History Jan 05 2020
Whitstable or Whistable ? – the origins of the town’s name

By Whitstable


Whitstable is regularly misspelt – sometimes Whittstable or Whistable. Just like with many things, the name of our town has gradually evolved over the years.


The earliest known spelling of Whitstable in its current form is 1610. Before that there have been a multitude of different ways of referring to the town. Back in Alfred the Great’s time, when it was known as Witenstaple Hundred. This meant that there were roughly one hundred families living in an area.


The origins of the actual name Whitstable or Witenstaple are obscure though and there are many different theories surrounding it.

It could come from the Old English word hwit, which meant white, and could have referred to the salt works that peppered the coast.


The second part of our name could come from the Saxon word staple meaning market. This could refer to either an oyster market, or maybe just a hamlet that had a market.


An alternative idea, much loved by many locals, is that the name Witenstaple actually translates in Saxon to “an assembly of wise men in the market” although nowadays you are more likely to find the “wise men” in one of the many drinking establishments in the town.


Finally, and probably more realistically, it has been argued that the word Whitstable comes from the Old English for ‘white post” hwitan stapole and that there was either a white sea or land marker in the area.


Whatever the story behind the evolution of the town’s name, it does mean that when we do write Whitstaple into a Google search, we are just embracing history and not committing a typo.



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