Golden Balls of Aylsham: A Shining Example of a Funny Name

We enjoy a comedy name at the Norfolk Record Office. Twins called Lemon and Orange Pitcher who were born in Great Melton, Cinnamon Man from Thompson and Snow Frost of Little Walsingham, to name but a few. But one of our all-time favourites is Golden Balls!

Long before this became the nickname of a very famous footballer, Aylsham in Norfolk was home to two generations of Golden Balls. We first found Golden Balls whilst carrying out some family history research. Golden, the son of Golden and Mary Ann Balls was born, and baptised as a Primitive Methodist in Aylsham in 1836.

The baptism register containing the entry for Golden Balls records more biographical details than the Church of England registers of the same period. Additional information in this register, which was not included as standard in the parish baptism register, includes place and date of birth, former name of the mother, and the signatures (or marks) of the parents. Although there was a space for signatures, Golden and his wife Mary did not sign the baptism register. In fact, from the ten entries in total on the page, only three contain signatures of parents. We cannot assume that the Golden and Mary were not able to sign their names, especially as another of the entries on the page contains a cross in place of a signature. It’s possible the signatures were overlooked, especially as this is the first page in a brand new register.

Baptism register of Aylsham Primitive Methodist Circuit (Norfolk Record Office, FC 47/39)

Golden Balls was born in the parish of Aylsham to parents Golden and Mary Ann (formerly Mary Ann Pull). The baptism register shows his date of birth as 12 April 1836, and he was baptised the following month on 8 May. Golden senior was recorded as a Boatwright (boatbuilder) in the baptism register. In the 1841 census, the family were recorded as living on ‘Millgate Street East’ in Aylsham, which maps show to be close to the River Bure, where Golden senior was again recorded as a Boat Builder.

Further research shows Golden Balls and Mary (no Ann) Pull to have married in Aylsham parish church on 29 June 1835, where Golden senior signed the register (further suggesting that the signatures were simply missing from the baptism entry a year later). Sadly, Golden Balls senior died at the young age of 29, a few months after the 1841 census was taken. He was buried on 2 November 1841 in the churchyard at Aylsham. The burial register does not record the cause of death, and to find that out, we’d need to obtain a copy of the death certificate.

But where did the name Golden Balls come from, I hear you ask? A bit more digging in the parish registers revealed the baptism of Golden Balls senior, also in Aylsham, on 26 September 1813, to parents John and Maria Balls. It was interesting to note that John’s occupation was recorded as ‘Waterman’, a person who navigated a boat carrying fare-paying passengers. Then finally, the last piece of the puzzle was the marriage of John Balls and Maria (on 4 December 1810 in Colby, a few miles north of Aylsham) which revealed her maiden name to be… Golden!

Have you discovered any funny names while carrying out your research? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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2 Responses to Golden Balls of Aylsham: A Shining Example of a Funny Name

  1. Richard Rogers says:

    Interesting to note that Golden Balls baptism was by the Reverend Battey.


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