Residents-on-make are not quite on-Thames

The name conjures up images of willows draped over glistening water, lazy paddling on a summer's afternoon, children playing on grassy banks as swans float by ... a quintessentially English scene beside the Thames.

The name conjures up images of willows draped over glistening water, lazy paddling on a summer's afternoon, children playing on grassy banks as swans float by ... a quintessentially English scene beside the Thames.

All that, however, would be rather difficult at Appleford-on-Thames. Here, one is more likely to hear the distant hum of traffic on the A34; the lapping water of the river is a good hike away.

Perhaps that was the reason the village in Oxfordshire was called simply Appleford in the past. But now a majority of its 362 residents have voted to add the suffix "on-Thames", and the name will be officially changed.

Those who fought a losing rearguard action to keep the original name say the alteration is due to snobbery and greed. The new name, they claim, is an attempt to create an image of exclusivity as well as inflate the price of local property.

At the local pub, the Carpenter's Arms, they see nothing much wrong with that. Patrick Loughlin, the landlord, said: "It sounds a bit posh - it might help my meals trade."

Estate agents agree the new address should theoretically add a premium to prices. But Richard Pickford, who works for an agency in nearby Didcot, warned that viewing the properties "could lead to a bit of a disappointment" because of the actual lack of proximity to the river.

Some of the villagers who campaigned for the change denied any materialistic motives. Instead, they maintained the village was simply reclaiming its original name of 300 years ago.

However, Gervase Duffield, publisher, church historian and parish councillor, has carried out his own research: "It does not seem very clear at all that this place was ever called Appleford-on-Thames. The maps I saw had it down as Appleford," he said.

The home of Peter Deabill, a gardener and former parish councillor, actually does border the river. But he is opposed to "messing around with the name". His view is that "some people think it will be a better postal address, and I imagine estate agents will try to stick a few bob on to prices. But no other village in this area where we live, the Vale of the White Horse, is called 'on-Thames'. I mean, it's a bit silly, isn't it? This place is hardly Henley-on-Thames, is it?"

Mr Deabill's uncle, Jack Iles, aged 76, has already had the "on-Thames" experience. "I used to live in Purley," he said. "One day, about 20 years ago, they suddenly changed that to Purley-on-Thames. That place was also a bit of a stretch from the river. Nothing changed, no one suddenly got rich, things just went on as before. It's all a bit bloomin' silly, if you ask me."

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