Really, you’d think that you couldn’t get much further from Cockney rhyming slang than the Hamptons in West London. The Hamptons is a label applied to various bits of the London Borough of Richmond. There’s Hampton itself, Hampton Court, Hampton Hill and Hampton Wick. As a general rule, they tend to be pretty wealthy. I tend to get hurried along whenever I’m passing through in case my presence lowers property values. Having said that, they are very pleasant places, and in many areas retain their village atmosphere.
I suspect that the name “Hampton” was just slapped on to anywhere local that didn’t have a name yet. Hampton Court, fairly obviously, is named after the palace built by Cardinal Wolsey and handed over to Henry VIII as a “please don’t kill me” gift. Hampton Hill is, as you might imagine, built on a hill, albeit not a very steep one. It was originally built to house workers on the nearby sewage treatment plants, so residents have no business getting uppity.
Hampton Wick, though, has a less obvious derivation. What, exactly, is a “wick”? There are two possible explanations.
1. It could denote a dairy farm.
2. It could denote a trading port. This latter seems a bit more likely, as the position on the river and the Roman ford that once existed here would make this place ideal for trade.
Hampton Wick Station is popular with students. This is in part due to its proximity to the major town of Kingston (literally across the river), excellent for shopping and possessing some truly terrible but inexplicably popular nightspots, but also because the station has no ticket barriers and is unmanned. Not that I’m condoning fare-dodging, mark you.
Hampton Wick’s major claim to fame, as I hinted in at the start of this entry, is its place in the lexicon of rhyming slang. “Hampton” was once a euphemism for a certain portion of the male anatomy (the penis), due to “Hampton Wick” rhyming with no less than two slang terms for said organ. The Goon Show featured a character named “Hugh Jympton” as a means of getting past the censors, largely for the hell of it.
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