CANON J. W. HORSLEY,
Late Vicar of Detling.
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“South Eastern Gazette” Newspaper Co., Ltd.,
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When I was a school boy at Canterbury, in the fifties and sixties, my first interest in philology was evoked by Trench on The Study of Words, and by the more elaborate pioneer work, Isaac Taylor’s Words and Places, while oral instruction was afforded by the lectures of Dean Alford and the class teaching of my Headmaster, Mitchinson. All four of these leaders having been clergymen, it is perhaps fitting that, at a considerable distance, both of time and of ability, another cleric should attempt to localize some of their general teaching.
Becoming aware in 1920 that there was no book dealing with the Place Names of Kent, such as has been produced by individuals or small committees in the case of some other counties, twenty in number; finding also by correspondence that McClure, the author of British Place Names in Their Historical Setting, says “Kent is one of the most difficult regions in England to trace its topographical history,” I set to work to read all I could that bore upon the subject. Especially when laid up by an ailment, I read through twenty-six volumes of Archælogia Cantiana, and found therein a productive quarry. Then, to facilitate the future labours of those more competent to deal fully with the subject, I wrote a series of weekly articles in the South Eastern Gazette last winter, which were found ivof interest, Mr. E. Salter Davies asking me to write something for the Kent Education Gazette to enlist the co-operation of school teachers, and to remind them of the educational benefit to their pupils of a study of local names.
In some parts of England and Wales this study of local place names has been taken up with enthusiasm by teachers and scholars, and in this connexion it should be noted that the names of every lane, house, and field and wood, should be ascertained and recorded, even if no meaning can be found. Names of this kind change, and the old folk who could say why a name was given will not be always with us. “Terriers” and Tithe Maps, which can be consulted, if not borrowed, will give more names than ordinary maps.
To such enquiries we may be stimulated by shame when we know that Kent is one of the counties without a work on its place names, and even more by the fact that Norway has been at work in this direction since 1896—the Church and the State collaborating and a State grant helping in the production of the nineteen volumes already published. So too, in Sweden, a committee was appointed by Royal authority in 1901, and one province has already been dealt with exhaustively. Denmark also from 1910, under the Ministry of Education, and with State grants, thus recognised the linguistic and historico-archæological importance of such studies.
And yet none of these enlightened and progressive kingdoms have anything like the advantage that England possesses in its Saxon Charters and its Domesday Book. More honour to them, more shame to us!
Let it be clearly understood, however, from the first that I am not writing as an expert on these matters, nor as having a direct knowledge of Celtic or of Saxon. All I have attempted has been simply to collect, for the benefit of those who shall be attracted to the study of our place-names as elucidating the ancient history of the County, information from many sources which will save them the time and labour of finding out for themselves whether a particular name is old enough to be found in Domesday Book, or in later Saxon charters and wills; and especially there has been in my mind the hope that a committee may be appointed to deal as well with Kent as other Counties have been, especially by the great Anglo-Saxon scholars, Professor Skeats, Professor Craigie, of Oxford, and Professor Mawer, of Newcastle. For such literary artizans and architects as I hope may shortly arise, I am more than content to have been but a day labourer, a collector of material which others may find worthy of scrutiny and perhaps of use.
PLACE NAMES IN KENT.
Place Names of Celtic Origin.
Men of Kent must not make too much of their county motto, Invicta. As a matter of fact, we have been conquered at various times, and sometimes before the rest of England succumbed to the invader. The aborigines, who were probably somewhat like the Esquimeaux, a small race, having only stone weapons and tools, lived on the fringe of the great glacier of the last Ice Age (perhaps 50,000 years ago), which enabled one (though doubtless no one tried) to walk from what is now Middlesex and Kent to the North Pole; even the present North Sea being part of the great sheet of ice which covered all our land down to the north bank of the Thames. When climatic conditions altered for the better, England (to call it by its much later name) became desirable to the great west-ward migration of the Celts, who had already over-run all North Europe. This was the first of the five great waves of peoples who from the East seized on Europe, each driving its predecessor westward. The Celtic is, at any rate, the first to be clearly traced. It was divisible into the Gadhelic and the Cymric (or Brythonic) element, from the former the Erse, Gaelic, and Manx languages being derived, and from the latter the Welsh and the Breton (Ancient British and Gaulish, the Cornish, and probably the Pictish).
The first branch is said to have passed into Britain about 800 B.C., and the second about 630 B.C. Thenceforward, but for a few place-names, 10chiefly of rivers and heights, and still fewer words which have survived in our tongue, we know little until the visit of Julius Cæsar in B.C. 54, from whose Gallic War we learn of some of the Celtic tribe-names and place-names. Otherwise we know little apart from the river roots which we find all over N. Europe (and hardly any in England are non-Celtic), especially the five main words for river or water—Afon—Dur—Esk—Rhe—and Don.
Kent itself in the earliest records is found as Ceant from the Celtic Cenn—a head or headland, which again appears on the other side of our land as the Mull of Cantire. We have also our Chevening, which, like Chevenage, embodies the Celtic Cefn—ridge (still Cefn in Welsh). And “Kits Coty House” on our neighbouring Down gives us Ked—a hollow, and Coit—a wood, i.e., the hollow dolmen in the wood. Mote Park sounds modern enough to some; but our “park” is the Celtic parwyg, an enclosed place, while the much later Anglo-Saxon Mote denotes a place of local assembly. Dun was their word for a hill-fort, and so we have Croydon (with a Saxon prefix) for the fortress on the chalk range, though most of the old British fortresses which preserved the name when occupied by Romans or Saxons are in other counties. Penshurst, on the other hand, has a Saxon suffix to the Celtic Pen, still unchanged in Welsh as meaning a head or hill, perhaps only a dialectic form of the Gaelic Ceann, or Ken, which we have already noted in “Kent.”
As to whether the names of Romney and Romney Marsh have a Celtic element, opinions differ. Isaac Taylor, in his Words and Places, has little doubt that they come “from the Gaelic ruimne,” a marsh, and instances Ramsey, in the Fens, as coming from the same source, and finds it also in Ramsgate, i.e., the passage through an opening in the cliffs to the marshes behind. But he wrote in 1864, and in some 11respects is considered too imaginative by modern philologists. Ruim is undoubtedly the British name of Thanet—Ruoihm, or Ruoichim—preceding Tenit, Tenitland, Thanet—so perhaps the situation of Ramsgate in Thanet is all we have to consider. McClure ignores “ruimne” as a derivation; but does not explain the Rumin as a name of the district. The oldest English form is in a charter of 697 A.D. Rumining—seta, i.e., the dwellings of the people of Rumin, and he inclines (though admitting it may be far-fetched) to derive from “Roman,” since the whole region is full of Roman associations. Our common suffix “den,” for a deep wooded valley, gives us probably a Celtic word adopted by the conquering Jutes. Perhaps the explanation for so few Celtic names of places having survived is accounted for by the thoroughness with which the invading Jutes either slew or drove far westwards the Celts, and so re-named whatever settlements they made. Thus, in 452 A.D., according to the Saxon Chronicle, Hengist slew 4,000 Britons at Crayford, and these must have formed a large proportion of the population, and this was only one of a series of victories which drove the Celts backward into the far west. Purely Celtic Kent was prehistoric; Romano-Celtic it was from B.C. 55 to A.D. 413, and yet marvellously little remains of either element.
This mighty race has left us little record, though its language survives in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. In Maidstone Museum we can study its weapons, its ornaments, and its methods of sepulture; but in our walks in Kent we are rarely reminded of its long, as well as ancient, occupation of the soil. Yet in what we might consider the purest English some undoubtedly Celtic words survive, such as basket, crook, kiln, fleam, barrow, ashlar, rasher, mattock, bran, gown, flannel.
