buying the property to improve the area.
“Those are big systemic problems, which in my view, can’t be addressed until Wales is independent and can take full control over these issues.”
Eleth Owen from Anglesey has also had the unpleasant experience of someone changing the name of her late grandparents’ house. She said: “My grandparents’ farm was called Cae Eithin Tew (Thick Gorse Field). The new owner has changed the name to Black Lake View.”
Bethan Williams from Gwynedd noted that it’s not only house names that are being changed, but hospitality venues too. “The Glanaber (Riverbed) restaurant in Morfa Bychan, Porthmadog, has been changed to Black Rock Beach Club,” she explained.
“It’s very sad.”
But can anything be done – or is anything being done – to stop people from changing these Welsh names?
After raising the aforementioned petition in the Senedd in January last year, Welsh language minister Eluned Morgan told Members of the Senedd she had “great deal of sympathy” with those who believed homeowners should be prevented by law from changing their house’s name.
However, no legislation has thus far been introduced.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Member of the Senedd for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, told Express.co.uk: “The Welsh language is part of our common global culture. We all own the language and we all have a responsibility towards it.
“Place names, be they houses or landmarks, need to be respected and protected. These place names are steeped in history and tell the story of that part of the world.
“But what we’re seeing far too often is a complete disregard for place and community. Our homes are being bought for small fortunes as second homes or investment opportunities – way more than what anybody in the local community can afford.
“This consequently pushes the price of the local housing stock up, making them even more difficult for local people to buy, forcing them out of their communities and out of their network of friends and family. We’re seeing some communities with around half of the houses sitting empty for much of the year, ripping the soul out of our communities.”
He added: “When some owners then change the names of these houses or landmarks to something that has no relevance, that further rubs salt in the wound and shows a complete disregard for the history of the place and the community.
“Here in Wales the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have signed an agreement to get to grips with some of these issues. Amongst them is tackling the housing crisis, including getting to grips with the over proliferation of second homes – and we will develop an Act to ensure that Welsh language place names in the built and natural environments are safeguarded and promoted for future generations.”