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Jax Whiteley    08 May 2008
Hi all
Other than the one in France, are there any other places called Dunkirk in a Commonwealth country? - Trying to beat a cocky quiz-setter.
Thanks vert much
Arthur Percival    09 May 2008
Dear Jax & Chris

The Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names says that all the English Dunkirks were named after Dunkerque in France because they were remote and/or lawless.

Well, Dunkerque is certainly not remote and, as far as I know, has never been specially lawless, though there were serious riots there during a strike in 1902.

It's in the part of France that used to be Flemish-speaking and its name means 'the church on, or near, the dunes'.

It was a free port from 1816, and if any of the English Dunkirks (other than the one in Kent) were settled after this date they might have taken its name because they were 'easy-come-easy-go' areas where (for example) rates were difficult to collect.

In and around the Kent Dunkirk the folk etymology was the same, and gained credence from the fact that the last armed rising on English soil came to a climax at the Battle of Bossenden Wood there in 1838.   A Parliamentary inquiry found that it was an area of severe deprivation.

However the name first appears in print in 1790 - well before the Riots.   Even so, the area was outside the jurisdiction of the County sheriffs, which meant that miscreants could settle there without fear of arrest, as long as they stayed there.   Dotty, but the English play by the rules, don't you know?

But recent research in title deeds (those invaluable but much neglected sources of historical information) shows that the name Dunkirk was in local use by 1709, when it applied to a house just inside the Boughton-under-Blean boundary, but very close to what later became the parish of Dunkirk.

Indeed the position of this house is shown, and named, on the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey.   In later editions, significantly, the name steadily moves eastwards, until it is more or less where it is now.   In other words, it now denotes  a village where once it just denoted a house.

This leaves open why the house was so named.    My hunch is that it had been occupied (before 1709) by someone who had had business interests in the French Dunkerque, which from 1658 for a few years was part of the United Kingdom.

See also

Best wishes

Chris Marshall    09 May 2008
There is a small village just outside Bath called Dunkirk. I've no idea of the origin of that one's name.
Arthur Percival    09 May 2008

Perhaps I'm not answering your question, as I don't know whether there any Dunkirks in other Commonwealth countries.

However in this one (UK) there are 5 others, in Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Wiltshire.

Best wishes

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