Culture and heritage


Place names as a heritage resource

Place names and place name patterns are an integral part of the heritage of the people of NSW. The Heritage Council has developed a policy on heritage place names. This will help the community to decide if a name is significant, or whether or how it should be changed, or what contribution a place name can make to interpreting and understanding heritage significance.

Place Names of Heritage Value: A Heritage Council Policy (infoplacenames.pdf, 32KB)

This policy was adopted in August 2004 and particularly relates to names for heritage places or objects. But it will also be of use and interest to people and organisations involved in place naming generally.

What is toponymy?

Toponymy (from the Greek words topos: place, and onuma: name) refers to the study of place names and place names patterns in a particular place or area. Within cultural heritage this could include a building, a complex of buildings such as a homestead or industrial site, or a street, beach or other landscape precinct.

Toponymical studies can cover the origins of places names, the distribution of place names, the sequence of place names over time in a particular place, the social and cultural meanings of a place name, historical patterns or phases evident in places names, the identification of patterns in place naming, or various combinations of these factors. It can also include the compiling of lists and typologies of place names.

Identifying and assessing the heritage significance of place names?

Place names relating to a particular place should be identified in any heritage study of that place, whether a single building or a whole landscape. This should cover both existing place names and historical or disused place names.

Once you have identified the relevant place names, you should then assess their heritage significance. How does a name contribute to the meaning and associations of a place?

If a place is going to be considered for heritage listing and it has either no name or a variety of names, you may like to consider assigning a name. It is important that the name finally agreed upon is a name that reflects the heritage significance of the place.

The Place Names Policy can guide you through these matters and help you think about place names as part of the inheritance we pass from one generation to the next.

Other useful links

The following sites can help in identifying and researching place names:

Page last updated: 01 September 2012