Availing myself of what has been written by Celtic or Saxon scholars, I turn to the river names of Kent, of which some are obviously Celtic and others as obviously Saxon.
Ash.—The western branch of the Stour is so named, and Ashford was anciently Esshetsford. Rivers have sometimes been named from the trees on their banks, and besides our Ash-ford, we find elsewhere Ashbrook and Ashbourne; though the common Celtic esk for water or river may also be considered. In this connection I note that in a direct line we have near Detling, Boxley, Thornham, Hollingbourne (Anglo-Saxon Holeyn is holly), possibly Bearsted from the Saxon Berc for birch, and Ashford from Aesc, our ash.
Brook.—This later, or English, name for a small stream appears only as a termination. We have Cranbrook, a reminder, like Cranbourne elsewhere, of the time when cranes were not uncommon in England. These are the places: Brook, a village on a tributary of the Stour; Brookland, near a branch of the Rother; and Brook Street, near Woodchurch. And may not Kidbrooke, or Kedbrook, be “the brook from the Coed”—the Celtic word for a wood?
Bourne.—The Anglo-Saxon Burne for stream appears not only in the Bourne and Bourne Park, and the various Nail-bournes, or intermittently flowing brooks, but also in Bekesbourne, Bishopsbourne, Patrixbourne, Littlebourne, the Ravensbourne, Hollingbourne, Brabourne (the broad bourne), Northbourne, and perhaps Sittingbourne, although this is on a creek rather than a brook.
Cray.—From the Saxon Cregga, a small brook, a tributary of the Darent or Derwent. In 457 A.D. Hengist and his son Æsc (Ash, or, metaphorically, ship) slew 4,000 Britons at Crecganford, and drove the rest out of Kent to 13Lundenbyrg (London). So the Saxon Chronicle records. Another old chronicler calls this the battle of the Derwent. The valley of the Cray contains the villages of Crayford, St. Paul’s (probably S. Paulinus’) Cray, St. Mary’s Cray, Foot’s Cray, and the district is commonly called the Crays.
Darent.—Like Dover’s Dour, from the Celtic root Dur for water or river, comes the Der-went, of which Darent is a variation. Dwr-gwyn in Welsh is the clear water. There are four Derwents in England, besides Lake Derwent Water. Dartford is the ford of the Darent.
Dour.—The living Celtic tongues of Wales, Ireland and Scotland preserve the Celtic Dur—Dwr in Welsh, Dur in Gælic and Erse. There are other Dours in Fife and Aberdeen, and the Dover or Dur-beck in Notts, and in Sussex the Roman itinerary gives Portum Adurni, whence it has been assumed that there was an Adour river. But Prichard gives forty-four ancient names containing this root in Italy, Germany, Gaul, and Britain.
Eden.—The Eden, on which is Edenbridge, is a tributary of the Medway. Various rivers of this name are found also in Cumberland, Yorks, Fife and Roxburgh, containing the Celtic root Dan, Don, or Den, for water or river.
Lee.—This is a brook rising at Eltham Place, and giving its name to Lee Street and Lee, thence flowing to Lewisham. The more important river Lea on the opposite side of the Thames is called Lygan in the Saxon Chronicle. In Essex also there is the Lea-beck, which shows a Celtic name with a suffix attributable to the Danish marauders whose becks are more common in the north of England. The dropping of the last syllable of Lygan would give the Lee.
Len.—This short tributary of the Medway has been neglected by writers on place-names; but it 14might be the Celtic Levn, smooth, as in Loch Leven and three rivers of that name in Scotland, besides others in Gloucestershire, Yorks, Cornwall, Cumberland, and Lancashire.
Medway.—The first syllable is adjectival, like the Tam (broad or still) in Tamesa or Thames, and is the Celtic Mwg, vapour, whence our “muggy.” The second is from a varying Celtic root, represented in Welsh by gwy or wy, for water. Most of the river-names from this root are in Wales; but besides the Medway there is the Solway, on the Scottish border, and such names as Weymouth and Weybridge. In the Saxon Chronicle it is spelled Medewægan. Worth recording (if only to discard them) are some derivations given in Ferguson’s River Names. Writing in 1862 (since when some study has been more scientific), he gives the suggestion of the German, Grimm, that the name refers to a cup of mead overturned by a river god! Also that Gibson’s Etymological Geography derives it from the Latin medius because the river flows through the middle of Kent! and this, says Gibson, is the usual acceptation. Ferguson throughout has Sanscrit on the brain, and so refers us to a Sanscrit root, mid, to soften, and thinks it named from its gentle flow. But which of our Kentish rivers are not gentle?
Quaggy.—One of the two brooks at Lewisham. Quag may be the same as Quag in quagmire, and the second syllable the Anglo-Saxon “ea” for water or river, cognate with the old High German “aha” and the Latin “aqua.” In Rosetti’s poem we find “I fouled my feet in quag-water.”
Ravensbourne.—When Teutonic colonists or invaders, dispossessing the Celts, inquired the name of a stream, they took the Celtic word to be a proper instead of a common name, and so added their own name for water or river. Later, when the English tongue was evolved, 15“water” was sometimes added to the Celtic, or Celtic-plus-Saxon, name. Thus, in Wansbeck-water, Wan is Alfon and Evon; S is a vestige of the Gadhelic visge; Beck is the Norse addition; and Water the later English when it was forgotten what Wansbeck meant. Thus our present name means River-water-river-water! So Ravensbourne (interpreted inanely in a Lewisham print by a legend of a raven and a bone) is really the Celtic Avon, with the Saxon addition of Bourne, so common in Kent for stream.
Rother.—A mainly Sussex stream which forms part of the boundary of Kent. It is said to be the Celtic Rhud-dwr—that is Red Water.
Stour.—There are other rivers of this name in Suffolk, Dorset, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire, besides the Stör in Holstein, the Stura, a tributary of the Po, and the Stura (now the Store) in Italy, all probably named from the union of two Celtic words for water, Is and Dwr. Some regard it as merely the intensitive of Dwr, as in Welsh the prefix Ys is used to intensify. Note that a unique river name is a rarity.
Swale.—Bede, the Saxon historian, writes of the baptisms by S. Paulinus, in the Sualua. This is the Swale, which makes Sheppey an island. There are the East and the West Swale and Swalecliff, and the origin may be from the Anglo-Saxon Swellan, to swell. There are other Swales in Britain and Germany.
Thames.—This means the Broad, or Still, Water, from the Celtic adjective Tam and the root Is for water, which is reduplicated in the name Isis for the river at Oxford, higher than where the Thames falls into it. There is a river Tame in four of our counties.
Wantsum.—This much-dwindled stream separates Thanet from the mainland, and is called Wantsumu by Bede. The word is said to be not Celtic (as are most river names here and on the 16Continent); but Teutonic. Want or Went, meant a Way, and Som had the same qualifying force as in the word “winsome,” that is, equivalent to the “able” in “lovable.” There is a Wensum, a tributary of the Yare, near Norwich. While in early days the north branch of the Stour by Thanet was not fordable, this water was “go-able”—to coin a word. The “way” is not necessarily a water way. At Ightham, Seven Vents is the name of a place where seven roads meet.
Yenlade or Yenlet.—“Applied by Lewis to the north and south mouths of the estuary of the Wantsum, which made Thanet an island. The A.S. gen-lad means a discharging of a river into the sea, or a smaller river into one larger.” Ladan or hladan means to load or lade. Lambarde wrote in 1570 “Yenlade or yenlet betokeneth an Indraught or Inlett of water into the land.” There are two or three places of this name in the mouth of the Thames. Yantlet Creek is in the Isle of Grain.
