A Children's Guide to Shropshire Place-Names
places that tell us about people's occupations
Sometimes, place-names can tell us about what people did in Shropshire hundreds of years ago, and so we can learn about some of the different kinds of jobs that people had. I wonder what sorts of things people did for a living in Shropshire – shall we go and have a look?
Sheriff Hales sounds a bit like a character in a Wild West movie, doesn’t it? I’m picturing someone in a cowboy hat, sitting on a big horse. But Wulfwynn is shaking her head, so that can’t be right. According to her account, when it was first written down in Domesday Book in 1086, this place was called Halas, which meant ‘nooks’. But at that time, the village was owned by Reginald de Balliol, who was the sheriff of Shropshire. A medieval sheriff was responsible for law and order on behalf of the king, so it was a very important job indeed.
Smethcott means ‘cottages of the smiths’, and it tells us that people who worked as smiths lived there hundreds of years ago. A smith was a very skilled worker who made metal objects, like swords, tools and horseshoes at a forge. Wulfwynn says that in Anglo-Saxon folklore, smiths were particularly admired because they could make things out of metal, and this was seen as an almost magical process.
Ooh, this is a good name – it’s the sort of name that a baddie in a story might have … ‘mean old Preston Gubbals lived in a smelly, ramshackle old house, and never shared his gobstoppers’, that sort of thing. Wulfwynn is sighing – I think my imagination has gone too far again! She says that there are five places in Shropshire called Preston, and they all mean ‘estate of the priests’. In 1086, Preston Gubbals was owned by a priest called Godebold, which eventually became Gubbals, so this village was named after Godebold the Priest.
Lower Tan House
Lower Tan House is the name of a field in Clunton – Wulfwynn is handing us all some pegs to put on our noses. She says that this is quite a smelly place! A tanhouse was where a tanner worked with animal hides to make leather. Wulfwynn says that
wee and poo were both used to help turn animal skins into leather, so now you know why you need a peg on your nose! The tanhouse was usually right on the edge of a village or town, so that the smell didn’t bother the neighbours too much. Yuck! Time to wash our hands, I think!
Wulfwynn says that this may be a very exciting name, as it could mean ‘settlement of the shield-makers’. Woah! Now that’s the kind of job that I like
the sound of! Shelderton is located on what was once the Roman road called Watling Street, which would have been a very busy highway – the perfect place to make and sell shields to people travelling along the road, perhaps. Can you think why they might have needed shields?
Porkeman's Rough is a field in Clungunford – that’s a funny-sounding name, isn’t it? According to Wulfwynn, a ‘porkman’ was probably a man who looked after pigs – in other words, a swineherd. She says that there would have been lots of farm animals in Shropshire hundreds of years ago, just as there are today.
What have we learned?
This section has helped us think about all sorts of medieval occupations, almost all of which are very different from the jobs that people do in Shropshire today. Which one of these jobs would you like to have done? I can’t decide between the Sheriff of Shropshire or one of the shield-makers of Shelderton. I think I might give Clunton’s tanhouse a miss, though – far too stinky!
What shall we look at next?
just click on the links below to go to each chapter!