A Children's Guide to Shropshire Place-Names
Shropshire is full of places that sound scary, and Wulfwynn is going to tell us all about them. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stay very close to Wulfwynn as we explore these names! Are you ready?
Ooh, this is another gallows site, this time in Bridgnorth. For many hundreds of years, this was one of the ways in which criminals were dealt with, and so there would have been lots of gallows sites across Shropshire. This one was located on the main road to Worcester where lots of people would have seen it. Wulfwynn says this helped people to remember to be good!
name uses an Old English word wearg-treow – wearg means ‘a criminal’, and treow means ‘tree’, so in Harley, the gallows was a tree. That does sound scary! I don’t know about you, but I’m very glad they don’t do that anymore!
Shoplatch is the name of a street in Shrewsbury, and Wulfwynn says it’s still there today! This place-name was written down in 1209, a few years before King John signed Magna Carta. The earliest spellings of this name tell us that it originally meant ‘archery place’, which is a place where people used bows and arrows. Why do you think they were shooting bows and arrows in Shrewsbury? You would certainly have needed to have been careful crossing the road in medieval Shoplatch – I wonder whether they had a Health and Safety Officer?
Wormelake is the name of a field in Lilleshall. But worms aren’t really scary Wulfwynn – are you sure you’ve put this in the right section? What? It means ‘snake’, not ‘worm’? Ooh, that is a bit more scary, I suppose! Wulfwynn says that because the Old English word wurm means 'snake', this name means ‘snake stream’, and a stream full of snakes really does sound quite scary – I wouldn’t fancy having a paddle in that stream, would you?
This is a wood in Hodnet – Wulfwynn says we need to be careful walking through this wood,
because this place-name means ‘robber’s coppice’. It sounds like a place where robbers had a hide-out – definitely a place to avoid after dark, I think!
Llanyblodwel is close to the border with Wales, so is this a Welsh name, Wulfwynn? I’m nearly right, she says, as the first part of the name is Welsh, but the rest of it was created by the Anglo-Saxons. She says that when this name was first written down in the medieval period, it was just Blodwelle, which means ‘blood spring’. A spring is a
source of water, usually a place where water emerges from the ground. Wulfwynn doesn’t know why this spring was related to blood – perhaps there was once a battle there, or maybe the water looked red in colour? Why do you think it was called the ‘blood spring’? Later on, Blodwelle became Llanyblodwel, which means 'the church of the blood spring’.
Deddedene is the name of a field in Wistanstow. Wulfwynn says that this medieval name means ‘dead valley’, which makes it sound like the perfect location for a zombie movie – I can just picture it: lots of zombies wandering around Shropshire! But Wulfwynn is giggling, and I think she might have tricked us with this one. Although it sounds scary, it actually isn’t, because it means ‘infertile valley’, in other words, a place where nothing grows. That sounds much more boring than a ‘valley of the dead’!
What have we learned?
These scary (and not so scary) sounding names have been lots of fun to explore and to think about. We’ve learned more about the ways in which criminals were dealt with in Shropshire hundreds of years ago, and about the sorts of places that robbers chose to hide in. We’ve learned that there was a special place in Shrewsbury where archers gathered, and about a stream seething with snakes! Shall we carry on and explore some more place-names?
What shall we look at next?
just click on the links below to go to each chapter!
Place-names that sound scary