A Harry Potter essay
Anyone who can rightfully call themselves a fan of Quidditch will want to know the positions of Queerditch Marsh, the sport’s place of origin, and Puddlemere, the home of the world’s oldest Quidditch club. They may consult the Internet, but to no avail: there simply is no town of Puddlemere, and Queerditch Marsh, according to JK Rowling herself, has been made Unplottable - impossible to plot on a map. The Harry Potter Lexicon does mention the village of Puddletown where one usually finds the team’s homeplace in the Quidditch Handbook, and it is from there that my search begins.
Puddletown is on the South Coast, in Dorset, a few miles northeast of Dorchester. Chudleigh, most likely home of Ron Weasley’s team the Chudley Cannons, is about sixty miles west, whilst Ottery St. Catchpole, where the Weasleys reside, is about forty miles away in the same direction. This, however, is not important: we are not interested in other teams or their supporters.
There are four towns in England beginning Puddle-, Piddle- or Paddle-, and three of these, Puddletown, Piddlehinton and Piddletrenthide, are within three or four miles of each other, all on the River Piddle or Trent, from which their names derive. Paddlesworth, the fourth, is some one hundred and fifty miles away, near Dover, Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel. It seems like the River Piddle is the most likely location for Puddlemere. This is strengthened by the fact that there are several villages on the river whose names end with -puddle: Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Turners Puddle and Briantspuddle all lie downstream from Puddletown.
The fact that Puddlemere is not on the map is not a problem: ignoring the fact that Harry Potter is a work of fiction, towns do not all survive forever, and United was formed in 1163. The town has obviously passed away since then, as have many others. Granted, Puddlemere is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, William I’s eleventh century record of everything in his kingdom, but it is possible that Puddlemere, like Hogsmeade, was an all-wizard settlement, and thus would not be noticed by the Muggle surveyors.
There is one other problem: the suffix -mere is not common in this area. There are -tons, -towns, -burys, -wells, -worths (mostly Saxon in origin, the language which Gertie Keddle spoke and wrote) and many more, but few -meres, which are far commoner in the north: towns such as Windermere spring to mind. Is it possible that United is closer to the Appleby Arrows than the Cannons, despite all the evidence we have already built up for the latter?
Probably not. The town of Mere, conveniently overlooked until now, lies about twenty miles north of Puddletown and its neighbours. It seems very possible that Puddlemere is, as the Lexicon suggests, near to Puddletown. Whilst there is still some freedom of thought as to the exact location of the settlement, it can now be narrowed down to a small area.
So, where is the Marsh? Being Unplottable, it obviously will not show directly on a map, and in any case only large marshes are marked at all on mine. I have always fancied Queerditch as being somewhere close to Puddlemere. This is because of the watery themes of the names (‘mere’ means ‘pool’ - the rest is obvious), and also because of United’s origins: as the oldest surviving Quidditch club, why should they not come from near the game’s home itself? Granted, they are between a hundred and a hundred and fifty years too late, but it would have taken some time for the sport to establish itself into defined teams, etc. We are told that the arrival of the game in Yorkshire shows has fast it has spread, which demonstrates that Queerditch Marsh is a long way away from that particular county. You can’t get much further away than Devon or Dorset.
As it so happens, Queerditch Marsh would not be out of place near Puddlemere. There are several towns and villages containing the word ‘marsh’ - Middlemarsh, Hardington Marsh, Yeovil Marsh, Marsh Green - one is simply called Marsh, with nothing else. But we have barely narrowed down the possibilities: Queerditch could still be practically anywhere.
The index of my atlas has a few listings under Q - a clue could easily be somewhere here. No town begins with Queer-, but, interestingly, there are quite a few Quid-s. Quidhampton, Wiltshire, seems like the best bet. It is little more than a suburb of Salisbury, about eighteen miles east of Mere and not much further north of the various Wimbournes. Just northeast of Wimbourne Minster is an eye-catching name: Broom Hill; due north is Witchampton. Are these anything to do with the Wasps? It’s possible, but irrelevant; a subject for contemplation later. Otherwise, the area around Quidhampton is not particularly interesting. Salisbury Plain is obvious Quidditch playing territory, but there seems to be little wetland. A fortress, presumably pre-Roman, about six miles south of Quidhampton, is labelled Castle Ditches. It is not convincing, but something else in the index is.
Quoditch. For a second after first reading it, I could hardly believe my eyes. Is it possible that while the sport’s name has evolved to Quidditch, that of the town from which it came has gone another way? Quoditch certainly is a likely candidate. Like Puddlemere, it is not in the Domesday Book - a former magical town, perhaps? Neither is Queerditch. A few miles south, Roadford Lake looks like an accidental splash of blue paint. The location of Puddlemere is about eighty miles east. It’s not too far. I would say that this is the Marsh’s most likely setting - a marshy stretch of land somewhere near this town. Dartmoor is nearby - the perfect ‘Quidditch comes home’ venue for the World Cup, perhaps. Exmoor is not far away either. A quick search of the Internet reveals that Quoditch is the site of a nature reserve. The plants section reveals that several marsh plants grow there - including nettles, of which Queerditch Marsh is clearly abundant in. It is an area of culm (or wet) pasture, not good for farming. Only cattle can really be sustained there, which could explain why the first Quaffle was made from leather. The reserve is only open to the general public by prior arrangement - a Ministry of Magic scheme to keep away the bulk of Muggles? I will leave the reader to decide where the Marsh is. I already have.
Reference: Harry Potter canonical details are from Kennilworthy Whisp/J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch Through The Ages, either Chapter Three or Chapter Seven.
Essay copyright © James Baker 2004-2013. Harry Potter etc. © J.K. Rowling.