I was surprised to read on @RuthWilk‘s blog on Monday that “After significant local consultation (and particularly with children at Bayards Hill School) the overwhelming support [for the name of the Barton West development] was for the name Barton Park”. The statement was attributed to “the relevant City Council manager”.
Now I don’t live in Barton so you could say it’s none of my business, but I didn’t know anything about a consultation and nor did anyone else I asked. And I accept that no-one has a right to be consulted anyway. I asked @BartonOxford, the twitter account of the developers, but they were a bit coy about it at first, saying I’d have to wait until next Sunday for the ‘brand launch’. So it’s not just a name, it’s a brand. Later they said the “name was initially suggested as part of the [Barton Area Action Plan]. Additional consultation [took place] as part of the outline application & via drop in sessions and engagement with the local school. All details to come next week”. I’m not doubting their word, but I think at both those stages people’s minds were on much bigger issues than a name for the new development, so it wasn’t discussed much if at all.
What’s the fuss anyway? It’s just a name – sorry, brand. But it’s a name Oxford’s going to be stuck with for evermore. It’ll be on bus stops and bus destination displays. It’ll be in guidebooks and on maps. In earnest meetings Councillors will talk about their constituents in Barton Park. Maybe, just maybe if the developers get it right it will be written up in journals, and architects and planners from around the world will come to admire it, bringing TV film crews with them. Worthy dignitaries from Bonn will be taken on guided tours.
But as local historians have pointed out, this area has never been a park, and has never been part of Barton. To my mind, the name ‘Barton Park’ sounds just like any other edge-of-town development built in the past thirty years. Parks, Gardens and Groves, Heights and Views, Glebes, Meadows, Medes and Meads sprawl everywhere, as bland as their names designed to pander to the developers’ idea of the young and aspirational property-owning middle classes. Isn’t Barton West aiming to be better than that – not a dormitory suburb but a whole new community with a school, shops, a pub, open spaces, sports facilities, a community centre? A mixed, lively, diverse, *real* community?
And why do these names always have to be two words? Oxford, Headington, even Barton may have started out as two words which joined together but I don’t see Bartonpark in the 22nd century.
When I set this hare running on twitter I didn’t have a better suggestion and I wasn’t taking it very seriously. But as more people started saying they weren’t impressed with Barton Park I tried to come up with something better. One word, with some relevant local reference, something that would give the new development a real separate identity. And then inspiration struck. I give you ….. BAYSWICK. Why? Because the Bayswater Brook runs along one side of the development, and ‘wick’ is a good old English place-name element for town, hamlet, district and in some parts of the country a dairy farm. There are plenty of ‘-wicks’ near rivers. As a bonus, it’s unique: neither Google Maps nor Google know of anywhere in the world called Bayswick.
So that’s it. Bayswick. I’m sorry if there’s a class at Bayard’s School who’ll be disappointed but we can’t saddle them and their children’s children with Barton Park. Leave a comment if you agree – or disagree!
I’ve compiled a Storify timeline of tweets on this story. Click here or use the link under ‘Storify Stories’ near the top of the right sidebar.