VCH Style Guidelines

Road and Street names (use of)

Traditional names for major historic highways, notably Roman roads, should be printed in roman, without quotation marks and with initial caps for each word. Use the definite article (lower case unless the first word of a sentence) or not, according to accepted usage.

  • The parish is bisected diagonally by Watling Street.
  • Beyond, the Fosse Way forms the eastern boundary of the parish.
  • Coins have been found near Ryknield Street.

Modern road and street names should be spelt as they appear on the Ordnance Survey map, with initial caps Include the definite article with initial capital if the name appears thus on the OS.

Do not abbreviate ‘Road’, ‘Street’, ‘Avenue’ etc. Initial caps should not be used in describing routes.

  • Northampton Road but the Northampton road
  • near The Broadway but near the high street

Where streets have had their names changed and both names are being given, it is usually sufficient to print the word ‘Street’ or the equivalent once only.

  • Old (formerly New) Lane
  • New (later Old) Street

river names

River names are spelt as they appear on the Ordnance Survey map (or its equivalent for other countries), with river (lower case) where it appears necessary. This also applied to other watercourses as appropriate.

  • The Thames skirts the parish to the south.
  • The river Doe Lea was grossly polluted.
  • The Sowy river was constructed in 1972.
  • Dodham brook was culverted in 1968.

See also: Canal companies

building names

The name of an inn, public house, hotel, or coffee-house should not be placed in quotation marks whether or not it is followed by the descriptive noun. Note that unless part of the business address, the descript (inn, hotel, alehouse, etc.), should be in roman, not caps.

  • the Four Alls inn
  • White’s coffee-house
  • the Crown hotel
  • the Red Lion
  • the Old Spinning Wheel
  • the New Inn

colleges (in universities)

Initial caps for all words, with comma to separate the name from that of the university. For example:

  • Jesus College, Oxford
  • Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
  • Kellogg College, Oxford 


  • use Coll. only in footnotes.
  • use ‘The’ of Queen’s College, Oxford, only in formal contexts (and never of Queens’, Cambridge) 
  • ODWE gives spellings of those likely to be confused.

sites and buildings (names of)

Capitalize the common noun only where it is not merely descriptive but is an essential part of the name, e.g. might conceivably be an address. Otherwise, use Lower case, even when used of a particular building. Use initial caps when referring to the Church of England as a whole.

  • Maiden Castle
  • Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey
  • Potterne church
  • St Mary’s chapel
  • the abbey of Whitby
  • the church of St Mary
  • the Methodist chapel
  • Winchester cathedral
  • Zion chapel
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Board school
  • Chapter House
  • Church school for a school maintained by the Church of England, however a school church was a schoolroom licensed for worship, with a reserved chancel at one end of the building (not used by the school) used only for services.
  • Friends’ meeting-house (however three caps for the London headquarters of the society Friends’ Meeting House
  • He later moved to the Manor House, but Home Farm stands on the site of the manor house.
  • National school
  • Norton bridge (but the bridge at Norton).
  • Staverton mill (i.e. the mill at Staverton)
  • Sunday school
  • The Dower House is dated 1625.
  • The earlier castle has entirely disappeared.
  • the Old Rectory (i.e. the houses with those names)
  • the Queen’s College
  • Birdholme House was once the dower house.
  • He also leased Yardley Mill, but There is no evidence for a mill at Yardley.
  • A modern bungalow named The Shieling.
  • The old rectory was demolished in 1971. but They had previously lived at the Old Rectory.

Note: Use an initial capital for the definite article where the name clearly requires it but not otherwise.

For cathedral, church, chapel, abbey, priory, always use lower case even when referring to a particular building unless it is an essential part of the name (e.g. might conceivably be an address).

Birkenhead priory, Cleeve abbey, Westminster Abbey