Beult.—The final t is not found in the earliest records I have seen, where the name is Beule. One of our best Kent archæologists suggests the Saxon verb Beauland, to turn or twist, as the origin. I think, however, we may go further back and find no exception to the rule that most of our rivers were named by the Celts, for I find the Erse or Irish Buol or Biol for water, and in addition to Continental rivers which contain this root there is the Buil (now called the Boyle) in Ireland, the Beela in Westmorland, and the Beauly in Inverness.
Roman Names in Kent.
The first appearance of Kent in history is in the Gallic War of Julius Cæsar, who paid us the compliment of saying, Ex his omnibus, longe sunt humanissimi qui Cantium incolunt, on which Shakespeare wrote, “Kent in commentaries Cæsar writ, Is termed the civil’st place in all the isle.” Of his presence here, however, the only relic is perhaps more in the realm of legend than of history. There is a mound or barrow at Chilham known as Julaber’s or Juliberry’s grave, which has been referred to Julius Laberius, an officer of Julius Cæsar, slain in a battle here against the British Celts. Julius Cæsar left our shores 54 B.C., and our history is a blank until A.D. 43 (roughly for a hundred years) when the Emperor Claudius came to conquer us, in which campaign Titus took a part, who in A.D. 70 captured Jerusalem—as later some Detling young men entered Jerusalem under General Allenby! Kent and the Thames tribes were first conquered, and in the occupation of Britain from A.D. 43 to A.D. 418 it was the rest of the country which gave military work to the Romans.
Considering this long occupation, ended only by the necessary recall of the troops to defend falling Rome, it is surprising that so few place-names, not only in Kent but anywhere, are attributable to our masters. Those usually instanced are Speen (anciently Spinæ, thorns); Pontefract (the broken bridge); Chester (Castra, a camp), with its later derivations, the Anglian Caster and the Saxon Chester; and Caerleon (Castra Legionum—the camp of the Legions); and of these not one is in Kent. The chief centres of the sparse population, and the natural landmarks of rivers and mountains, preserved the names given 18earlier by the Celts, while our villages with few exceptions are Scandinavian or Teutonic, otherwise Norse or Saxon. Prof. Green, in his History of the English People, is doubtless right in saying that “only in the great towns were the Britons Romanized. The tribes of the rural districts remained apart, speaking their own tongue and owing some traditional allegiance to their native chiefs.”
Kent had more than its share of the mighty road-making of Rome; more than its share (except in the turbulent northern boundary of England) of Roman military stations; but though the roads remain, forts are only bits of ruins or foundations, and the names have perished or been changed. So, too, in Kent were most of the nine Roman ports put under the jurisdiction of the Comes Littoris Saxonici. In the Antonine Itinerary of the fourth century the route from the Northern Wall in Dumfriesshire to our Richborough has as its last station Londonio (London), Noviomago (site unknown), 10 miles; Vigniacis (? Springhead), 18 miles; Durobrivis (Rochester), 9 miles; Durolevo (? near Sittingbourne), 13 miles; Duroverno (Canterbury), 12 miles; and Rutupis (Richborough), 12 miles. In no case has the Roman name survived, with the exception of the twisted Rutupis, for Lundon-ium is the old name adopted by the Romans. Other routes add Dubris (Dover), 14 miles from Duroverno, and Portus Limanis (Lympne), 16 miles from Dubris. Where we find Street it is, of course, the Saxon form of the Roman Strata Via, i.e., paved road, and so our Kentish Stone Street ran from the fortified port (as it was then, though inland now) of Lympne to Canterbury; and Watling Street (the name still surviving in London and Canterbury) from their other fortified ports of Rutupiæ (Richborough) to Canterbury, London, Stony Stratford, and Chester. But Watling is not Latin, and in the Saxon Chronicle the name is 19Wæclingastræt. So, too, the Well Street which ran from Maidstone into the Weald—with no definite end—is the road in the Wald, or Weald, forest. We may perhaps add the places ending in “hall” as a relic of the Roman aula. These are more common in Thanet and Romney Marsh than elsewhere, and in both these places Romans had much to do.
The names given to the two Roman fortresses which guarded the Wantsum (then an important water way), Regulbium and Rutupiæ, were hard for Saxon lips, and so were changed into Raculf-cestre, whence Reculvers, and Repta-caester, later Ratesburgh, whence our Richborough. So also the Roman name of Rochester—Durobrevis (the stronghold of the bridges) became in Saxon times, Roribis, then Hrofibrevi. This was shortened into Hrofi, which again was later assumed to be the name of a man, and so Bede (twelve hundred years ago) gives us Hrofes-cæster, whence our Rochester.
Chislet, however, earlier Cistelet, probably preserves the Roman Casteletum, a small castle or camp. And Cheriton (there are others in other counties) is said to be derived as to its first two syllables from cerasus, cherry, the Romans having introduced this tree about A.D. 60. They also brought the plum—prunes—and so we get our Plumstede for Plumstead, adjoining Woolwich, and Plumford, in Ospringe.
Also where Wick as a termination is not the Scandinavian Wic or Bay, and so a coastal name, it comes from the Latin Vicus, a row of houses, and is the Saxonised form. Thus our West Wickham, Wickhambreux, Sheldwich, and so forth, record how the Saxons adopted but changed the name given by the Romans. McClure suggests that Faversham (Fefres-ham in 811, Febresham in 858, and Faversham in Domesday) may be a survival of the Latin Faber, smith, in the most Latinized part of Kent, and 20on their chief road. The first part of the word is plainly a genitive case, and there seems to be no similar Saxon designation.
On the Continent, as well as in England, the name Ventum, or Venta, is the Latin for a market or sale place. Venta Silurum, for example, has now as its neighbour Chepstow, i.e., Ceapstow, the Market. Having lived for eight years as a boy in Wincheap, outside the walls of Canterbury, it occurs to me that Win may be Ven from Ventum, while cheap gives the Saxon synonym. Its earlier forms are Wencheape, Wyndcheps, and Wincheapfield. Of course, it looks like winemarket, but would the Romans have had one? And, if so, would it not have been within the walls? On the other hand, vineyards—probably first started by the Romans—were not uncommon much later in Kent, several near Maidstone, and one’s estimation of the pleasantness of wine from outdoor grapes is increased by finding in old charters that in some cases tenants were bound to bring to an abbot or a lord of the manor “a bushel of blakenberis.” This would sweeten and colour the English port!
Few, indeed, are the verbal relics of the Romans, though they were here for 400 years. While the earlier Celts have bequeathed to us many words and names, but few works, the Romans left us few words but some mighty works.
Teutonic (Jutish) Names in Kent.
The Romans who had conquered, ruled, and exploited our land for four centuries, departed in A.D. 411, owing to the dire necessity of defending their own land against the Goths from Northern Europe. Already here they had been attacked and pressed southwards 21by the Picts of the Highlands, aided by the Scots of Ireland. To avoid Pictish conquest the Britons offered land and pay to the English, who up to then had been aiding the Picts.
