Do not call your baby “Camden”.

prattI seem to get a depressingly large number of spam comments on this blog, few of which are notable. I did get one that vaguely interested me today, which was trying to advertise a website giving the origin and meaning of baby names. Never mind the fact that there are plenty of websites that will do that for free. This one had attached itself to the blog using the word “Camden” like some kind of parasite, and promised that it could give the origin and meaning of the baby name Camden.

No need. Camden is named, according to the previously-mentioned Cyril M. Harris, after Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden, who owned the land and founded the settlement thereupon.

Pratt was an 18th century legal eagle, politician and champion of civil rights. He favoured a peaceful solution to the crisis in America that would ultimately lead to the War of Independence – in fact, he seems to have accepted American independence as an inevitability, even if he wasn’t in favour. He also played a major role in sorting out the crisis arising from King George III’s illness, recommending that the Prince of Wales be made Regent and ultimately causing Blackadder III to happen.

This man also plays House.
This man also plays House.

So, that’s where the name Camden comes from. It’s a town named after its owner. The title, Earl of Camden, comes from Charles Pratt’s stately home, Camden Place in Chislehurst, Kent. This survives, like so many stately homes, as a conference centre.

Okay, well, that raises the question of why the house was named “Camden”. Well, that in turn comes from William Camden. William was an Elizabethan historian and headteacher who was mentored by Philip Sidney and produced a major historical survey of the British Isles, appropriately titled Britannia. He also wrote Annales, the first comprehensive history of Elizabeth I’s reign. As well as Philip Sidney, his acquaintances included Edmund Spenser, author of the anaesthetic The Faerie Quene, and the noted scientist and magician John Dee, a significant figure in the occult history of London.william_camden
Camden Place was built in 1609 as a retreat from the disease-filled London, where Camden had lived all his life.
Right, so, that’s that, but where did William Camden’s name come from? Well, the name Camden, like many surnames, indicated the family’s origin. In this case, it reflected the fact that William’s ancestors came from Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire.
Okay, okay, so we’ve got that far, but that still doesn’t explain where “Camden” (or “Campden”) came from.
Well, best guess is that it’s Saxon in origin and means “valley with fields”. “Dene” refers to a dip created by a river (there’s a Whitton Dene in West London, if you’re interested). “Camp” shows up in Latin as “campus” and French as “champs”.
So there is the origin of Camden for you. It’s named after a person named after a house named after a person named after a place named after a valley with fields in it.
Therefore, we have the origin of the baby name Camden. As for the meaning? Most likely it means your parents hate you.


Filed under Camden, Geography, History, Literature, London, Notable Londoners, Rambling on and on

4 responses to “Do not call your baby “Camden”.

  1. Clive Thompson

    Chipping Campden is in Gloucestershire, not Kent

  2. Pingback: The marriage of heron and hell | London Particulars

  3. Pingback: Gone for a Merton | London Particulars

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