A Children's Guide to Shropshire Place-Names

places that tell us about farming

Cheswardine

Wulfwynn thinks we’ll like this one very much. It relates to something that most of us like to eat. You

might like it in sandwiches with some pickle, on toast, or perhaps on top of a nice spaghetti Bolognese. Can you guess what it is yet? Of course you can, it’s cheese! Cheswardine means ‘cheese-producing settlement’, and so the people living there in the

milk, or perhaps both – but it sounds like they made a lot of delicious cheese!

medieval period were cheesemakers! We don’t know whether they made cheese from cows’ milk or sheep’s

There are lots and lots of farms in Shropshire today, but did you know that people have been farming in Shropshire for hundreds and hundreds of years? Place-names can tell us all sorts of things about farming activities – shall we go and have a look?

Ryecroft Bank

Ryecroft Bank is a field in Marton – this name tells us about one of the crops that medieval farmers grew, which was of course rye! Rye is a cereal grain grown by farmers, and it is sometimes used to make flour for baking bread. Do you know what a croft is? Wulfwynn informs us that it is a small enclosure, which also tells us that the rye here was grown in a small area.

The Shipcoate Leasowe

The Shipcoate Leasowe is a field in Farlow – this sounds more like something you’d find by the seaside rather than on a farm, Wulfwynn! No, Wulfwynn says it doesn’t mean ‘ship’ but ‘sheep’! This name comes from the medieval word shepe-cot, which means ‘sheep-cote’, in other words, a shelter for sheep. Leasowe means ‘pasture’ or ‘meadowland’, and the whole name tells us there must have been a sheep-cote in this field hundreds of years ago.

Bitterley

Wulfwynn thinks that although you might not guess this name straight away, you will definitely know what it is. She says that you might spread it on a crumpet, or perhaps put a dollop on a hot baked potato. Ah! Have you got it? It’s butter, isn’t it? Yes, this name means ‘butter pasture’, suggesting that butter was made in medieval Bitterley. Perhaps the pasture there was very rich, producing cows’ milk that was really creamy – perfect for making tasty butter!

Deyhouse Leasow

Deyhouse Leasow is the name of a field in Clunton – Wulfwynn says that dey-hous is a medieval word that means ‘dairy’, and so this field was once the location of a medieval dairy, where perhaps butter and cheese was made. Dairy products might have been made from the milk of cows, sheep or even goats. That all sounds very tasty to me!

Barlow Home Farm

Barlow Hope Farm is in Hopesay – Wulfwynn tells us that there was a small settlement called Barlow which was recorded in Domesday Book in 1086 by

scribes working for William the Conqueror. Barlow means ‘barley open woodland’, and so it tells us that barley was a crop that was grown here by medieval farmers. People often used barley to brew beer to drink, so perhaps that’s what they were doing in Barlow!

Oxenbold

This name means ‘building for oxen’, and it tells us that there were people looking after oxen in Oxenbold, which was a place that was once near Monkhopton. Wulfwynn says that this is an interesting name because the spelling of ‘oxen’ preserves one of the ways in which the Anglo-Saxons expressed the plural form of a word. Today, most of our plurals end in ‘s’, don’t they – like dogs, books and pizzas. But the plural form of some of our modern English words still end in ‘en’. Can you think of any more, children?

Wheathill

Wulfwynn says she’s left this one til last, because you can easily guess it! That’s right, Wheathill means ‘wheat hill’, and it’s a place where wheat was grown for making bread in the Anglo-Saxon period.

What have we learned?

We’ve learned a lot about farming in medieval Shropshire by looking at these place-names. They can tell us about the sorts of crops that were grown, like barley and rye. We’ve learned about dairy farming too, and found out that butter and cheese were produced here hundreds of years ago. And we’ve learned about some medieval farm animals, and where they lived. There’s still more to find out though, so shall we look at some more place-names?

What shall we look at next?

just click on the links below to go to each chapter!

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