Who were these English? A long peninsula runs northwards (as few do) from Denmark, and separates the North Sea from the Baltic. Herein, our real home or cradle, dwelt three tribes of the Low German stock, Angles, Jutes, and Saxons, and as to Kent it was the Jutes from Jutland who, under Hengist and Horsa, in A.D. 449, landed at Ebbsfleet in Thanet, as did others in the Isle of Wight, the Islands in both cases forming a great naval and military station, from which the hinterlands of Kent and Hants could be overrun. The later, and larger, seizures of the Saxons were all the southern counties, Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and Wessex, while the sphere of the Angles spread upwards from what we still call East Anglia. Quarrels with these mercenaries arose as to pay, and the Britons of Kent resolved to fight. Hrofesceastre was too strong, and so southward turned Hengist along the Celtic country by Kits Coty House, and then swooped down on Aylesford and won a battle which meant the winning of England. Horsa fell in the moment of victory, and the flint heap of Horsted preserves his name, and has been held to mark his grave. Kentish landowners fled to France; the British labourers to the vast forest; churches gave no sanctuary, for the heathen Jutes raged most against the clergy.
And so for two centuries the war of dispossession and slaughter went on, until Britain was a land, not of Britons, but of Englishmen (Angles, or Anglo-Saxons, as they are also called), while even of their language, as we have seen, few words lingered. Six years later the shore-castles of Dover, Richborough, and Lympne succumbed. Then, in A.D. 447, another 22tribe, the Saxons, came for a share in the goodly spoil, overran Anderida, the fortress of the great forest, and “slew all that were herein, nor was there afterwards one Briton left,” at any rate, in Kent. This Saxon, or strictly speaking, Jutish, invasion has given us most of our blood, and the greater part of our tongue, our territorial divisions, most names of places, and those of the days of the week.
Following the conquerors came colonists, and in the Saxon districts of England (and Kent is the most Saxon of all) we find the names, not of individual immigrants, but of families or clans. These family settlements are denoted by the termination ing, which was the usual Anglo-Saxon patronymic, corresponding to our later “son” in Johnson, etc. So the sons of Charles Brown, who died in Detling, would in earlier days be called the Brownings—as the progeny of a duck are ducklings, and of a goose goslings. It has been held that when the suffix ham or ton is added it denotes a filial colony or offshoot from the original settlement of the clan. There are between two and three thousand places in England which contain the root “ing,” although some (mainly in the north) come from a Norse and substantive “eng” or “ing” which means meadow. Kemble makes 22 original settlements in Kent, and 29 filial offshoots, whereas the western or northern counties have no original, although, between them, 169 filial settlements.
If we may thus distinguish two classes of place names which survive in Kent, we have the Bobbings at Bobbing, the Hôcings at Hucking, the Harlings at Harling, the Boerlings at Barling, the Berlings at Birling, the Bollings at Bowling, the Garlings at Garlinge, the Hallings at Halling, the Hircelings at Hecklinge, the Horings at Herringe, the Mollings at Mailing, the Wealings at Welling, the Beltings at Beltring, the 23Cerrings at Charing, the Petlings at Pedling, the Wickings at Witchling, the Bermarings at Barming. In one case, however, an individual is commemorated in a place-name—Hemmings Bay, near Margate, is the scene of the landing of a Danish chieftain in 1009 A. D. There were many Saxons in Thanet under Roman rule (as interments have shown), but few place names are found there of the patronymic kind, the exceptions being Garlinge, Birchington, Halling Court, Osinghelle, Ellington, and Newington—of which some are doubtful. What about Detling? one of my readers may say. I inclined for some time to the meaning deep meadow (as Deptford is the deep fiord or bay), in allusion to its position between the vast forest above and the extensive marshes below; but Mr. McClure will not hear of “ing” a meadow, in the South of England, and one Oxford Professor of Anglo-Saxon writes me as follows: “The evidence for ing ‘meadow,’ south of Lincolnshire is so scanty or dubious that it would require pretty strong evidence to establish its recurrence in Kent place-names.” In that case one must fall back upon a Saxon ancestor, and lately in Maidstone were found both Major D’Aeth and Mr. De’Ath, whose families would be Deathlings in early Saxon days.
Then, of offshoots, we have in Kent the Ælingtons at Allington, the Ellings at Ellington, the Aldings at Aldington, the Eorpings at Orpington, the Bennings at Boddington, the Gillings at Gillingham, the Cennings at Kennington, the Cosings at Cossington, the Dodings at Doddington, the Dœfings at Davington, the Leasings at Lossenham, the Pœfings at Pevington, the Syfings at Sevington, the Wickings at Wickinghurst, the Lodings at Loddington, the Ellings at Ellington, the Bosings at Bossingden (and Bossenden), the Adings at Addington, the Œslings at Ashlingham, and possibly the 24Beecings at Birchington and Beckenham. As illustrating the westward migration of the Teutonic race we may note, to take one clan, that, starting from Germany, the Hemings name Hemingen in Germany, Hemminghausen in Westphalia, Hemingstadt in Holstein, Heming in Lorraine and in Alsace, Hemington in Northamptonshire and Somerset, and Hemingbrough in Yorks.
It may help some in their enquiry into the origin of place-names if I note that of old, and by Saxon lips, the vowel “e” was pronounced like our “a.” So, in the case of Berfreystone, Berham, Bernefield, Chert, Chertham, Crey, Dertford, Esseherst, Essetlesford, Freningham, Herietsham, Herty, Hertleye, Hese, Mergate, Remmesgate, Reyersh, Smeredenne, and Werehorne—the vowel sound remaining although the vowel was changed when, for example, Hese became our Hayes. And another point is that in the Kentish dialect th (a separate character in Saxon) often becomes d, e.g., gardering for gathering, and dare and dem for there and them. This still survives in remote places and aged persons. So Beddersden for Bethersden.
I may here add some instances of what in some cases aids, and in other cases hinders, a knowledge of the origin and meaning of a place-name—that is the very various ways in which the name has been spelled. Generally, the earlier the form the better guide to the meaning. It will be found that spelling was often so vague that even a lawyer in writing an old record or will may spell a name differently in the same document, and in most cases in mediæval times the sound of the word ruled its spelling. Some examples of multiform names in Kent I give here.
Edenbridge.—Edeling-bridge, 1225, Ethonbrigge 1457, Edonbregge 1473, Edinbregg and Edingbregg 1483, Etonbrigge 1499, Etonbreg 251528, Etonbridge 1534, Edulwestbridge 1539, with other forms of which I have not noted the dates, Edelmesbrigge, Pons Edelmi. The bridge element is clear throughout, but it would also seem that the old name of the river Eden was the Edel. Of this there may be evidence which I have not yet come across.
Bethersden in its earliest form is Beatrichesdenne (1194), which, on the analogy of other places, would seem to point to the church being dedicated to a local S. Beatrice; but at the same date, and since, its patron saint was S. Margaret. Possibly an heiress Beatrice held the manor, as Patrixbourne is called, not from the saint of the Church, but from one who held the manor, which in Domesday was simply called Bourne. Later I find Beterisdenne 1389, Betrycheden 1468, Betresden 1535, Beatherisden 1552, and later Beathersden, Beddersden (by Kent dialect change of th into d), and Bethersden.
Charing is Ciorminege in a Saxon charter of 799 A.D., which proved too hard for old English or middle English mouths, so that one finds many later variants, such as Cheerynge 1396, Carings, Cerringes (and Cherinche in Domesday Book 1036), Cherrving (temp. Edw. 3rd), and at last Charing in 1505.
Cuxton, probably derived from a personal name, like Cuckfield in Sussex, is Codestane in Domesday, Coklestone 1472, Cokston 1503, Cokynston 1533, Coxston 1538, Cokestone 1559, and Codstan, Coklestane, Colestane, Cukelstane, and Cookstone in other documents.
Goodneston, near Ash and Wingham, is no doubt Goodwin’s Town, and once had the name of “Godstanstone-les-Elmes, alias Nelmes, near Wingham.” In 1208 it was Gutsieston, but in 1512 had settled down into Godenston, previous variations having been Goldstaneston, Gounceston, Groceston, Gusseton, and Guston.
