A Children's Guide to Shropshire Place-Names
Shropshire has lots and lots of hills, mountains and high places. Wulfwynn says that back in the Anglo-Saxon period, these were very useful for helping people to see for many miles. This would have been quite important, as they would be able to see who was on the move, and it would have made it much harder for armies and bands of soldiers to sneak up on towns and villages.
This is now a field in Kinlet, but Wulfwynn says that this place-name means ‘look-out hill’, and it is on a hill right at the boundary of Kinlet parish. It is a name that was created by the Anglo-Saxons living in Kinlet, who must have used Tuthills to keep an eye on what was happening beyond their boundary, and to see who was approaching their village.
This funny-sounding hill is in Hopesay. Perhaps if you go there, you’ll grow warts! But Wulfwynn is looking at me sternly, so perhaps not … she says it has absolutely nothing to do with warts! Thank goodness for that! In Old English, the name was originally weard hyll. Weard is another word that the Anglo-Saxons used to mean ‘look-out’. Wulfwynn tells us that from the top of Wart Hill you can see several roads, and so it seems like it was a very good choice as a look-out hill.
Wulfwynn reports that this is a group of fields in Bishop’s Castle, and they also include the same ‘look-out’ word that we have just seen in Wart Hill: weard. Rather than a look-out hill though, Wordall was a ‘look-out nook’. She says that although Wordall is quite high up, there is a hollow which would have been very useful for hiding in to look out over the surrounding area. People there would have had a very good view of the main road between Clun and Shrewsbury, and would have been able to report on who was using the road.
Wulfwynn says that this field in Hogstow near Chirbury reveals yet another word that the Anglo-Saxons used to mean ‘look-out’: cape – ‘look-out place’. She says that Capsall is on part of a hillside that offers very wide views. According to Wulfwynn, there are lots of look-out place-names in Shropshire, like these two fields in Kempton near Lydbury North: Le Wardens is a name that might originally have been an Old English word: weard-dun, meaning ‘watch-hill’. And another field there, Watchnor Meadow, seems likely to have been ‘look-out ridge’. The people of Kempton seem to have been quite keen on keeping an eye out for people coming!
What have we learned?
Did you imagine that there would be so many look-out places in Shropshire? We've learned that Shropshire had lots of special look-out places! The Anglo-Saxons didn’t have telescopes or binoculars, and so if they wanted to see who was coming, they had to climb up to high places from which they could see for many miles. What sort of people do you think that they were looking out for? Why do you think they might have been sneaking up on Shropshire villages and towns?
What shall we look at next?
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