The 12 name origins of the cities and suburbs involved in the VFL


YOU’VE probably heard the origin stories of your club’s mascots.

Like how Geelong became the Cats because a cartoonist suggested they needed a black cat for luck. Or how Melbourne became the Demons because they were once known as the “Fuchsias” and being named after a flower is a little bit shit.

But what about the suburb names? Who was the first the person to say “Gee, long way away”? Where was Mel born? What items were in Carl’s ton? While these questions are crap and can never be answered, the rest of the article is actually kind of OK.


The Five Arch Bridge on the River Cray, Foots Cray, UK.

AN ever changing suburb thanks to a diverse intake of refugees and immigrants throughout the decades, Footscray is currently welcoming hordes of hipsters, displaced due to the great “Brunswick just isn’t cool enough anymore” awakening.

Declared a municipality in 1859, Footscray is named after Foots Cray, an area south-east of London.

Foots Cray, in turn, was named after Godwin Fot – a Saxon recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as being the owner of the land – and the river Cray, which runs through the property.

The origins of the name “Cray” for the river are not known, however it’s most likely to do with either crayfish or the propensity for Saxon teenagers to describe the rapid flow of water as “mad cray”.

It’s probably the former.


Overlooking Village Bay at Saint Kilda, Scotland. Picture: Jim Richardson

DESPITE the club mascot being a Saint and the club emblem including a crucifix, there is no “Saint Kilda” in the biblical sense.

The suburb was originally called the Village of Fareham before Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe changed it to St Kilda in 1841. The name was in honour of the Lady of St Kilda, a schooner that had been moored on the village’s main beach for most of 1841 having sailed from England the year before.

The boat, in turn, had been named after Lady Grange, who had been imprisoned by her husband in 1734 on the island of Hirta, the largest island in the archipelago of St Kilda, on the western edge of Scotland.

How the archipelago was named St Kilda is up for debate.

One theory suggests that it was from the Norse “sunt kelda”, meaning “sweet wellwater”, not to be confused with the New Zealand pronunciation of the club’s name.

Another theory says it came from a bastardisation of “Childa”, a natural spring on Hirta. Then there’s the idea that it was because the locals tended to pronounce “H” as “K” and “R” as “L”, changing Hirta to Kilta.

Finally, there’s a theory that the Dutch simply screwed up their maps, accidentally confusing Hirta with another island called Skildar (meaning shields in Icelandic), before a transcription error led to it being called S.Kilda, with the assumption that “S” stood for “Saint”.

Either way, there is no religious element to the name but it’s likely that Saint Kilda, if he or she existed, would be the patron saint of “so close, yet so far” or “unwavering support in the face of agonising let downs”.


If you look closely you can almost spot a Mall Rat on ice.

NAMED in 1827, Geelong comes from the Wathaurong Aboriginal word “Djillong”, meaning “land” or “cliffs”.

Kardinia, of Kardinia Park fame, was the native word for “break of day” or “sunrise”, while Corio, of Corio Oval fame, was from “coraiyo”, meaning “small marsupial”.

Geelong is the only club in the league with an Indigenous inspired name. Personally we think it’s about time that changed. Kolora-Noorat’s move to the big time is well overdue.


Cuthbert Collingwood. Oversized hat game on point.

IT would be a noble and virtuous story if the suburb of Collingwood was named directly after Cuthbert Collingwood, the naval hero who partnered Lord Nelson on several great victories in the Napoleonic Wars.

But that’s not the Collingwood way. The suburb was named after a pub.

Granted, the pub was named after Cuthbert Collingwood, but when the founders of Melbourne’s oldest suburb put their heads together to come up with a fresh name for the place they’d simply been calling Newtown, they didn’t do so over a history book.

They did it over a pint at the Collingwood Hotel, concluding that if it was good enough for the pub, it was good enough for the suburb.

It is likely that they were pissed at the time.


Carlton House. A subtle and homely design. Cosy, one might say.

IN the name of rivalry, it’s sort of perfect that Carlton is named after a mansion given Collingwood is named after a pub. Although both supporters would likely be happy with their individual origin stories.

While it hasn’t been confirmed, Carlton was most likely named after Carlton House, the residence of the Prince of Wales in the St James’ district of London for several decades from 1783.

Once a grand and opulent palace, the building eventually became useless and was demolished in 1825, making way for the significantly less impressive Carlton House Terrace. How very Carlton of it.

The house was named after Henry Boyle – known as Baron Carleton – who owned the property in the early 1700s and did some political things whilst wearing a wig before dying in 1725.

The Carlton/Carleton surname, for its part, is a combination of Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon meaning “the settlement or village of the free peasants”.

There’s an intellectual sledge if ever I’ve heard one.


essendon-church-dunckley-345 large.jpg
Legitimately the church at Essendon, not a scene from the creepiest movie ever made.

THE suburb in Melbourne’s north is named after the village of Essendon in Hertfordshire, England, directly north of London and just south of Stevenage.

A sleepy village of just 580 people, the town’s last notable event was in 1916, when two sisters were killed after a German Navy Zeppelin bombed the town church.

It’s lucky, then, that when the Essendon Football Club decided to adopt the mascot of the “Bombers” in 1940s that the world wasn’t as connected as it is now, because no doubt someone would have found reason to be outraged at the club’s lack of sensitivity.

The Essendon name comes from the original Anglo-Saxon word “Eslingadene”, which became “Isendene” and “Esyngden” over time, all of which mean “valley of the ash trees” or similar.