Saxon or Jutish Suffixes.
In the earliest days of which we have knowledge all Kent was practically either forest or marsh, with a little cornland in Thanet and sheep pastures in Sheppey, and it was plainly on the edges of the forests (Blean and Anderida running right across the county from Whitstable to Cranbrook) that the early settlers from Jutland made their homes. Like pioneer backwoodsmen in Canada and elsewhere, they had first to clear of trees, and then to fence, the spot each family had chosen. For 25 years I have passed annually through the agricultural districts of Belgium, Alsace, Lorraine, and Switzerland (and sometimes France), and two things always strike me—that English agriculturists are not on the whole so thrifty, so tidy, or so hardworking, as their Continental brethren, and that abroad they seem to have neither need nor desire for hedges or other fences. Our colonists in England, however, show in place-names how necessary they thought enclosures to be.
First there is the ubiquitous “ton” as a suffix. The sons of Ælla, the Ellings, made their Ellington. Now “ton” means an enclosure, and especially enclosed land with a dwelling thereon. Then it comes to signify the house on the enclosure. In Scotland even now the “toun” is the farmhouse and outbuildings, and in Kent I find in a charter of 1432 a conveyance of “land with all Houses … called Wattyshagh, formerly called Taune.” Then, as the original house became a nucleus, and a hamlet swelled into a village, and a village into a town, we got our modern sense of the word, which, however, is later than the Norman conquest.
Even earlier than “ton” would be “field,” which is not the same as lea or mead, but 27denotes a patch of felled or cleared land. So we have our Chelsfield, Oakfield, Ifield, Broomfield, Whitfield, Swingfield, Fairfield, Hothfield, Stalisfield, Clexfield, Longfield, Fieldgreen, and Netherfield, in the more forestal part of Kent, while in the list of parishes in the Rochester diocese, where marsh and down prevailed, I find only one parish—Matfield—which suggests old felling of trees. Sometimes, however, there would be attractive glades or leys on the outskirts of the forest, already pastured or cultivated to a certain extent. Hence arose not only place-names, but nick-names (sur-names came much later) of persons who lived or worked therein, such as John of the Horse Ley, John of the Cow Ley, John of the Sheep Ley, John of the Swine Ley, which later became surnames. Isaac Taylor enumerates 22 leys in Central Kent, but one cannot test his figures without knowing what map he used. Hence as place-names our Hartley, Swanley, Langley, Bromley, Oakley or Ockley, Hockley, Bickley, Whitley, Boxley, Mydley, Barley, Brenchley, Elmley, Ripley, Angley, Beverley, Gorseley Wood, Harley, Pluckley, Throwley, Bexley, Leybourne, Shirley, Kelmsley, Ridley, Tudeley, etc.
Then there were, and are, the Dens, forty-two of them in Central Kent, says Isaac Taylor; but Mr. Furley, in his Weald of Kent, says that the great manor of Aldington alone possessed forty-four dens. It was probably a Celtic word adopted by the Saxons, and designated a wooded valley mostly used for swine pasture. So we have the Ardenne forest in France and Belgium, and elsewhere in England Henley in Arden and the Forest of Arden, which stretched from Gloucestershire to Nottingham. Down to the 17th century the “Court of the Dens” was held at Aldington, near Hythe, to determine pasture rights and wrongs.
One cannot enumerate all the Kentish dens which might be found not only on the map but 28in old manorial records. In old Tenterden alone there were Pittesden, Igglesden, Strenchden, Godden, Gatesden, Bugglesden, Finchden, Twisden, Lovedene, Haffendene, Brissendene, Haldene, and Little Haldene as manors, of some of which even the names have departed. I find that of the 16 parishes in the rural deanery of West Charing eight end in den and five in hurst, and I think Furley is in error when he says that only 16 extant parishes (as distinct from manors) in Kent end in den. A small original settlement in a den might soon increase in size even in early Saxon times, and so we have several parishes and manors called Denton. Other local place-names which are due to their position in the old forest land are those which end in hyrst or, later, hurst. Hursts and Cherts were the denser parts of the forest, and the word is said to apply specially to wooded high ground. The two words may be originally the same, with the old German Hart (whence the Hartz mountains), as parent. So we have Bredhurst, Goudhurst, Hawkhurst, Hurst Wood near Peckham, Penshurst, Sandhurst, Staplehurst, Chart, and two or three score more.
Another forest name is Holt or Hot—more common in Surrey than in Kent. The German is Holtz, which means both a wood and wood the material. It is also a common prefix or suffix in Iceland. Isaac Taylor gives us only one Holt in his table, for Central Kent at any rate, but we know Knockholt beeches, Birchholt near Smeeth, an Acholt (Oakwood) in each of the manors of Dartford, Wingham, and Monkton, and Hot Wood; while further study is necessary to determine whether from Holt or from Hoath or Hoth (a heath) come Hothfield, Oxenhoath, and Hoath or Hoad near Reculver. “Another common suffix in the neighbourhood of ancient forests,” says Isaac Taylor, “is Hatch—a hitch-gate, Hêche in French.” He 29gives no example from Kent, but we know our Chartham Hatch, Ivy Hatch, and Mersham Hatch and Snoll Hatch. Wold or Weald, a wood, is not so common as one would expect, but we have Sibertswold and Wymynswold, and Waltham and Waldershare. Snœd is a Saxon word for a piece of wood in 8th century charters, and this survives in Hamersnoth near Romney, Nod Wall near Lydd, Frisnoth near Appledore, Sibersnode in the Hundred of Ham, Snode Hill, Snodehurst, Snodland, and Snodebeam, a manor in Yalding.
Some Common Saxon Elements in Place-Names.
—HAM = Ham means homestead, but—hamm an enclosure or bend in a river, the former being the more common. It is only by early Saxon documents that we can tell which word is meant. Alkham for the first, perhaps the Hundred of Ham for the latter.
—ING, in the middle or end of a name means “sons of.” A final ling is also a patronymic when the name ends in ol or ele. Thus Donnington is the settlement of the sons of Donna, and as Didling or Dudelyng in Sussex (with 13th century forms of Dedling and Dedlinge) was derived from Dyddeling as descendants of Dyddel, this may throw some light on Detling in Kent.
—MERE = lake, or gemæru boundary. Lakes are few in Kent, so Baddlesmere may indicate a boundary, while Mereworth (anciently Marewe) may indicate neither. Mearesflete in Thanet, and Mere, a manor in Rainham, may point to a personal name. Walmer is said to be named from the marshy ground behind the Wall, or old raised beach, which begins by Walmer Castle.
Brōc = a brook, as in the dialects of Kent and Sussex, also low-lying ground, not necessarily with running water. So Brook, and Brookland, and Kidbrook.
Burna = stream. So Bourne, Littlebourne, etc.
Cnoll = hillock (Cnol in Welsh and knöl in Swedish). So Knole, and perhaps Knockholt.
Cop = a top or head, German kopf. Our Copt Point.
Cumb, or comb = a hollow in a hillside, or a narrow valley. So Ulcombe. A word borrowed from the Celtic.
Dell = low ground or valley. Hence Deal.
Ēā = water, river. So Stur-ea, now Sturry, or watery land. So probably Romney, from Ruimea. But ey also is īēg, or ēg = an island. Sceapige, now Isle of Sheppey.
Denu is a valley, and denn a retreat, but these often interchange in early forms with dun, which survives in our downs, and Down, the village.
Ford.—Here we have to distinguish between the Saxon ford (a natural place-name when bridges as yet were few), and fiord, which is purely coastal, and comes from our Norse marauders. Thus Ashford and Deptford come from quite different words.
