The form of the name has undergone many changes throughout the town's history. Domesday Book gives it as Peinton(a) - the farm (tun)of Paega's people. Many variants are the result of a scribe's drafting. By 1265 a document records it as Peytone. In Risdon's time, (about 1630) it was Paynton. For any years, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, records show it as Paington. This spelling was still accepted when the Paington Harbour Act received Royal Assent in 1837. However, the Parish Registers seem to be using the form Paignton from 1833 and the Paignton Local Board of Health, in its Minutes, from July 1867. As the result of a painter sign-writing Paignton on one board and Paington on the other in 1866, a wag in a local newspaper felt that "he had good warranty for his eccentricity" as many people in the place did not which was the more correct. Paington, remained, perhaps in error, on a signboard near the Grand Hotel in Torquay until the 1950s.

Places within the town have long histories too as their names show. Combes (Old English) indicate "valleys", Hollacombe - hohl = hollow; Smallcombe - smoel = narrow: Aylescombe and Blatchcombe, possibly after people, Aegel and Blaecci respectively. Ham(m)s were meadows, enclosures, closes. Roundham - ruh = the rough or rugged enclosure; Fernham - fearn = the fern(y) meadow; Barcombe - bearc + hamm = the meadow with the birch trees. The Tithe Apportionment and other documents always use the spelling Barkham. tun has a very early origin, possibly Saxon and might mean "fence", "enclosure" (farm) or "village"; thus Gerston - gaers = grass; Shorton - scir = bright stream. dun (also OE) is a "hill" or a "down"; Clennon - claene = clean hill (one possibly not covered with woodland). The manor of Blagdon takes its name from bloec = the dark hill. This was the hill nearby which was known as Blackdown at least until the 17th century. This is confirmed from the Totnes Churchwardens' Accounts which shows that a parish official went "thrice to Blackdown Beacon" which cost one shilling. A subsequent visit to make up the beacon cost 17s. A document of Charles I's time (1640s) uses the form Blackdon; later, in 1703, family deeds of the Willing family describe it as Blackdon otherwise Blagdon. A Queen Anne deed (1706) "conveying" a house in 1706 at Dunstone Plot refers to it only as Blagdon. By the 1850s employees of the Highways Surveyor were "breaking stones at Blagdon".

Goodrington is Godrintona in Domesday Book (in the Exchequer copy but not in the Exeter version) - indicating the tun of Godhere. A 17th century document spells it Goderington whilst another document of 1667 refers to Gorrenton Sands. Churston and Galmpton appear in Domesday, the latter as Galmentona. Later variants included: Galmatun (in about 1140), Galmeton (1285), Gampton (1765) and Galmton (1822).
Preston, much earlier Preostatum, was still vested in the Precentor of Exeter Cathedral [in the 1830s], to whom the great tithes of the parish still belonged by the appropriation of Bishop Quivil.

© copyright John Pike

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