Melville Richards Place-Name Archive

Scope and Content

The archive (excluding Melville Richards's proposed onomasticon) consists of 159 boxes each containing an estimated 2100 slips. The density of material varies from slips with a solitary name to slips with ten or more lines of detail. The slips cover settlements (places) and topographical features (fields, hills, mountains, rivers, streams, bays, promontories etc.).

Most slips will typically have a head-name (usually in standardised spelling), a county, parish or township location, a grid reference (NGR), historical forms (including date and documentary source), and occasionally cross-references to similar names or to relevant secondary sources.

In common with all place-name researchers Melville Richards took his historical evidence from a range of documentary sources: land tax assessments, parish registers, tithe maps and schedules, estate papers, medieval rolls, charters, rentals, terriers and wills, maritime charts, enclosure awards, literary bruts, chronicles, sagas and romances. As far as is currently known, Melville Richards did not keep a formal list of abbreviations of his documentary sources but the vast majority are conventional abbreviations readily recognised by today's scholars. However, there remains a very small number of abbreviations which have defied all attempts at identification.

Administrative / Biographical History

Professor Melville Richards (1910-1973) taught at university institutions in Swansea and Liverpool before becoming Professor of Welsh at Bangor in 1965. He contributed extensively to Celtic scholarship in literature, philology and grammar but his compulsive interest was in place-names. During his career he amassed a remarkable archive of place-name material upon which he based very many scholarly articles and more accessible but no less authoritative articles for the general reader. From that mass of 328,778 slips he also abstracted and organised material pertaining to the major place-names of Wales which he had hoped to publish eventually as a Welsh onomasticon. Sadly, his untimely death frustrated such a design.


Arranged alphabetically.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all users.

Other Finding Aids

The archive has now been transferred onto database and is available at

Archivist's Note

Description taken from the Archif Melville Richards Place Name Database, April 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright conditions apply. Reprographics are made at the discretion of the Archivist.