James B. (James Brown) Johnston.

The place-names of England and Wales online

. (page 1 of 54)
Online LibraryJames B. (James Brown) JohnstonThe place-names of England and Wales → online text (page 1 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE PLACE-NAMES OF
ENGLAND AND WALES



//



V



I"



GEISEL LIBRARY '^.^

DBIVISSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAH OffiGO
LA JOUA CAUFORNIA






vi/-



^



THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND
AND WALES



TO

SIR JAMES A. H. MURRAY

HARDEST OF WORKERS

AS A MEMENTO OF A CONNEXION

OF OVER THIRTY YEARS



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO




3 1822 03350 9357

THE PLACE-NAMES OF
ENGLAND AND WALES



BY THE REV. JAMES B. JOHNSTON, M.A., B.D.

AUTHOR OF 'THE PLACE-NAMES OV SCO! LAND'



LONDON
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.

igi5



PREFACE



A FEW words of preface seem necessary, especially for the sake of
those who wish to make serious use of this book. Let it, then,
be clearly understood at the outset that it makes no attempt or
pretence at completeness. In so vast a subject this would scarcely
be possible for any man, no matter how accomplished or favourably
situated. Least of all has it been possible for the writer, a busy
minister working absolutely single-handed in a Scottish provmcial
town, with the oversight of a large congregation which has had the
first claim upon all his time and energy and has always received it.
Why, then, attempt such a task at all ? Because it seemed so needful
to be done. No proper conspectus of the whole subject has appeared
hitherto ; and the writer does think that through the gatherings of
fully twenty years he has been able to do something. He would
humbly hope he may receive a little thanks for what he has done,
rather than censure — all too easy to utter — for what he has left
undone. Every student may at once discover omissions, perhaps
a good many mistakes also, though the writer has done his
best : he can only cherish the hope that at least he has made the
pathway easier for the more thorough men who are sure to come
after.

Consultation of works only to be found m large libraries —
Domesday, the O.E. charters, the Rolls, and Chroniclers— has all
had to be done during brief and occasional visits to Edinburgh and
Glasgow, where even the best libraries are far from perfect in this
respect. Still, one has been able to gleam not a few valuable forms,
especially from the more recent issues of the Close and Patent Rolls
(which have hardly been touched by others yet), and from several
of the early chroniclers. Unless it be in the notes to Anecdota
Oxoniensia, next to nothing of permanent value on English place-
names appeared until so recently as 1901, when the lamented Dr.
Skeat issued his brochure on Cambs. The gazetteers and guide-
books, even the best of them, are nearly all useless on our subject;
generally a great deal worse than useless from a scientific point of
view : and we cannot even exclude the latest edition of the Encyclo-
pcedia Britannica. But invaluable help has been received from the
numerous works of Dr. Skeat, and from not a little private corre-
spondence with him, in which the Cambridge professor of Anglo-
Saxon showed himself aboundingly generous, up to within a fort-
night of his death. Much is owed both to the books and to the
private help of the late Mr . Duignan , who was also most kind . One of



vi ^PREFACE

the best place-name books yet issued is Wyld and Hirst's book on
Lancashire, to which the writer is very deeply indebted. The book
is marred only by a few serious omissions (like Bacup), and by a
rather overfondness for Scandinavian, and an oversuspiciousness of
Keltic origins, which occasionally leads to curious results, as in the
case of Condover. JVIr. M'Clure's book has been found to contain
much splendid material with some weak admixture. Baddeley's
Gloucester is a first-rate bit of work; the writer's only regret is
that it came so late into his hands. He has a similar regret with
regard to the work of Dr. Mutschmann. Several others, containing
valuable information, were unfortunately issued just before or after
his own MS. was completed in November, 1913; they will be foimd
in the Bibhography. The stern exigencies of space have forbidden
many other acknowledgments of indebtedness.

