What's in a place-name?
The history of a place's name - its geographical etymology - can provide us with clues to the history of the place itself, and often with clues to the people who have lived there in the past. The Essex finger-post, pictured left, points to the village of Layer de la Haye, whose name shows a history of Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Norman settlement - "Haye" is likely to be the name of the Norman family which held the land after the 1066 Conquest.
This month sees the launch of a Welsh Place-Name Database, the Archif Melville Richards Place-Name Database. This will contain historical forms for place-names in Wales gathered by Professor Melville Richards (1910-1973). During his career, Professor Richards amassed a remarkable archive of place-name material, recorded on 330,000 research slips which were stored in 159 boxes, such as the one seen in the photograph, left. And so this month we are highlighting descriptions of the papers of Professor Richards and of other linguists, geographers, historians, and genealogists with a special interest in people and place.
- With thanks to Elen Wyn Hughes, Assistant Archivist, Bangor University.
- Basil Cottle (1917-1994): linguist and historian, with an interest in place-names.
- John Field (1921-2000): one-time editor of the English Place-Name Society's journal, and author of English Field-Names: A Dictionary (1973)
- Francis Carney Diack (1865-1939): Celtic scholar and an authority upon the origin and development of Gaelic place-names in the North East Highlands of Scotland
- Eluned Garmon Jones (died 1979): researched place and field names relating to the parish of Bangor, Wales
- J. Lloyd-Jones (1885-1965): Welsh scholar and poet, researched Welsh place and personal names
- Gabriel Hughes (1861-1932): researched Welsh place-names
- William John Watson (1865-1948): Professor of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities at Edinburgh University, researched place-names in Scotland
- Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912): Celtic scholar, with WJ Watson studied Scottish place-names
- John Morris (died 1932): poet, studied the place-names of Caernarvonshire
- Percy Hide Reaney (died 1968): noted linguist and researcher of personal and place-names; member of the English Place-Name Society's council
- Gwyneddon Manuscripts: journalist John Davis (1832-1904), known as Gwyneddon, collected Welsh genealogies and place-names
- John Fraser (1882-1945): Professor of Celtic, undertook Scottish place-name studies with FC Diack
- Archif Melville Richards Place-Name Database (Bangor University)
- placenamesni.org: the origins and history of Northern Ireland place names
- English Place-Name Society (University of Nottingham)
- Scottish Place-Name Survey (The University of Edinburgh)
- Ulster Place-Name Society and place-name study in Northern Ireland
- Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland: charity promoting the study of place-names, surnames and proper names
- British Association for Local History: charity promoting local history studies
- A Vision of Britain Through Time: historical maps, census reports, and historial descriptions for Britain, 1801-2001(University of Portsmouth)
- Ordnance Survey
- A Future for Fingerposts (English Heritage)
- Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names: database of over 900,000 places worldwide
left: Essex finger-post. The suffix "-ing" (settlement) shows the Anglo-Saxon origins of the name. Photo copyright © 2005 Archives Hub.
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