A Hawthorn bush jumping the fence, symbolising the fickle nature of Hawthorn supporters when their team isn’t good anymore.

ORIGINALLY spelled when an “e” on the end, there is some conjecture on the origin of the name itself.

One story goes that our old mate Charles La Trobe picked the moniker because the native plants around the area reminded him of flowering hawthorn bushes of home. Another states that it was named in honour of Lieutenant Hawthorne of the frigate Phantom, which visited Port Phillip Bay in the 1850s.

Either way, the surname Hawthorne was a topographic name for a person who lived by a bush or a hedge of hawthorns, with “haw” meaning “hedge” and “thorn” meaning … well, “thorn”.

Today, “Hawthorn” can be translated to “overly smug due to sustained periods of success”. Fun fact.


Melbourne, Derbyshire. Significantly more British than Melbourne, Victoria.

HONESTLY, we’re still a little bit shitty that Melbourne didn’t retain the name Batmania after original European settler John Batman.

While it was known as such for a short time, the name changed to Melbourne around 1837 to honour British Prime Minster William Lamb, whose political seat was located in the market town of Melbourne, Derbyshire.

That Melbourne, with a current population of about 4000, was first recorded in the aforementioned Domesday Book in 1086 as “Mileburne”, literally translating to “mill stream”.

Melbourne is best known for once being home to a castle that the English planned to imprison Mary, Queen of Scots in, before they realised it was a little bit shit and sent her somewhere else.


Richmond Palace. No longer a thing. Like Richmond’s flag hopes.

ONE of five Richmonds in Australia across five different states, Melbourne’s inner suburb was named after Richmond Hill in London, the location of the former Richmond Palace and the only view in England that’s protected by an Act of Parliament.

Constructed in 1501, the palace was home to Henry VII and would eventually become the favourite dwelling of Queen Elizabeth I, so much so that she decided to cark it there in 1603.

The palace was named in honour of Henry VII’s former title as the Earl of Richmond, a market town in North Yorkshire that won the UK’s town of the year in 2009. Take THAT, Stevenage.

That town (the absolute best town you’ve ever seen … in 2009) was named after Richemont in Normandy, one of several French towns bearing the same name. For those of you who have done French 101 or been watching the Tour de France, you’ve probably guessed already that Richemont translates to “Rich Hill”.

Normandy’s version of Richmond, with a population of 475, has no cool origin story of how its name came about. It’s most likely that it was just a fertile hill that the locals looked at and thought “je te plumerai la tete”. Which roughly translates to “fuck it, this’ll do”.


Henry FitzRoy was all about his Cher cosplay.

MELBOURNE’S first suburb (along with Collingwood) was named after Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, Governor of New South Wales from 1846 to 1855.

Now if you want a bit of geek fun in your life, go to Sir Charles’ Wikipedia page and click through to his father’s page, then to his father’s father’s page and so on. The changing portraits of a long lineage of FitzRoy’s are actually pretty cool.

Sir Charles, whose half-brother was the captain of the HMS Beagle of Charles Darwin fame, was the son General Lord Charles FitzRoy an army officer and politician.

He was the son of Augustus FitzRoy, the British Prime Minister from 1768 to 1770.

He was the son of Lord Augustus FitzRoy, a crucial player in the naval theatre of the War of Austrian Succession.

He was the son of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, a distant relative of Princess Diana and prominent Lord.

He was the son of Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, and a key player in the Revolution of 1688.

He was the illegitimate son (or bastard, god I can’t wait for GoT) of  King Charles II, who was notable for being King Charles II.

Alright, we’ll stop there because it becomes a haze of incest and entitlement, but you get the picture.

FitzRoy as a name was first heard around 1519 when King Henry VIII gave it to his son Henry. “Fitz” is a Norman-French term like “Mac” to mean “son of” (like Fitzpatrick or Fitzgerald), while Roy is an anglicised form of “roi” meaning King. So Henry VIII’s first son was literally “Henry, son of King”, just in case the teachers got him mixed up with the other Henry’s in kindergarten.


North Melbourne. Just north of Melbourne.

THIS entry could have been extremely boring if North Melbourne hadn’t once been known as “Hotham” from 1859 to 1887.

Named after governor of Victoria Charles Hotham, it’s not clear why the name change came about. Maybe they just thought Charlie was a bit of a dick.

The surname Hotham originates from the town of the same name in Yorkshire, with the origin of the word being “shelter” in Old English.

Today, most Melbournites use it in the form of “we’re heading up to Hotham to catch some powder”, to either mean they’re going skiing in Victoria’s north, or they’re off to do lines in North Melbourne.


South Melbourne. Just south of Melbourne.

ANOTHER potentially boring entry (always finish your article on a high), South Melbourne was originally known as Emerald Hill due to the mound that town hall now stands on rising from the swamp lands surrounding it, like an emerald … hill.

South Melbourne the footy club would of course relocate to Sydney in 1982.

Sydney was named after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount of Sydney, a title that was first proclaimed as a Baron on Robert Sidney in 1603.

The name Sidney is an English name with French origins, deriving from the Latin spelling of Saint Denis as “de Sancto Dioniso”, much in the same way that the Poms bastardised Saint Claire to form “Sinclair” and Saint Paul to form “Semple” as surnames.

The first recorded surname was that of Sir William de Sancto Deonise, chamberlain to King Henry II. How that became Sydney is still hard to understand. Sancto Deonise = San Deonise = Sadeonise = Sadenise = Sadnise = Sidnise = Sidney = Sydney.


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