The number of Domesday forms given is by no means complete,
and the identification in a few cases may be a little uncertain owing
to lack of local knowledge. But the information given is certainly
fuller than is available elsewhere. All village names not important
enough to be mentioned in the Postal Guide have been passed over,
except in cases of special interest. Postal Guide spellings have
usually been taken as the standard.

Wales has been a great difficulty. Accessible and trustworthy
literature has proved very scarce (see p. 66). Letters have been
exchanged with a number of kindly correspondents; but hardly
anybody has been found able and willing to give real help, except
that excellent antiquary, ]VIr. Palmer of Wrexham, and Sir Edward
Anwyl, whose all too scanty communications have proved of
great value. As to Cornwall, the writer worked diligently for
three weeks iu the Public Library at Falmouth, and was fortu-
nate in being able to supplement his studies from the valuable
Cornish library of the Rev. Wilfrid Rogers. R. 0. Heslop, Esq.,
of Newcastle, has given useful hints about names in Northumber-
land, and Rev. Charles E. Johnston, of Seascale, has helped with
those of Cumberland. Numerous other correspondents must be
gratefully acknowledged in a body. Their help has been none
the less real, and the writer's gratitude is just as hearty, though
it is imjDossible to mention all their names.

Professor Ernest Weekley, of Nottingham, our best living authority
on English personal names, has read all the proofs and has enriched
nearly every page with some valuable suggestion, though, of course,
he is responsible for no statement in the book. The writer tenders
to him his warmest thanks. Fresh information and accredited
corrections of any kind will always be welcome.

JA3IES B. JOHNSTON.
St. Andrew's Manse, Palkiek.
June 15, 1914.



CONTENTS



PAGE

PRBPACB -.-..... V

CHAPTER

I. THE USE AND VALUE OF PLACE-NAME STUDY - - - 1

II. ROMAN AND LATIN NAMES - - - 4

III. THE KELTIC ELEMENT - - .. 7

PROVISIONAL LIST OF KELTIC PLACE-NAMES IN ENGLAND - 18

IV. THE ENGLISH ELEMENT - - - - - - 23

THE COMMON ELEMENT - - - - - - 34

V. THE SCANDINAVIAN ELEMENT - - - - - 36

VI. THE ENDINGS - - - - - - - 46

VII. THE NORMAN ELEMENT - - - - - - 63

Vin. THE NAMES OF WALES, MONMOUTH, AND CORNWALL - - 66
IX. PHONETIC NOTES ON THE ALPHABET AND ITS MUTATIONS IN

ENGLISH PLACE-NAMES - - - - - - 81

LIST OF THE CHIEF PLACE-NAMES IN ENGLAND AND WALES, WITH

EXPLANATIONS - - - - - - - 87

BIBLIOGRAPHY - - - . - - - - 528

INDEX TO PLACES NOT DEALT WITH IN THEIR ALPHABETIC ORDER 529

INDEX OF SUBJECTS AND PERSONAL NAMES ... 531



THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND
AND WALES

INTHODUCTION
CHAPTER I

THE USE AND VALUE OF PLACE-NAME STUDY

To many this needs an apologia; it is such a useless, dryas-
dust study this, they say. And yet the apologia is easily writ,
because : —

1. Place-name study helps to satisfy a widespread and very
natural curiosity; and everything which helps to satisfy a
legitimate and intelligent curiosity is good, and deserves some
meed of commendation, not a frown. But this, if the first is
perhaps the lowest of the uses, we shall name.

2. It is one of the most valuable and readily available of our
sidelights on history. The history of the far past is as a rule
dim enough, and needs every beam of light, even the faintest,
which we can throw upon it. In England, it so happens, we
have records of place-names in abundance long before we
have regular history in abundance. Often where the direct
record is of the meagrest, the most tantalizingly scanty sort,
place-names may be practically the only definite evidence we
have on certain important points. The early history of Cum-
berland is a good case in point. Moreover, place-names help
much to indicate the breadth and depth of the impact of the
foreign invader, and England had invaders not a few.