Grāf, in Saxon, is our grove, so that Ashgrove is pure Saxon, Æsc-graf.
Heall means a hall, or larger house, and may be simply the Latin aula, especially as place-names ending in hall are more frequent near Roman centres. But there is also halk, a corner or angle, which may suit other places. Our several Whitehalls would indicate the former word.
The Saxon HEATH survives unaltered in some cases, and also as Hoath, and perhaps as Hoth in Hothfield.
Hlinc, a slope, accounts for the Linch and Linchfield in Detling, a cultivated slope at the foot of the Downs. More common in Sussex. Golfers will recognise the word.
Hōh = a hough or heel of land, whence our Hundred of Hoo.
Hyrcg is our ridge, and names Eridge, and Colbridge, and Sundridge.
Hyll = our hill, partly names many places, Bosehill, Hinxhill, Maze Hill, Ide Hill, etc.; but I think there are more in Sussex, where Roberts enumerates forty-eight.
Mersc = march—whence Stodmarsh, Burmarsh, Mersham, Westmarsh, Marshton.
Ofer and Ora are difficult to distinguish in use, the former meaning bank or shore and the latter bank of a stream. Bilnor and Oare may come from the former, and Bicknor and Denover (on the Beult) from the latter.
Ell, WIELL, WYLL, as a prefix, becomes our well.
Wudu = wood. So Saltwood is Sautwud in 1230.
Beorg = a hill, dative beorge, is easily confused with Burg = bush, dative byrg, a fortified place, and then a city. From the former we get our modern beogh, ber or barrow; from the latter our prefix Bur, and the suffixes borough, burg, boro, and bury. The first syllable of Bearsted may be either Beorg or Beorc, birch. Canterbury is the burg or fortified city of the Cantwara or Kent-folk.
Hlu = a burial mound, developing later into the suffix low, lane, and lew, may be found in Hadlow, and perhaps in the Hundreds of Ryngelo and Cornilo in the Lathe of Borowart (now S. Augustine’s).
Considering the mainly forestal character of Saxon Kent, it is not strange that many places 32are named from trees. Thus Ac = oak, appears in Ockholt, Ackhanger, Ockley. Æsc in Ashford, Ashhurst, and several Ashes. Our Nursted was Nutstede earlier. Perhaps to Ac also we may refer Hocker’s Lane in Detling as a prefix to another Saxon word, ofer, a shore or bring, though it may also be but a corruption of Oakham. In numerous place-names, especially those derived from trees, we find this suffix: Oakover (in Derbyshire), Ashover, Haselover, Birchover, commonly shortened into Oaker, Asher, Hasler, and Bircher. So the lane near the oak-tree or oak-wood would be Oakover Lane, Oaker or Ocker Lane, and eventually Hocker’s Lane. With but one cottage in it, I can find no tradition or trace of any personal name from which it might be called.
Apuldor, as for appletree, remains in Appledore; Birce or beorc, perhaps in Bearsted, Birchington (?), Bekehurst.
Box, or byxe (derived from the Latin buxus) names many places, and early forms in Bex, Bix, Bux, are found both as to Boxley and Bexley, as with Boxhill and Bexhill in other counties.
Holegn = holen, adj. of holly, survives in Hollingbourne and Holborough; Per (pear) in Perhamstead; Cherry in Cheriton; Plum in Plumstead; Elm in Elmley, Elmstone, Elmstead, but only the wych-elm was indigenous, and called Wice by the Saxons. Thorn we find in Thornham.
Haga, a Saxon name survives in our Hawthorn, and may help us to understand the meaning of Eythorne, near Dover, and the Hundred of Eyhorne, in which Detling is situated. The early name of Eythorne is Hegythorne, i.e., Hawthorn, and the Hundred of Eythorde or Eyhorne (so from 1347 A.D.) might well be the same, and named from the hamlet of Iron Street is 33Hollingbourne, where Iron is plainly a late corruption of an old word.
The Rev. E. McClure, in his British Place-Names, gives (p. 207 et seqq.) a list of words in old Saxon glossaries, ranging from the 7th to the 9th centuries, which appear in British place-names. I extract those which seem to apply to place-names in Kent.
Bodan = bottom, common in Kent for a narrow valley, e.g., East Bottom at Kingsdown, near Walmer.
Hœgu-thorn = hedge-thorn, hawthorn, whence our Eythorne (anciently Hegythe Thorne), Hundred of Eyhorne (Haythorn, temp. Henry III.), and Iron Street, a hamlet in Hollingbourne in that Hundred.
Mapuldur = maple-tree, in our Maplescombe, i.e., the bowl-shaped valley where maples abound.
Holegn = holly. Our Hollingbourne, and perhaps Hollandon.
Holt-hona = woodcock, or more exactly woodhen, like moorhen. Worhona is Saxon for pheasant. So our Henhurst, Henwood, and Hengrove are the same.
Boece = beech. So our Mark Beech and Bough Beech, near Chiddingstone. This derivation is also one of those suggested for Bearsted, whereof the Saxon name is Beorhham-stede, and the first syllable would be either Beorg-hill or Beorc-beech.
Goss = furze. Gorsley Wood, in Bishopsbourne.
Fleota = estuary or creek. Our Northfleet, Southfleet, Ebbsfleet, and Mearesflete, and Flete.
Haesl = hazel. Hazelwood Hill, in Boughton Malherbe.
Beber = beaver. Beavers flourished in England even in historical times, and gave their name to Beverley, Beaverbrook, etc. May Beaver, near Ashford, derive thus? And the Beverley at Canterbury?
Pearroc = literally a grating—a place fenced in for deer, etc. So Park and Paddock. Paddock Wood.
Hreed = reed. Our Reedham possibly; but it is not on marshy ground.
Hythae = a harbour. Our Hythe, Greenhythe, New Hythe (East Malling), Small Hythe (Tenterden), West Hythe, and Erith (Erehithe—the old landing-place for Lesnes Abbey on the Thames).
Thyrne = thorn. Our Thornham.
Cisil = gravel. Our Chislehurst (Cyselhurst in 973), or gravelly wood.
Cnol = hill-top, as in Knowle, Knowle Hill (in Boughton Malherbe), and Knowlton.
Beyr = shed, cottage. Dr. Sweet makes it the same as Bur (modern Bower). Hence perhaps our Burham and Burmarsh; but the old forms of Burham would point rather to Borow or Borough—the walled settlement.
Aesc = ash. Our Ash, Ashenden, Ashford, Ashley, and Ashurst.
Hlep = leap. Hence Hartlip, of old Hertelepe. There are two places thus named.
Pirge = pear tree. Possibly Perrywood and Perry Street. And Perhamstede according to authorities.
Plum-treu = plum tree. Hence Plumstead—and Plumpton?
Faerh = a young pig, whence our word “farrow.” Considering that the rearing of swine was the chief occupation in the dens, I wonder that no one has suggested this word for the first syllable of Farleigh and Fairlight.
Brycg = bridge. The Saxon had the word, but not many bridges. Most of our eleven place-names in Kent containing this word are of post-Saxon date, while we have fifteen “fords.”
Sae = sea. So our Seasalter and Seabrook.
Aac = oak. We have Ackholt, Acol, Acryse, Oakhurst, Oakley, and Ockholt (now Knockholt).
Elm, borrowed from the Latin Ulmus. The Witch-elm, called Wice in Saxon, is indigenous, the other elm imported. We have Elmley, Elmstead, and Elmstone.
Mistel = mistletoe (ta. fem.—tdig) may appear in Mistleham, near Appledore.
