The proper pronunciation of this Plymouth street name tells us something of its origin; this is Witham, apparently, as in “Widh-am” in Lincolnshire and as opposed to “Wit-am” in Somerset and “Wit-ham” in Essex, although today all three are spelt the same.
The latter is located on the River Guith, while the first of the three is a river name in its own right, and in Plymouth, or more specifically, Efford, where we find Witham Gardens, it is actually one of a great many street names inspired by river names.
The river Witham itself, according to the ancient historian, Leland, takes its name from the place where it rises – Witham. Although experts are uncertain of the exact derivation of this name, it is interesting to note that the Old Welsh “gueid” or “gueith” is cited as being the first element of the name “widh-am” and it also appears to be identical with Guith – the Essex river.
Meanwhile, an even earlier academic, Ptolemy is thought to have identified the Lincolnshire river Witham with Eidoumaniios or Widumanios, the “Widu” element here possibly signifying the Welsh “gwydd” – forest – with the second element coming from the Latin “manare” – to flow.