derivation of the name 'Bere Regis'
have been several theories as to the derivation of the name
Bere. It was at one time thought to have been derived from the
Saxon word byri, meaning a fortified place or town, and now
represented by the suffixes bury and burgh in place names. Such
an example is Woodbury Hill, an Iron Age hill fort which would
have acquired its name for this reason during Saxon times. Another
idea connected the place name Bere (or Beer as it was formerly
spelt) with the drinkable type of beer which is derived from
the word barley. Yet another theory attributed the origin to
a Scandinavian word meaning a group of buildings or a farmstead
from which the word byre results, but this description could
have applied equally to almost any Saxon village.
somewhat less serious suggestion based on a supposed legend
claims that King John, on one of his visits to this parish,
"was so delighted with the beverage which was set before
him, that he decreed that the town should ever bear the name
Beer, with the addition of Regis, in token of his royal approbation".
is now generally accepted that the name is older than Saxon,
and is simply an old British word Bere meaning an under-wood,
scrub or copse, and such a term would have been particularly
descriptive of this area from Roke right down to Hyde and beyond,
consisting as it did until recent years of expanses of marshy
copse on either side of the Bere stream. This is confirmed by
the fact that Doddings was known as Doddingsbere at least as
long ago as 1303 and until as recently as 1860, and as a matter
of interest, an old deed of 1460 refers to two closes (fields)
in Doddyngbyre called le Fount and Hauheshey. Significantly,
the large watercress bed west of Doddings Farm is still called
latin suffix Regis, meaning "of a king" or "belonging
to a king" was sometimes added to the name of a town or
village in order to denote that it formed part of royal estates,
or, particularly in more recent times, when the town or village
was associated in some special way with the reigning monarch.
An example of the latter is Bognor Regis in Sussex which gained
its suflix when King George V convalesced there.
`Regis' was undoubtedly added as a result of the manor having
been Crown property from Saxon times until 1259, during which
time it literally "belonged to a king". During this
period the reigning monarch was Lord of the Manor, and as such
could freely take up residence at any time if he might so choose;
and as King John took advantage of this on at least 16 occasions,
this could be regarded as an additional reason for the `Regis'
suffix. On the other hand Bere was by no means the only royal
manor; there were 30 in Dorset alone, and King John is known
to have visited at least 21 of them, some, as in the case of
Gillingham, Corfe Castle and Cranborne, more frequently than
Bere, and yet they did not acquire a `Regis' suffix.
Bere does not appear to have gained its `Regis' or `Kings' component
until some time after King John's reign (1199-1216). During
this period it appears as Bere or, in formal documents, in its
latinised form Bera or Beram, and even in 1274, nearly sixty
years after the end of John's reign it still appears as Bere.
However, in 1303 the anglicised form Kingsbere occurs, and seems
to have remained in general use until the 16th century when
both latinised and anglicised forms were in use, e.g. Beare
Regis (1552) and Kynges Bere (1587). During the 17th and 18th
centuries, a period well covered by parish documents, it remained
consistently as Beere Regis, but by the beginning of the 19th
century this had become Beer Regis in which farm it appeared
in trade directories and other official printed sources, until
at least 1842. The Post Office Directory of 1846 gives the spelling
as "Bere Regis or Beer Regis", and these alternatives
continued to appear in the directories until 1907.
to the Village History Page