Caelf = calf. The Saxon name for Challock was Caelf-loca-n, i.e., enclosed place for calves. The second syllable suggests the Latin locus, but is the source of our English Lock, i.e., shut up. So the locks on the river; and pounds for straying cattle are “lokes” in East Anglia.
Pleg-huses = theatres (or recreation grounds). Our Plaistow and Plaxtol.
Syla = wallowing place. So our numerous Soles, which I later enumerate.
Dimhus and Dimhof = hiding or dark place. Our Dymchurch are instances.
Crocc and Hweras are both Saxon for pots. Few know what pure Saxon they use when they talk of crockery-ware. Pottery was always a great industry from Sittingbourne to Sheppey, and the Romans appreciated and extended it. This may account for our Crokham Hill, Crockham, Crockhurst Street, and Crockshard.
Cocca, gen. plural = chickens. Cock St., Cockham Wood, Cockshill, Coxheath, Cockadam Shaw, while in Detling we have Cock-hill, Upper and Lower Cox Street. Some may, of course, be modern and personal names; but I cannot so trace them.
Boley Hill, near Rochester, was undoubtedly a place of civic importance in very early days. It was a Danish meeting place corresponding to our shire-mote at Pennington Heath, and we may best trace its name to a Danish word which we still use—the bole of a tree. This is found in various parts of the Danish district of Lincolnshire, and the reference may be to the hill with a famous tree under which the court of the community was held. Trees, as well as cromlechs or great stones, were common landmarks in Saxon times—hence our various Stones in Kent. Others, however, consider it a corruption of Beaulieu, a name given by the Templars to the sites of their preceptories, and they instance a Boley or Bully Mead in East London, which belonged to the Templars. And others, because of its ancient legal associations, think it should be Bailey Hill, and refer us to the Old Bailey in London.
Farleigh.—On a clear day from Detling Hill we can see, not only Farleigh, near Maidstone, but Fairlight Church, near Hastings. In Saxon days and documents these place-names were the same, and so in Domesday (1086), each is Ferlega, the passage or fareing through the pastures or leys, just as our modern Throwley is Trulega, with the scribes’ variations in 12th century deeds of Thruleghe, Trulleda, Trulea, Thrulege, and Trudlege. Fairlight, therefore, is simply a modern corruption after a fashion which once corrupted the name of Leigh, near Tonbridge, which I find written Legh in 1435, Ligth in 1513, Lyghe in 1525, and Lyght in 1531. It has been suggested that the first syllable may indicate a personal name, Fær; but this seems less tenable.
Borstall, from the Anglo-Saxon Beorg, a hill, and stal, a dwelling (as in Tunstall), means a path up a steep hill. So there is Borstall Hill near Rochester, Bostall Hill near Woolwich, and Borstall Hill by Whitstable. And I have noted 37a passage in White’s Selborne—he made a path up the wooded steep hill near his vicarage called the Hanger, and he writes: “Now the leaf is down, the Bostall discovers itself in a faint, delicate line running up the Hanger.”
Eastry.—Lambarde thought this village was so named to distinguish it from West-Rye, now called simply Rye, but the places are too far apart, especially when the great forest of Anderida came between them. McClure, our most recent authority on British place-names, would refer it to the Rugii, a Continental clan from the Island of Rugen in the Baltic, whom he finds represented in Sûthryge (Surrey). So he would make the word East-ryge, and in a charter of 780 it is Eastrygena, and in another Eastryge. But amongst the various early spellings is Eastereye, i.e., Eástoregg (No, not Easter Egg!), the island of Eástor. In a will of 929, “Æthelnoth, the reeve to Eastorege,” is mentioned. Now the next parish is Woodnesborough, the town of Woden, the Saxon god. So here may well be, named at the same time and by the same people, the name of Eástor, the goddess of spring; while, as to its suffix, the centre of the village stands higher than the rest, and is almost entirely surrounded by a valley, though not now by water. Fewer greater authorities than Professor Skeat are to be found, and he inclines to this interpretation.
Folkestone.—Here we find several interpretations, the more modern being the most absurd. Thus Phillipott suggests the town full of folk! and Murray’s Handbook to Kent Fulke’s Town (whoever this Fulke may have been)! Both, however, forgot that the final syllable is always stane or stone, and not ton. Another imaginative worthy says that its stone quarries were much used in the 13th and 14th centuries, and belonged to the community, and so it was the Folks’ Stone! Folcland we know; Folcmote we know; 38but what is this? The Anglo Saxon Chronicle says that Harold seized ships at Folcesstane, and in Domesday it appears as Falchestan. Harris simply Latinizes the name and calls it Lapis populi, the stone of the people, and as in Ninnius (8th cent.) there is a reference in his description of England to the “stone of inscription on the Gallic sea,” which some would identify with Folkestone; he may be more right than he knew.
Plaxtol, near Sevenoaks.—In many Kentish parishes (and elsewhere) the name Pleystole or Playstool clings to a piece of land on which miracle and other plays were acted when amusements had to be mainly home-grown. So at Lynsted, Herbert Finch, in the sixth year of Queen Elizabeth, bequeathed the “Playstall et Playstollcroft” fields. A variant of the name we may find in Plaistow, by Bromley. So in Selborne (Gilbert White’s renowned village) the Plestor is the old playground. Would that in all villages, especially since the looting of old commons, there might be a field thus consecrated to healthy recreation.
Amongst the sources of enlightenment as to the meaning of our place-names I have turned to the volume of the English Dialect Society, which is on the Kentish Dialect and Provincialisms, and was prepared by the Revs. W. D. Parish and W. F. Shaw. It does not contain, as I have found, nearly all our local words, and not a few of the words it does give are by any means peculiar to Kent. Still, it is useful and interesting, and it may well be that some of our Kent place-names are almost peculiar to Kent, especially as the neighbouring counties of Sussex and Essex were populated by Saxons, but Kent was populated by the Jutes, and no doubt their common tongue had its tribal variations. I take from this dictionary all the words which are illustrative of place-names.
Forstall = “a farm-yard before a house; a paddock near a farm house; or the farm buildings…. As a local name, Forestalls seem to have abounded in Kent.” Two instances are given; but I have noted Broken Forestall, Buckley; Clare’s Forestall, Throwley; Mersham Forstall; Forstall Farm, Egerton; The Forstall, Hunton; Preston Forstall, Wingham; Painter’s Forestall, Ospringe; Hunter’s Forstall, Herne; Fostal, Herne Hill; Forstall, Lenham; Forstall, Aylesford; Shepherd’s Forstall, Sheldwich—and no doubt there are more.
Tye.—“An extensive common pasture, such as Waldershare Tie and Old Wives’ Lees Tie, and in a document of 1510, a croft called Wolves’ Tie.” I would add the places called Olantigh, one near Wye and another near Fordwich. Teig-r is really a Norse word meaning a piece of grassland, and when borrowed or used by the Saxons it became Tigar, Tig and Tey in such place-names as Mark’s Tey.
Yokelet.—“An old name in Kent for a little farm or manor.” Cake’s Yoke is the name of a farm in Crundale. The yoke was a measure of land, probably such as one yoke of oxen could plough. Thus it corresponds to the Latin jugum, which means a yoke, and also a land measure. We have also West Yoke in Ash-next-Ridley; Yoklet, a borough in Waltham; land so named in Saltwood; and Ickham was of old Yeckham or Ioccham, from the A.S. yeok, a yoke of arable land. Iocclet is also given in the dictionary as a Kenticism for a small farm.
Bodge.—“A measure of corn, about a bushel.” May this suggest a derivation for Bodgebury, some land with a cottage thereon, part of the old glebe of Detling?
