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Kent Archaeological Review extract

The meaning of 'Coldharbour'.
by Vincent Rendel.

The meaning of the place name COLDHARBOUR has been the subject of much controversy.[See Note]

Many explanations have been given; that it means a place of sanctuary or a shelter for travellers or just an inn; or a cattle yard or a place where stock were shut up for the winter; or even just a cold house (the converse of a MOUNT PLEASANT); that "COLD' is really "OLD", or means just what it says; that "HARBOUR is a shelter or (primarily) an "army shelter", or a confusion with the Latin HERBARIUM or, alternatively, ARBOR. Some have ascribed these place names to very early dates; some to 18th century romantics; some have asserted that all of them are related to Roman roads. No one seems to have looked at their relation to rivers.

Anyone who examines the maps of Kent and East Sussex will be struck by the number of COLDHARBOURS which are situated within easy reach of a point on a watercourse which was once navigable or capable of water transport up to that point. In some cases what could be either a natural or an artificial harbour will be found in close proximity e.g. at COLDHARBOUR FARM 2000 yards WEST of TENTERDEN on the bluff overlooking the NEWMILL CHANNEL (a tributary of the ROTHER) and facing the bluff on the opposite (ROLVENDEN) side where (OD 107) ROMANO-BRITISH burials were found see A.C. LXXXI (1957) at page 237. The "harbour" (OD 26) is tucked into the hillside immediately below and to the North of - the farmhouse (OD 100). Possibly of course there are so many watercourses which qualify that it is rarer to be near one than not; so that any statistical inference may be unsound. I suggest, however -- though with diffidence -- that COLDHARBOUR (whatever its etymology) indicates a place where goods were once (in my view in Roman or earlier times) assembled for inland water transport or for portage.


ARCH.CANTIANA 13 (1880) page 126; 14 (1882) page 104;
NOTES & QUERIES 176 (Jan-June 1933) pages 101, 160, 193, 231, 268;
BONNER - E.P.N. SOCIETY Vol. XI (Surrey) 1934 page 406.
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