1) ‘Ratton Row’ is a minor place-name which occurs so frequently across the north of England that it is tempting to see it as a generic, applied to any row of houses or cottages which was rat infested or perhaps just run down.
One possible Yorkshire example occurred in Swaledale in 1297-8 but the earliest confirmed reference in the county is in a list which had to do with property in the Mirfield area, that is: 1405-6 Nethirholes, Brygelone, Ratunrawe, Whitleghes. Not long afterwards it was the name of buildings in York, mentioned in a lease of 1420-1 which placed a garden ‘between the tenements of Ratonrawe and the stone wall of the city’. A locality with the same name is mentioned in the will of Humphrey Waterhouse in 1545 when he bequeathed to his son Laurence all the meases in Hallifax called Ratton Rawe : there is no doubt that this was by then an established place-name and references in the court rolls include: 1574 ‘one house or cottage in a place called Rattonrow in Halifax’. The Halifax historian John Watson said it was a very ancient name and wrote in 1775 Rattan-row is the name of some ground adjoining to the church-yard, on the north side … where the fair was kept. The inference in this case may be that the Halifax name had survived the demolition of the old buildings on the site but the truth is that some references, even from an early period, were not to bricks and mortar: in 1553 for example ‘half an acre of pasture called Ratton Rawe in Etton’ was in the tenure of John Anleby. Other East Riding examples noted are: 1667 an hous in Rattan Row, Bridlington
1772 Ratten Row, Kilham. From the sixteenth century, ‘row’ had begun to replace ‘raw’ as the suffix, as in Leeds: 1578 ‘my other cottages … in a place called Ratten Rowe: in the parish register it was the Rattanrawe in 1580. Many of the latest examples are in villages rather than in towns, that is in Dodworth, Garsdale, Lepton, Long Preston, Swillington and Thruscross, already recorded by Smith. However, the list does not end there, for example: 1736 A Large well built House, opens two ways, to Westgate and to Ratton Row in Wakefield
1777 Charles Utley, hucster … at Rattenrow in Addingham. If these were genuinely late they suggest that the term had become part of a common regional vocabulary. The area nationally in which ‘Ratton Row’ can be found has not yet been clearly defined but it occurs in many northern counties and with earlier references. Three Cumberland examples have been recorded, starting with 1410 Rattanrawe, Arlecdon whilst Ratteonrawelane is listed among ‘lost’ Kendal street-names, found between 1575 and 1620. In 1633, Rattenrow was one of several commons in the Redesdale ‘marches’ of Northumberland. In the county town of Nottingham had Ratounrowe as early as 1308 and John Markham held a toft in Rattenraw in East Markham in 1513. No examples have yet been noted in Derbyshire. Whilst the etymology is clear enough the interpretation remains a matter for conjecture. The editors say of the Nottingham place-name that it was ‘a common nickname of contempt in medieval street-names’, whilst Diana Whaley said of Ratten Row in Caldbeck that it was a ‘semi-jocular name for a dismal row of dwellings’. The late examples and the use of the word for areas of common and pasture may point to a more complicated meaning and its use as a generic.