3. Our study helps not a little to reveal and illustrate racial
idiosyncrasies, modes of thought, feeling, and taste. Tastes
Keltic were, and are, very different from tastes Saxon. Our
names, e.g., show what men or class of men each race admired

1



2 THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND AND WALES

and revered most, the men whose memories they sought most
eagerly to perpetuate. In the case of Angle, Saxon, and Dane,
they tell at least a Httle, perhaps not a great deal, as to who
were their favourite heroes ; whilst in the case of the Kelt they
show who were his favourite saints. The bluff Saxon seldom
troubled himself much about saints, at least so far as to
enshrine them in a place-name; though one or two instances,
like Chadkibk or Kewstoke, might be cited to the contrary.

4. It gives most valuable evidence as to the processes of
phonetic change and decay, and the lines on which those changes
proceed. The laws, once found and firmly estabhshed, are
wellnigh as sure and helpful as those in the most exact of the
physical sciences. It is often of extreme interest to the
philologer to trace these sound-changes; and our place-name
records often afford valuable supplement to the dictionary,
supplying missing links, and giving, in a good many cases,
earlier evidence of the use of a word than any surviving literary
record. Examples of this will be found 'passim (see, e.g.,
Bishop Burton, Hatherleigh, Reach, Rye, etc.).

5. Lastly, we need not hesitate to add, the study of place-
names is a useful discipline, a taxing exercise of scholarly
patience, in a department where much has already been done,
but where a vast amount of hard work still awaits the doer.
In a much-traversed, much-contested territory like England
and Wales, the student needs to remove each successive layer
of names as carefully, and to scrutinize them as dihgently, as a
Flinders Petrie when he is digging down into one of Egypt's
ancient cemeteries, or as a Macalister exploring one of the
great rubbish mounds at Gezer or Lachish. And the place-
name student has his own httle joys of discovery,^ his own
thrills over a much-tangled skein at last unravelled, as well as
a Schliemann at Mycenae, or a Flinders Petrie at Abydos. He
also has his own sure retribution if he neglect the laws of his

1 E.g., Professor Kuno Meyer's recent discovery, in an old Irish
MS., of the name ' Ard Eclidi ' (height of the horse), the exact Irish
or Gaelic equivalent of the Epidion akron of Ptolemy, c. a.d. 150,
Ard Echdi is said to be ' in Kintyre,' which confirms the supposition
long since made, that Ptolemy's name stood for the Mull of Kintyre.
This discovery also confirms our behef in Ptolemy's accuracy, whilst it
shows that, in his day, Kintyre was inhabited by Kelts of the p group,
not by Kelts of the c or Ic group, as all Scottish Kelts are at this day.



INTRODUCTION 3

study, and dogmatize upon unsufficient evidence. Bad guesses
are sure to bring to him shame and confusion. But in this
study sober conjecture is not to be despised, even if it afterwards
prove wrong. It is often the only resource which Ues open.
But one must use all the evidence available, and one must know
and remember the rules, which nine out of every ten place-name
guessers do not.



CHAPTER II

ROMAN AND LATIN NAMES

Written record of British history before the arrival of JuHus
Csesar's legions in 55 B.C. there is all but none. True, the
Cassiterides — i.e., ' tin islands ' — are referred to by Herodotus,
the father of history himself, as well as by Strabo ; and these
Cassiterides must have included part of the mainland of
Cornwall as well as the Scilly Isles. There is a Cassiter Street
in Bodmin at this day. The general name, Britain,^ also
goes back to Aristotle. For the rest there yawns a vast
blank.

