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Place-Names and Ritual Landscapes

 

Place-Names and Ritual Landscapes

 

Name / element

 

Significance

 
         
 

barrow
berrow
burrow
(OE beorg, beorge)

 

Denotes a mound of earth, i.e. a barrow, though Barrow usually derived from OE bearu, a grove

 
         
 

tumulus pl. tumuli (Latin)

 

appears on OS maps to mark barrows of Neolithic and Bronze Age date

 
         
 

cairn (GHaelic carne)

 

a pile of stones, sometimes covering an ancient burial

 
         
 

quoit

 

used in Cornish dialect to denote a megalithic tomb, often a portal dolmen

 
         
 

well (OE wiell, wella, wælla)

 

a spring or stream, sometimes a holy well

 
         
 

Font (OE funta)
keld (ON kelda and OE celde)
burn (OE burna)
beck (OE bekkr)
brook (OE brōc

 

These all signify springs and streams which may, in some cases, be linked with pagan worship. 'Spring' itself was fgrequently associated with coppiced woodland rather than a stream

 
         
 

holywell

 

appears in names like Helliwell, Holwell, Holybourne etc., while Helen Hill may derive from the Celtic goddess Elen

 
         
 

lann or lan (Cornish)

 

refers to oval enclosures associated wioth early Christian foundations. Generally lan pre-dates eglos, but outside Cornwall, in Wessex oval enclosures with churches can represent the enclosures of burhs of Saxon fortified towns

 
         
 

mether (Cornish)

 

a saint's grave

 
         
 

eccles (Latin ecclesia,
Cornish eglos, OE ecles)

 

Thought to indicate the sites of very early Christian churches associated with the survival of Christianity in post-Roman Britain

 
         
 

-minster (Latin monasterium)

 

settlement associated with a minster church, e.g. Yetminmster, Charminster, Iwerne Minster

 
         
 

plu (Cornish)

 

a parish

 
         
 

all place-names associated with water

 

a very high proportion of early churches - more than half of the minsters in the case of Hampshire - have place-names associated with situations by river, springs and wells. Such names are particularly common in dry chalk country

 
         

This table is taken from:
Muir, R., "The New Reading the Landscape", 2002, University of Exeter Press, Table 6.1 p. 156

 Next page: Place-Name evidence in Wetland Settings