Baghdad, England

I was in England last month visiting family. While I was there, I learned that there is a town in the green and leafy English county of Hertfordshire which was named after Baghdad.

old-baghdad

Old Baghdad

It was founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century on the site of earlier Roman and Iron Age settlements. Seemingly, while on the Crusades, the Knights Templar had visited, or heard about, the famed city of Baghdad with its bustling souks. On their return to England they wanted to emulate this city’s success by establishing a market town which they named Baudac or Baldac, being the Norman French form for Baghdad. The name has since been Anglicised and the town is now known as Baldock.

baldock

Baldock Town Hall & Museum

An alternative theory is that the Knights named the town after Baalbek, the ancient Phoenician / Roman city in modern day Lebanon, an area which the Crusaders were far more likely to have visited.

baalbeck

Baalbek on a 1967 Lebanese Postage Stamp

Whatever the true origin of the name, modern-day Baldock bears little resemblance to either Baghdad or Baalbek. The Charter Fair started by the Templars in 1199 is still held annually though these days it is more of a fun fair than a bustling Middle eastern souq. The town’s heritage is remembered through the Templars Hotel & Restaurant, the Knights Templar School and the Knights Templar Sports Centre.

The town is twinned with Eisenberg in Germany and Sanvignes in France. There are no plans to twin Baldock with the Iraqi capital!

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3 Responses to Baghdad, England

  1. Simon Pearson says:

    You couldn’t get further from Hertfordshire than Tasmania, that island state of Australia which is so close to Antarctica. There too is Baghdad. A quote from Wikipedia explains it’s name : “The town was named by the explorer Hugh Germain, a private in the Royal Marines. He was said[by whom?] to carry two books in his saddlebags while travelling: the Bible and the Arabian Nights, which he used as inspiration when he named places.

    Bagdad Post Office opened on 1 December 1878.

    A railway line connected the town with Hobart from 1891 until 1947.

    In April 2003, during the early part of the Iraq war, the town’s website was bombarded by confused internet users from around the world trying to contact Iraqis.”

    • Interesting. I’ll remember to visit if I ever get down to Tasmania. Thanks for commenting.

      • Simon Pearson says:

        Tasmania is very unique and stunningly beautiful. I drove through Baghdad in Iraq during the mid 60s, so when I lived in Tasmania and became familiar with the tiny village with the same name, I was very curious. The origin of names is often fascinating.

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