On Rome in Britain we shall be very brief; the subject has
already been discussed so often, with such fulness and care,
by more competent pens. We get many names in England
in Ptolemy's weU - known Geography, written in Greek c.
A.D. 150. So far as Britain is concerned it is not first-hand
knowledge, but a pure compilation, and, except in the case
of a few rivers, Ptolemy's names can rarely be identified with
certainty with names still in use. We get a large number of
town names along the routes given in the Antonine Itinerary, a
document only put into its final shape c. a.d. 380. We get
a good many more in the Notitia Dignitatum, which dates about
twenty years later. All the evidence afforded by these, our
three chief authorities for Roman names in England, will be
found set forth and discussed in scholarly fashion in M'Clure's
British Place-Names. Of course, we have a few names, a
mere handful, which come in earlier. Only in very rare cases
do these represent names which still survive. Caesar gives us
Cantium or Kent, Tameses or Thames, Mona or Man. Vectis
or Wight goes back to Pliny, a.d. 77. His name for England

^ The printing of a name in capitals always means, See details in
the List.

4



INTRODUCTION 5

is Albion, possibly ' the white (L. alhus) land,' from the white
chalk cliffs about Dover. Tacitus, a little later than Phny, is
the first to mention Londinimn or London, and the Sabrina or
Severn, also a R. Avona (probable reading), and that is about
all — a very meagre array. The Roman Itineraries cover the
whole country from the Scottish Border to Exeter, or Isca
Damnoniorum. Rome made little mark S. and W. of that.
But the Itinerary names are seldom identifiable with existing
names, and have given rise to endless controversy. A good
many of them will be found discussed in our List, s.v. Carhsle,
Dover, Manchester, Worcester, and the like. But the names
which have come down to us from pre-Saxon times, though
writ in Latin, are practically all Keltic, or pre-Keltic, and so
fall, properly, to be dealt with in our next chapter.

Chester or Caistor, as we find it alone, -caster, -cester, or
-Chester as we find it in combination, is usually thought to be
the sure sign manual of the Roman, and proof of the existence
of a former castra, camp, or fort. But numerous though these
' caster ' names be, none of them really go back as names to
Roman times. Names like Alia Castra for Alcester are spurious
inventions. Chester itself comes in as a name quite late, and
few if any 'casters ' are earlier than the beginnings of the O.E.
Chronicle. Gloucester is found in a grant of 681 as Gleawe-
ceasdre, and Worcester is nearly as early. Thus, -caster.
O.E. ceaster, is a Saxon rather than a Roman appellative.
There are also one or two names which embody the L. colonia,
'a settlement,' usually of veteran soldiers. Lincoln is cer-
tainly a case in point, and Colchester, O.E. Colenceaster, is
confidently given as another, with fair reason too. But
very possibly it means no more than ' camp on the R. Colne,'
and this river name must be Keltic or pre-Keltic. In either
case the present names, Lincoln and Colchester, seem to have
been of Saxon, not of Roman, make.

Thus, of real Latin names in England there are almost none.
Skeat will not even admit Speen, Berks, to be the L. Spinas.
But Catterick, S. Yorks, is known to be the L. cataractd or
' waterfall, ' and Pontef ract is the same region, though first
found in Norman documents, may have come down aU the
way from the Romans. But Centurion's Copse, Brading, is a
siUy modern corruption for ' St. Urian's copse ' ; and Aquilate,



6 THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND AND WALES

Staffs, is not Aqua lata, but comes from Aquila, Latin rendering
of the Norman sm-name L'Aigle. Monkish Latin has certainly
had to do with a few of our present names. Monksilver, e.g.,
must be from silva, ' a wood ' ; MEREVAiiE is Mira valle, and
Gaia Lane, Lichfield, is med. Latin for 'jay,' Nor. Fr. gai, gay ;
whilst the earUest known spelling of Devizes seems to be
Divisis, which we venture to translate — the Latin is barbarous
— place ' at the borders ' or ' divisions.' The history of Aust
is also very interesting.

The great fact remains that in Britain, unlike neighbouring
Gaul or Spain, no Roman language has been spoken for 1,500
years. The Britons kept, and still keep, their own mother-
tongue. Only a few townsfolk and wealthier landowners would
ever speak Latin at all. Hence it is that this chapter so soon
comes to an end.



