A Children's Guide to Shropshire Place-Names
Place-names that tell us about people
Wulfwynn says that we can learn all sorts of things about the people who lived in Shropshire in the past by looking at some of the place-names. So what are you waiting for? Come and meet some of Shropshire’s past residents!
This name, Wulfwynn tells us, dates back to Domesday Book in 1086, when it was just called Clun, but was owned by a man called Gunward. As a result, it became Clun Gunward, which slowly changed over time to Clungunford. Gunward is a Viking name, and the ‘Clun’ part of the name relates to the River Clun. The name reveals that in 1086, a man with a Viking name lived in this part of Shropshire. Wulfwynn says that the Vikings didn’t generally settle in Shropshire, and Clungunford is quite far west. Was Gunward a Viking, do you think, or just someone who had a Viking name? What was he doing in Shropshire? How did he come to settle there? Perhaps you could write a story about this!
According to Wulfwynn, this is a very clever name that tells us about two different kinds of people living in Shropshire. The Anglo-Saxons created the name Wroxeter, which means ‘the Roman town called Uricon’, and this tells us that they recognised that Roman towns were distinctive. The Roman name for Wroxeter was quite long: Viroconium Cornoviorum, which means the Viroconium of the Cornovii. The Cornovii were the British people living near the Wrekin before the Romans arrived. That’s a lot of information contained in one name! Thank you for the history lesson, Wulfwynn!
Wulfynn says that Ellesmere means ‘Elli’s lake’, and that Elli was an Anglo-Saxon man who owned this village. She says that lots of Shropshire place-names are associated with the names of Anglo-Saxon people, and they provide lots of evidence for the men and women who lived in the county during that time.
This sounds like a place where you’d find a baby! But Wulfwynn is tapping her foot, so I think that can’t be right. She says there were once three places in medieval Shropshire called Walcot. One near Chirbury, another near Wrockwardine, and the third near Lydbury North. The name means ‘cottages of the Britons’, and names of this type can be found all over England. The Britons were the people living in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons arrived. They spoke a different language to the Anglo-Saxons – the language that developed into modern Welsh. Wulfwynn says that names like Walcot are important, because they show us that there were still groups of Britons living together in the Anglo-Saxon period.
I wonder what sort of person this name reveals? Wulfwynn tells us that Alveley means ‘Ælfgyð’s clearing’. Perhaps like me, right now, you are probably wondering what kind of language that name is written in, and how to say it. Wulfwynn says that the letters are all part of the Old English alphabet, but that they are not all used now. Let’s have a look at the two strange-looking letters: first, Æ. This letter is called ‘ash’ and it is pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘cat’. Next, ð. This letter is called ‘eth’, and it is pronounced like ‘th’ in the, that and there. Wulfwynn says that Ælfgyð is a girl’s name that means ‘Elf battle’, and it tells us that an Anglo-Saxon woman owned Alveley. That is a super-cool name, isn't it!
I think that this name looks very similar to some Welsh place-names, don’t you? Wulfwynn is beaming at me, so I think that I must have got it right! She says that Trefarclawdd means ‘settlement on the dyke’, and it is a place that’s right next to Offa’s Dyke, close to the border between England and Wales. There are lots of Welsh names in Shropshire, and Wulfwynn says that this is because there were many Welsh-speaking people living in Shropshire in the medieval period.
What have we learned?
Looking at the people hidden within our place-names has taught us a lot about medieval Shropshire. We have learned that different languages were spoken there – not just English, but also Welsh. We now know that the Old English alphabet was a little bit different from the one we use today. We’ve also found out that medieval people could recognise Roman towns. Some of the names reveal the people who lived in Shropshire before the Romans arrived – that’s around 2,000 years ago! And, we’ve discovered that important women, as well as men, were associated with some Shropshire places through their names. Thank you Wulfwynn, for introducing us to the people of Shropshire’s past! Now, let’s go and explore some more names!
What shall we look at next?
just click on the links below to go to each chapter!