HAVE you ever wondered how the curiously named Monkeys Jump roundabout on the A35 west of Dorchester got its moniker?

Some say it is because the roundabout is named after the café nearby, which was known as Monkey's Jump and is now a McDonald's.

But there are other theories - including that a circus monkey escaped from its cage at that spot and that there was once a monkey tree on the site. It could also be named after Monkton Gate, because the area is in the north west corner of Winterborne Monkton.

However, the most likely theory takes us back a number of years. It comes from the late Joy Coleman nee Williams of Bridehead, Little Bredy. Her Aunt Rhoda was driving a pony and trap from Bridehead to Dorchester, accompanied by her pet monkey (of course!) when the animal jumped out and eluded capture, so it had to be left.

Some days later it was seen up a tree and was suspected of being a German spy, so was shot. The story is supported by other members of the family, including Kirsty Creighton from Oxfordshire, Aunt Rhoda's daughter, who provided this photograph of the monkey being watched by "Uncle Fred - Fred Wallace, Bishop of Wellington, New Zealand". The two ladies aren't identified.

It's thought that the escaped monkey incident took place in 1914 or 1915 when everyone was on high alert to a German spy menace.

The reality of the shooting of the monkey story seems to be that Aunt Rhoda's pet monkey was becoming a nuisance. It was said to be difficult to house train and would dirty the house and be thrown out of the window for its behaviour by its heartless owners. After a while the monkey would smack its own bottom when it dirties itself and jumped out of the window. Hence, the name 'Monkeys Jump.

However, another theory is that Monkey's Jump was a known name in the Victorian era, so unfortunately that puts paid to monkey-up-a-tree story from the early 20th century.

If you wish to share a tale or even a theory about a rather unusual Dorset place name, get in touch with us the usual way.