CHAPTER III

THE KELTIC ELEMENT

Of all the problems connected with the place-names of England
there are few so interesting or so intricate as those connected
with the Keltic element — how much, or perhaps we should
rather say, how little, of the old British speech still sm^vives
in Enghsh place-names. On this subject much nonsense has
been asserted, even by learned men who ought to have known
better, or who, at any rate, should have been more careful
about their facts before making such large claims for the Keltic
element as they have. The truth is, the deeper and the more
thorough the investigation, the smaller seems the sure Keltic
residuum, whilst very small indeed now is the group of names
of which we can make nothing sure at all, though convinced
that they must either be Keltic or pre-Keltic. There must be
several pre-Keltic names in Wales, but in England they are
confined chiefly, and possibly altogether, to a handful of river
names. There are, e.g., two or three names in Cheshire which
are hard nuts to crack, rivers like the Biddle, Bollin, Croco,
and Etherow; whilst Kennet, a river name in both Berks and
Cambs, is another of the rare insolubles. It is such an age since
these long-skulled, dark-haired, dark-eyed pre-Kelts (probably
also pre- Aryans) ceased to speak their own tongue on British
soil, that their names, as well as everything else belonging to
them, except a few skuUs, have been practically wiped out;
and time spent in speculating on their language or their names
can be little else than time wasted.

Not a great many centuries before Julius Caesar, the great
Aryan family of Kelts began to arrive on our shores. The
Goidels or Gaels, because to-day in force in Northern Scotland,
Ireland, and Man, must, it is generally supposed, have arrived
first. But of Goidels in England we now know exceedingly

7



8 THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND AND WALES

little. Their very existence there, once upon a time, is proved
by not much else than a few inscriptions, commonly called
Ogams. There have been none found E. of Devon or Wales,
only one in Cornwall, and barely fifty altogether. But these
Ogams can only date from late in the Roman occupation, and
seem to suggest that the makers of them had crossed over from
the S. of Ireland, perhaps from about Waterford, to Pembroke.
There was also an Irish invasion or immigration into Cornwall
in early historic times. But of the earliest Goidels in England
we know almost nothing. Next came the Brythons, the p
group as scholars caU them, as opposed to the k or q group, the
Goidels. Comparison of the abundant remaining skulls of the
Neolithic Age in Belgium and in England, seems to indicate
that the English Kelts we know best came from the tribe of
the Belgse, and crossed over to us where the sea was narrowest.
The Belgse were akin to the Gauls, and the Gauls were un-
doubtedly nearer of kin to the Brython than to the Gael, so
far as their very scanty linguistic remains show. The Picts,
who were akin to the Brythons, especially to the Cornish, seem
to have been confined to Scotland, though in Searle's Onomasti-
con we find nine names of men compounded with Peoht or
Pict — e.g., Peoht-helm, -red, -wine, -wulf, etc.

However, over a large area of England we now know for
certain that there are next to no Keltic names at all. Where a
competent investigator has been at work, like Dr. Skeat
among the names of Berks, Cambs, or Herts, we can now say
confidently that there are no surviving Keltic names except
those of two or three rivers ; a very different story this from
what was supposed not so very long ago. All over the S.E.
of England, and indeed in the whole region along the coast
from Tyne to Solent, Keltic names are extremely rare. It is
doubtful if in that section there be thirty such names aU
told. In Lincoln, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey,
Sussex, the Keltic element seems represented by only five,
three, or possibly even one name each ; for in Middlesex, apart
from London and Thames, which it shares with other counties,
what is there save Brent ? In the Midlands, too, Keltic
names are few and far between, except on the Welsh border.
In Bucks, Bedford, Oxford, Warwick, there are next to none.
And what is stranger and more unexpected, even in the fay



INTRODUCTION g

N., in Westmorland and Durham, hardly a single true
British name survives. Of the original English Goidel our
place-names preserve scarce one footprint. It is doubtful if in
all England, outwith the borders of Northumberland and
Cumberland, there can be picked out a single clearly Goidelic
name.^ and, of course, the Border names are probably due to
the filtering S. of the Scottish Gael.

