Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Essex Rivals Old Smelly

One of the more bizarre news items recently published concerns the change of name of a village in Serbia, which until now has been known by a name that translates as Old Smelly.

The name is actually Smrdic. It seems that young Serbians today have no wish to live in a place called Old Smelly, so the villagers asked the Government to change the name to the much nicer Izvor, the name of a nearby mountain spring. The Government agreed.

The original name comes from a legend to do with a dead horse.

What a shame that Old Smelly is no more. It set me thinking about the robust but rather well loved names of some villages in my native Essex.

Down by the Thames, close to Fobbing where the Peasants’ Revolt started, are two villages named Messing and Mucking.

One of my favourites is Shellow Bowells, a village close to Epping Forest.

But probably most famous is the pretty village of Ugley, near Saffron Walden. There was a Serbian-like movement in the Victorian period to change this to the much more genteel Oakley, but I’m glad to say that most locals treated this with disdain.

But what about the W.I.? How would you like to belong to the Ugley Women’s Institute? Actually, they got special dispensation to call themselves “The Women’s Institute of Ugley”.