A tale of two hamlets named Bonsall

The story starts a year ago when an Orange County resident with the last name of Bonsall contacted the Bonsall Chamber of Commerce wanting to know how Bonsall, California got its name. Newly-hired executive administrator Penelope Richards-Clark did some research and found out that Bonsall was named in 1889 after a local resident, James Bonsall, a retired Methodist minister who developed a fruit tree nursery there.

Richards-Clark said, “The Orange County Mr. Bonsall then gave me his complete genealogy, dating back to King James and Bonsall UK where his family crest is in their church’s stained glass window.” She then found Bonsall UK on the Internet and contacted its respective Bonsall Historical Society in the person of board member Peter Fellows. She started a dialogue with him and is “very excited to create a relationship with Bonsall UK.”

Last summer, Richards-Clark learned that two longtime Bonsall residents, Dr. Derek and Margaret King, were planning a trip to England in October. She told them about Bonsall UK and they added it to their itinerary with the goal of being ambassadors from their hometown.

Derek King, a holistic chiropractor, muscle kinesiologist, and whole food nutritionist, and his travel agent wife, arrived in Bonsall UK late in the day on Oct. 21, 2013. King said that travelers cannot pass through the British hamlet without knowing it as they do with Bonsall USA, “you don’t find it unless you are looking for it.” The small town is in an out-of-the-way location on the side of a hill in an enclosed valley with a stream running through it.

As frequently happens, there were two other big events in town that night, so the Kings visited with just five residents (including Fellows) of the hamlet which has a population of 848. [In comparison, Bonsall USA has 4,000 residents.]

They met in one of the two local pubs which was full of people and smoky, but they enjoyed “amazing talk” on a wide variety of subjects, including politics, weather and economics. At evening’s end, they all hugged “like we had been friends forever,” King said.

According to Fellows, the first written record of the hamlet’s existence is “in Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Bunteshale’, meaning ‘Bunt’s nook of land’ but we know nothing of the eponymous nook-owner nor the location of his bit of land. The early architecture was wooden and subsequently built over, so stone Bonsall is on top of wooden Bunteshale.”

Currently, the whole town of Bonsall UK would “fit in River Village” over here, King said. They have a roundabout there (at the village square which has a handful of buildings) and just two narrow streets off of it.

King described the area’s weather as “not much sunshine and lots of rain,” and the hillsides as having “many shades of green.” It was harvest time when he was there and many of the residents were at a potluck dinner sharing their produce which was farmed in a community planting area.

As for the residents’ occupations, Fellows said, “Agriculture remains important in the village with 11 dairy/beef farms but it is no longer a main source of employment. People in Bonsall have a very wide range of jobs, either employed in nearby towns and cities or self-employed and working in the village.”

Fellows added that 22 small businesses are located in an old textile mill and an estimated 50+ people operate businesses from their homes. The town website’s list of local businesses includes an accountant, two artists, a band, event management, photographer, garage construction, a tea room, four bed and breakfasts, and two website designers.

King described his visit as “a great experience; the people are very nice, very hospitable.” In comparison with his hometown, he said, “both are small towns filled with wonderful people,” otherwise they are very different in geography, weather, wealth, economy factor and in history.

In contrast, Bonsall USA is spread out in open valleys with a much drier, almost desert-like, climate. The area includes horse farms, a golf course, a wildlife center, a western-theme camp and numerous businesses.

On the chamber website, the history of Bonsall USA has it that James Bonsall “apparently was taking a load of lumber south through Gopher Canyon when his wagon broke down. He found the area so appealing, he purchased some acreage from a settler, built a home, and developed his nursery.” Many residents found Bonsall much the same way, happening upon the area, liking it, and staying.

On the other hand, the families of Bonsall UK have been living there for generations. Fellows will be writing an article for his village’s February newsletter, which is called ‘Mutterings,’ “to see what level of interest people in the village have in a link with our American cousins,” he said.

Richards-Clark is hopeful that they will be able to officially establish the two Bonsalls as sister cities. Some ideas she has in mind are creating “a house-swapping program for families to swap homes during summer months so we can learn and share about each other’s cultures and enjoy local sightseeing,” as well as a youth exchange program in which “high school kids could do an month exchange at a host family in each country.”

Richards-Clark has several British friends who love California sunshine, and her own children are eager to travel to Bonsall UK. So, she is optimistic about the future success of interaction between the two hamlets named Bonsall and the next chapter in their story.

More information on Bonsall UK can be found at www.bonsallvillage.org and www.bonsallhistory.org.uk while more information on Bonsall USA can be found at www.bonsallchamber.org.

11 Responses to "A tale of two hamlets named Bonsall"

  1. windrider   January 25, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Between 1960 and 1975 I lived about 20 miles from Bonsall in the UK, and would often pass by Bonsall as the nearby town of Matlock and other localities were favoured by my parents for days out. We would also visit Bonsall for the annual ‘Well Dressing’ (http://derbyshire-peakdistrict-co-uk.leia.parcomweb.net/bonsallwelldressings.htm) when we would tour many of the local villages to view their colourful displays and maybe watch a carnival procession. We also had a close neighbour with the surname of Bonsall, as their family came from there.
    I now live in Fallbrook, just outside the Bonsall boundary. It’s a small world really.

  2. Bonsall Resident   January 26, 2014 at 12:09 am

    That was a pretty neat article.

  3. Scott   January 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for the good article. I lived in the Raleigh area of North Carolina and there is a Bonsal, NC about 15 minutes from the Capitol. Perhaps a misspelling of the same UK origin?! I don’t know.

  4. Scott   January 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    How do the English pronounce the name of Bonsall and how did James Bonsall (the founder) pronounce his name? Out here we hear "Bons-all and Bonsil (like tonsil)" or are both mispronunciations? Thanks

  5. IBAM   January 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I love this story. I was raised in Bonsall, have such great memories. Wish they would post pictures from Bonsall UK.

  6. Cory   January 28, 2014 at 8:42 am

    There are some good pictures of Bonsall on Google Maps. Cool looking little town.

  7. MyView   January 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Great article! It was nice to learn the history about one of our local areas and the ties that it has in the UK.
    Is the Village News planning on doing any more similar articles about other local places in and around Fallbrook? It would be nice to have a regular section in the paper that teaches the readers a little about the history of street names, buildings and other local areas. I know that there are some books out there about the history of Fallbrook, but sometimes just one article focused on one subject is more memorable reading.

  8. Dr.Derek King   January 28, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Great article. Well written. Covered lots of stuff well. I just told our story and she sorted it out. I believe they pronounced it the same as we do. Great question, and I am trying to remember any difference… No…they just drive on the "wrong" side.

  9. Dr.Derek King   January 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Last night late, my 24 year old son stuck his head in our room and said his boss, who lives in Murrieta, had asked him that day, " Did your parents go to the U.K. In Oct?" He said, "Yes, Why?" "Because I just read about their trip in the newspaper." Small world.

  10. windrider   January 29, 2014 at 10:29 am

    In reply to Scott, I think the best way to describe the UK pronunciation would be Bon-sul, with more emphasis on the "Bon" than the "sul".

  11. BonsallGayGuy   January 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Some three years ago we vacationed in that part of Britain. We rented (or should I say hired LOL) a car and drove extensively throughout the Midlands. Although we never went through Bonsall we did pass very close by, spending the night in the town of Matlock. Gorgeous area! After more than a decade as a Southern Californian, one can particularly appreciate their verdant countryside.

    We loved this article!


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