On the other hand, as is well known, in districts where the
Saxon invader arrived late, in Cornwall, ' the horn of the
Welsh,' and in Monmouth, Keltic names are still in an over-
whelming majority. In Cornwall there are perhaps no true
English names of any consequence, except modern upstarts
like New Quay, and two names on the very eastern edge — •
Launceston and Saltash. Next to Cornwall and Monmouth,
the region for Keltic names is, very naturally, that along the
Welsh border, and in what was the old Brythonic kingdom of
Cumbria — i.e., Lancashire and Cumberland — also, as we have
already noted, all along the Scottish Border. In Hereford,
Salop, and Cheshire, and in these three northern counties,
Welsh names (or Gaelic names) of rivers, of hills too, and vil-
lages and towns, are still fairly plentiful. Many river names in
Devon and Somerset, and quite a handful in Stafford, are
Keltic ; so also is a fairly numerous group of towns or villages
in Somerset and Dorset. Whenever we find such village
names surviving, it is pretty clear proof that extermination or
di'iving out of the Brython at the hand of Saxon or Angle
liad not been so swift or ruthless as in most other parts. It
is curious, however, that Keltic village names are so lacking
in Devon.

It is the Welsh dictionary which is our chief aid in searching
out the Keltic names. English Keltic names are certainly for
the most part of Brythonic type. But, as we have already
noted, near the Scots Border we have a few purely Goidelic,
interesting as showing that the present Border was once upon
a time by no means the southern border of the Gael. There is
a W. glyn as well as a G. gleann ; but we can scarcely err in

^ Perhaps the best attempt lias been, to show the G. crioch, criche,
' boundary, limit,' in the numerous names in Creech and Crick, and
even Penkridge. But the evidence which will be found s.v. Creech,
Crick, Crickhowell, etc., seems conclusive against it.

2



10 THE PLACE-NAMES OF ENGLAND AND WALES

holding that all the Glens in Northumberland are of Gaelic
origin. Near Haltwhistle alone we find three — a Glencune,
a Glendhu, and a Glenwhelt. Glencune reappears in Cumber-
land, near Ullswater, as Glencoin. Both are clearly derived
from the G. cumhann or comhann, with the ?nh mute through
' eclipse,' as it is called. Glencoe, the far-famed, has the same
origin; it is spelt Glencoyne in 1500, and Glencoan in 1623.
Another Glen, with a very Highland smack about it, lies E. of
Keswick, Glenderamackin, which is pure Gaelic for ' glen of
the stream with the bulbs or parsnips.'

The Kielder Water near the Northumberland border is as
clearly G. caol clohhar (bh mute), ' na,rrow-stream.' The G. ao in
names has run through nearly all the vowel sounds. We have
it taking on the long ee of Kielder away up in Eddrachilis,
W. Sutherland, pronounced Eddraheelis, G. eadar-a-chaolais,
'between the straits or narrows.' Pure Gaelic, too, is
Mindrum, Coldstream, G. min druim, 'smooth hill ridge.' In
Cumberland such names are rarer, but we have a few very
interesting samples, like Cardurnock, on the shore S. of Bow-
ness, G. cathair [th mute) dornaig, ' fort at the pebbly place, '
the same word as Dornock on the other side of the Solway,
and as the better known Dornoch in the far north. Culgaith,
Penrith, is unmistakable Gaelic too, cul gaoith, ' at the back of
the wind, ' the th being preserved here, whilst in Gaelic for many
a generation th has gone dumb. As already noted, of clearly
Gaelic names farther south there are perhaps none at all, unless
it be Cannock.

By far the most important group of Keltic names in England



Online LibraryJames B. (James Brown) JohnstonThe place-names of England and Wales → online text (page 1 of 54)