Monday, June 13, 2011

How the River Jordan got its name

This is the Baptist Church in Braybrooke. It is still open - indeed services are held there and at the Church of England's infinitely grander All Saints on alternate Sundays. And it may just explain the name of a local river.

The River Jordan rises near Desborough, flows through Braybrooke and Little Bowden (where I live) to join the Welland near Market Harborough railway station. "Jordan" is an unlikely and rather modern name for such a short stream - river names tend to be among the most ancient words in the language.

In Braybrooke I came across the story because they had no pool at their church, the Baptists of Braybrooke used the river that ran through the village and it therefore came to be known as the Jordan.

There are problems with this theory. The strongest might appear to be that the Baptist church is not by the Jordan, but it looks as though it might well have been once. The lane outside is supposed to have been the site of Bowden Bridge and downstream in Little Bowden the course of the Jordan has been radically altered over the years.

What I would like to know is how a Braybrooke nickname came to be used for the river in Little Bowden and Market Harborough too. But it is an appealing theory and I would very much like it to be true.


Anonymous said...

It might simply be common usage for ease. For example, Yartledon Hill in Gloucestershire became known to its north as May Hill, because there was a May Day festival held on the top - but over the last 150 years, the name has become adopted because it was shorter and easier to remember, so now it is officially May Hill and the name Yartledon is almost forgotten.

I don't suppose you know what the name was said to be before? It was something like the Long Lower Bowden River, that might go a long way towards explaining it...

Backwatersman said...

I don't know the answer to this, but I know that river baptism would have been the norm for Baptists until well into the nineteenth century (Spurgeon was baptised in the Lark in 1850, for instance), so there wouldn't have been anything unusual about it happening in Braybrooke.

There's a similar story about another River Jordan here -

peter said...

My theory is that the river jordans name derives from the time when northants was part of the danelaw,In danish, Jorgen means a farmer,thefore a river(belonging to) Jorgen and later anglicised. The river bray sound more logical.