Welsh house names could be protected

Legislation could be introduced to stop Welsh house names being changed to English, the Senedd has been told.

Welsh language minister Eluned Morgan told Members of the Senedd she had a “great deal of sympathy” with those who believed homeowners should be banned from the practice.

Ms Morgan was responding on behalf of the Welsh Government during a debate in the Senedd after over 18,000 people signed a petition calling for a law.

“I do think that naming a house against the will of the local populace can feel like actually cutting that tie between ourselves and our community,” she said.

“Can we say that, rather than asking nicely to individuals to change their minds, can we go further and can we legislate and tighten the guidance that is in place?

“I must admit to having a great deal of sympathy with that view.”

The petition, which was proposed by Robin Aled Davies, states that “little by little, the country is losing its heritage” and “this must be stopped for the sake of future generations”.

In the petition, lodged on the Welsh Parliament website, members are urged to legislate to prevent people from changing their Welsh house names, with it reading: “There is a pattern throughout Wales where new owners are changing their house names into English.”

While there is no legislation in place to restrict the practice, many authorities implement their own informal measures by urging homeowners not to anglicise the names of their homes or smallholdings.

The petition was presented to the Senedd by Janet Finch-Saunders, chair of the petitions committee, who acknowledged there was not enough time before the dissolution to enact legislation.

“This petition itself is very specific, directly concerning only individual house names,” she told MSs.

“However, it is part of a wider issue, including the names of settlements and other larger places, natural features, farms and large buildings down to individual properties.

“At the largest scale, measures such as the Welsh language standards do already provide a degree of protection for our cities, towns and villages, with duties on local authorities, for example, in relation to signage.

“Names of historic places have also been maintained in a register since 2017, with statutory guidance in place for public bodies.”

She added: “I hope that this debate can help us today to take stock of the situation and to consider what more could be done to protect traditional or historic names.”

MS Dai Lloyd, who presented a Bill to the Senedd in 2017 seeking to protect historic place names in Wales, said: “It was disappointing that the Government voted against the principle of developing legislation in this area, and I still believe that there is more that the Welsh Government can do to protect these names – mere guidance does not do it.

“There is currently no legal protection for house names in Wales.

“It is clear that there are a range of ways in which the Government could do that, and we know that there are organisations and academics who support further Government intervention in this area.

“As I have argued on a number of occasions, encouragement doesn’t guarantee the protection of historical house or place names.

“Legislation does, which is why the Welsh Government should explore this further.”