The Most Duplicated Place Name in England…isn’t Even English
Richmond, Virginia, capital of the confederacy…is one of 45 Richmonds in the United States. There are also six in Canada, and even more Richmonds in Germany, the Czech Republic, Tasmania, and the Caribbean.
It is, of course, the Duke of Richmond’s fault. Multiple Dukes of Richmond. Seven generations of a family making their money by, ya know…going everywhere and naming it after them.
So, Richmond, Virginia, is named after the Duke’s seat, Richmond-upon-Thames, which is thus listed as the most duplicated place name from England. (Are we sure it’s not Washington).
Except the plot thickens.
See, Richmond-upon-Thames isn’t actually “old Richmond”.
Richmond-upon-Thames is called that to differentiate it from the original Richmond, a small market town of about 9,000 people in North Yorkshire.
Which tells us it wasn’t the original. In fact, Richmond-upon-Thames was named after Richmond, Yorkshire.
Ah, so, old Richmond is in Yorkshire. Got it.
Because of those pesky Normans. Richmond, Yorkshire is named after…Richemont, Normandy.
Okay, this is all kind of anecdotal and we don’t know for sure, but it’s on Wikipedia, so it has to be true.
And it would certainly make sense for the founder of the Yorkshire Richmond to have named it after a place in Normandy for…oh, the same reason that the Richmonds in America were named.
In both cases, they ignored what it was named after before.
So, is the original Richmond in France?
What muddies the theory is that Richmond and Richemont both mean “strong” or “fertile” hill. Richmond, North Yorkshire, is on a hill, so…it might be a coincidence.
But it amuses me to think that the original roots of the name of Richmond, a city of 215,000 people, comes from a village in France that, to this day, holds fewer than 500 souls. (And even if it doesn’t, then Yorkshire Richmond was almost certainly originally also Richemont and drifted into an English pronunciation).
Also, white people taking stuff over and renaming it since…whenever. Ahem.