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Place Names


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Presentation from the Thames Discovery Programme's Place Names Workshop (part of the Riverpedia project), January 2011

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Place Names

  1. 1. Place names and the Thames<br />Riverpedia Place Names Workshop<br />29th January 2011<br />
  2. 2. Sources of information<br /><ul><li>Anglo Saxon Charters</li></ul><br /><br /><ul><li>Gazetteers</li></ul><br /><ul><li>Domesday Book
  3. 3. Historic Maps</li></li></ul><li><br />
  4. 4. Definition<br /><ul><li>Toponymy is the scientific study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. The word 'Toponymy' is derived from the Greek words tópos (τόπος) ('place') and ónoma (ὄνομα) ('name'). Toponymy is itself a branch of onomastics, the study of names of all kinds. Toponymy is distinct, though often confused with etymology, which is the study of the history of languages themselves.</li></ul><br />
  5. 5. Scholars have found that toponyms provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a particular region. In 1954 F. M. Powicke said of place-name study that it "uses, enriches and tests the discoveries of archaeology and history and the rules of the philologists.“ Toponyms not only illustrate ethnic settlement patterns, but they can also help identify discrete periods of immigration.<br /><br />
  6. 6. Origins<br />According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "toponymy" first appeared in English in 1876; since then, toponym has come to replace "place-name" in professional discourse. It can be argued that the first toponymists were the storytellers and poets who explained the origin of certain place names as part of their tales; sometimes place-names served as the basis for the etiological (‘origin’) legends. The process of folk etymology usually took over, whereby a false meaning was extracted from a name based on its structure or sounds.<br />The English Place Name Society (EPNS) was founded in 1923<br />
  7. 7. Noted scholars<br />Eilert Ekwall (1877 – 1964) was Professor of English at Lund University, Sweden, from 1909 to 1942. He is best known as the author of numerous important books on English place-names and personal names. His works include English River Names (1928), Studies on English Place- and Personal Names (1931), Street-Names of the City of London (1954), and the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (several editions 1936 -1960). Although not a county editor of the survey conducted by the English Place-Name Society (1923-date), his philological advice was often sought and acknowledged by scholars preparing the county volumes.<br /><br />
  8. 8. <ul><li>Margaret Gelling (1924-2009) was for more than 50 years one of Britain's leading experts in the study of place-names.
  9. 9. With the EPNS she produced detailed place name studies of Oxfordshire and Berkshire with a stronger geological and archaeological background than was to be found in the society's previous surveys, and also in investigating the field-names and minor names of each parish much more fully, involving members of local communities in gathering evidence.
  10. 10. Innovative studies of particular place-names: those denoting pagan Anglo-Saxon gods and shrines; those incorporating the element -hamm ("enclosed meadow"); the survival of the Latin settlement term "uicus" in English place-names using the compound "wicham"; and the woodland terms found in the Birmingham region.</li></ul><br />
  11. 11. Signposts to the Past (1978), which became a fundamental handbook of up-to-date scholarship.<br />Since the foundation of the EPNS, the attention of scholars had been focused on "habitative" names that denoted settlements, which were thought to be earlier and more interesting than other place-names. As a result of her studies with local groups, Gelling focused instead upon the topographical names, seeking to show that when they used particular words for a hill or a valley, the Anglo-Saxons were giving precise descriptions of the land-form that they saw, which we can still detect in the landscape. <br />
  12. 12. Case Studies:Place names and vernacular history in Liverpool<br />
  13. 13.<br />Caroline Street, Cardiff is a pedestrianised link between St Mary Street and The Hayes. The street has been a host to all kinds of stores but has seen a surge in chip and kebab shops, and as such is commonly known as Chippy Lane<br />
  14. 14.
  15. 15. Rude Britain is a compilation of 100 of the best and rudest place names, each one photographed and explained by authors Rob Bailey and Ed Hurst. From streets such as Fanny Avenue, Willey Lane, Titty Ho and Asshouse Lane to a village called Cocks; Great Britain throws up a wealth of odd names that have somehow been overlooked by the nation. Until now.<br />
  16. 16. Research questions:<br />3.8 Can we see evidence for zones of activity along the waterfront? Can the study of documentary sources, place names / field names and artefacts help us to plot these zones?<br />3.9 What evidence is there for Hanseatic trade? What can we draw from place name studies, timber analysis, artefact studies (e.g. luxury goods) etc? <br />3.46 How can place name recording of beacon sites or watch towers provide evidence for the location of networks of communications and signalling?<br /><br />
  17. 17. Case studies<br /><ul><li>Area / regional studies:</li></ul>1) City of London <br />2) River Thames <br /><ul><li>Thematic studies:</li></ul>Anglo-Saxon networks<br />Anglo-Saxon ritual and religion <br />Image from The Guinness Book of British Place Names <br />
  18. 18. London studies<br />Images from The Port of Medieval London, Archaeology after the Blitz and St Bride’s Church, London by Gustav Milne<br />
  19. 19. Fulham: ‘Fulla’s land in a river bend’ OR ‘Foul, muddy place’<br />Putney: ‘Putta’s landing place on the riverbank or island’<br />
  20. 20. From Pepper, 1996:<br />
  21. 21. From Gower, 2002:<br />
  22. 22. burh ‘a fortified place’. This occurs as the first element in place-names such as Burford (Sa; from burh-ford) and Burpham (Sx; from burh-hām), as a simplex place-name, for example in Brough (Nt), and as the final element of many place-names, often giving modern forms in -brough, -borough, -burgh, or (in the case of byrig) -bury. The element burh is also found in compounds such as burh-tūn and burh-stede.<br />The primary meaning of burh is ‘fortification, fortified place’, whether this refers to an ancient earthwork or encampment (e.g. Badbury, Do), an Anglo-Saxon fortification (e.g. Hertingfordbury, Hrt) or a post-conquest castle (e.g. Scorborough, YE).<br />fæsten ‘a stronghold’. This may denote old earthworks or sometimes ‘an inaccessible or easily defended island of firm ground in marshland’.<br />here ‘an army’. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle this term denotes the Viking army. In place-names it occurs in compounds such as here-ford, here-pæð, here-weg, which may denote roads or fords suitable for the passage of an army. The compound here-wīc may mean ‘army quarters’, as may Old English here-beorg, although the common Middle English place-name compound herberIe may have had a more general sense ‘a shelter (for travellers), a lodging, an inn’.<br />*tōt, *tōte ‘a look-out’. In Old English place-names this refers to good observation points. It is often found in the compound tōt-hyll.<br />weard ‘a watch, ward, protection’. This element is often found in place-names with words for ‘hill’, and probably denotes ‘a watch-hill’. It also occurs in the compound weard-setl ‘a guard-house, a watch-house’.<br /> <br /><br />
  23. 23. Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire<br />'*Teodec's fortification'. The hundreds of Upper and Lower Tewkesbury took their name from this important manor which has monastic origins. OE pers.n., OE burh, OE hundred<br /><br />
  24. 24. The place-names of England fossilize an unusual group of names with an Old English origin which are considered to refer to early medieval places of Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religious practice. The OE terms hearg and weoh mean respectively, ‘temple’ and ‘idol/shrine’. Although listed and reviewed by David Wilson no archaeological assessment has ever been undertaken and these sites represent an untapped resource for understanding the nature of pre-Christian cult-centres in England. <br /><br />Illustration by Sarah Semple in Semple, 1998:<br />
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