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Going round in a horseshoe

Posted by Eve Higgs on September 27, 2010 at 13:21

Does anybody know the derivation of "Going round in a horseshoe" as in taking a circuitous route and ending up where you began? It may be drovers' slang but so far I have been unable to identify a source. My grounds are that hedge dating using Hooper's Law and features on the 1809 OS map suggest that Horseshoe Road in Thorncombe, west Dorset appears to have been diverted around Forde Abbey to accomodate Edmund Prideaux's landscaping during the mid 17th century. Drovers drifts along Horseshoe Lane dating back 500 years mark the edge of the diversion. There is further circumstantial etymological evidence that older field names on the 1839 Patish Tithe Map relate to Thorncombe's weekly sheep and cattle market which ceased trading in 1773. 'The Dungeon', a holding area for cattle awaiting sale, appears to derive from drovers' slang, so why not Horseshoe Lane I ask myself? I recall my father (born 1920) using the phrase in the car when road diversions were encountered. He probably got from his father, which takes us back to the 19th century and maybe beyond, as one of the family branches from which I am descended were Essex ostlers. I realise the explanation for the road name could be as simple as there having been a smithy in Horshoe Road, but my father's voice rang in my ears while considering the possible reasons for its name. Thanks in anticipation.