Brent.—“The Middle-English word Brent most commonly meant burnt; but there was another Brent, an adjective which signified steep.” Thus Brentwood in Essex is the same 40as Burnt Wood in Detling, but the Brents or North Preston near Faversham, and the Brent Gate therein refer to the steep contour of the land. A Celtic root, found in Welsh as bryn, a ridge, accounts for many such names as Brendon Hill, Birwood Forest, Brandon, a ridge in Essex, Breandown near Weston-super-Mare, and many Swiss and German names for steep places.
Court, or Court Lodge.—“The manor house, where the court leet of the manor is held.” So in Detling we have East Court and West Court because, in default of a son, the old manor was divided between two co-heiresses in the 16th century. So we have as place-names North Court in Eastling, a Court at Street in Lympne, besides very many names of old houses, such as Eastry Court, Selling Court, etc.
Down.—“A piece of high open ground, not peculiar to Kent, but perhaps more used here than elsewhere. Thus we have Updown in Eastry, Hartsdown and Northdown in Thanet, Leysdown in Sheppey, and Barham Downs.” I may add Puttock’s Down (the Kite’s Down), three villages called Kingsdown, Derry Downs, Downe, Hackemdown, Harble Down, Housedown, Kilndown, two Underdowns, besides probably some of the names ending in don. The Celtic dun, a hill-fortress, found all over Europe, is directly found in our Croydon, as in London, Dunstable, etc., and the Saxon extended its use, especially in the plural, to high ground, whether crowned with a fort or camp or not. Trevisa wrote in 1398 “A downe is a lytel swellynge or aresynge (arising) of erthe passynge the playne ground … and not retchyng to hyghnesse of an hylle.”
Fright or Frith.—“A thin, scrubby wood.” So the Fright Woods near Bedgebury. And I learned to skate as a boy at the Fright Farm on Dover Castle Hill. This may account for Frith by Newnham, and possibly also for Frittenden.
Polder.—“A marsh: a piece of boggy soil.” A place in Eastry now called Felder land was of old Polder land, and nearer Sandwich is a place still called Polders. Poll (Celtic), Pool (Early English), Proll (Welsh), is a common prefix to the name of a brook. Polhill, however, in Harrietsham, is more likely to come from the great Kent family of the Polhills. So we have Polhill Farm in Detling, and a Polhill was Vicar in 1779.
Rough.—“A small wood; any rough, woody place.” So Bushy Rough in the Alkham Valley, where rises one of the sources of the river Dour. Hence also Rough Hills in Hernhill; Rough Common near Canterbury; and perhaps Roughway in Plaxtol, the wood being used in the Kentish rather than the usual sense.
Saltings, or Salterns, or Salts.—“Salt marshes on the sea-side of the sea-walls.” A North Kent word, naming Saltbox, and Salterns, both in Sheppey, and probably Seasalter near Whitstable. We must find, however, if we can, another derivation for Saltwood Castle.
Selynge.—Toll, custom, tribute. The Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, used to take in the Stoure a certain custom, which was called Selynge, of every little boat which came to an anchor before the mouth of the said Flete. The compilers of the Dictionary say: “The parish of Sellindge, near Hythe, probably takes its name from some such ancient payment.” Is it possible that the old name of Sentlynge, given to S. Mary’s Cray in Domesday Book, may point to another place of tolling craft on the Cray?
The Northmen in Kent.
A Furore Normanorum was a petition in an old litany in England before it had gained that name. And with reason, for the success of Angles, Jutes and Saxons in the conquest of England drew the attention of Scandinavian and other Vikings, who found that booty could be gained by rapid raids. It was at the end of the eighth century that the Danes (as they came to be called, although the wider “Northmen” would be a better term), reached the land of the Angles, coming from Norway to Dorset, and generally harrying the eastern and southern coasts for a couple of hundred years. They also remained and settled, mainly to the north of the Humber, until at last the greater part of England came under their power, and in 1016 Cnut became the Danish King of England.
Our forefathers in Kent should have our sympathy for the continuous state of alarm in which they were kept. In 832 Scandinavian pirates ravaged Sheppey. In 838 they won a battle in Merscware (i.e., the land of the Marsh-folk, i.e., Romney Marsh), and slew many in Canterbury. In 851 nine of their piratical ships were taken in battle at Londovic (Sandwich) by Æthelstan, the under-king of Kent; but they remained to winter in Thanet for the first time, and in the same year 350 of their ships entered the Thames and took both Cantwaraburg and Lundenburg (London). In 853 the men of Kent, under the Alderman Ealchere, with the men of Surrey, fought in Tenet (Thanet), but were worsted. Next year they wintered in Sceap-ige (Sheppey). In 865 the men of Kent tried to buy off the heathen invaders, who, however, ravaged all East Kent.
Then arose the great man, Alfred, who in 871 43had eight battles with the Danes south of the Thames. In 885 they besieged Hrofceastre (Rochester), but King Alfred relieved it, and the Danes took to their ships, having lost all their horses. In 893 two hundred and fifty Danish ships came to Limenemouth (Lympne), took their fleet four miles up the river, and made a strong fort at Apuldore, while Hasting with 80 ships entered the Thames estuary, made a fort at Milton, and later one at Sceobyrig (Shoebury). In 969 Eadger orders Tenet land to be pillaged, and in 980 Thanet is overrun by the Danes. In 986 the bishopric of Hrofceastre was devastated. In 993 a fleet of nearly four hundred ships came to “Stone,” which may be the one in the Isle of Oxney, or another near Faversham on the Watling Street, or another on the Swale, and went on to Sandwic, which was their chief southern haven, and embodies in its name the Scandinavian wic or bay (Sandwic is a common place-name in Iceland and Norway).
In 994 Anlaf, King of Norway, and Sweyn, King of Denmark, with a fleet of nearly 500, failed to take London, but ravaged Kent and other counties. In 998 they sailed up the Medway estuary to Rochester, and there beat the Kentish army. In 1005 a fleet came to Sandwic and despoiled the country.
In 1007 England despaired, and paid a tribute of £36,000, while Thurkell’s army came to Sandwich and thence to Canterbury, where the people of East Kent bought peace at the cost of £3,000, while the Danes spent the winter in repairing their ships. In 1012 they took Canterbury and martyred the Archbishop Ælfheah, better known to us as S. Alphege. In 1013 Sweyn came again to Sandwich; but in 1014 Eadmund (Edmund Etheling) attacked the Danes in Kent, drove them into Sheppey, and met their leader in battle at Æglesforda (Avlesford). But in 1016 Cnut (Canute) became King of all England, and to him in 1018 £72,000 was paid in tribute.
In 1203 the body of S. Alphege was allowed by Cnut to be taken to Canterbury, and England remained a Danish province. In 1040 Harda-Cnut was brought from Bruges to succeed Harold as King, and landed at Sandwich. In 1046 Thanet was ravaged again by the Northmen; but in 1049 King Edward gathered a great fleet at Sandwich against Sweyn, and later this fleet lay at Dærentamutha (i.e., Darentmouth, i.e. Dartford). In 1051 King Edward’s brother-in-law, Eustace, lost some followers in a fracas at Dofra (Dover).
But a great change was imminent, and England was to change one domination for another, and in 1052 Wilhelm (afterwards the Conqueror) visited King Edward the Confessor (or Saint) with a great host of Normans, and he exiled Earl Godwin, who came from Bruges to Nœsse (Dungeness) was driven back. Returning with his son Harold to Dungeness, they took all the ships they could find at Rumenea (Romney), Heda (Hythe), and Folcesstane. Thence to Dofra and Sandwich, ending up with ravaging Sheppey and Middeltun (Milton, near Sittingbourne). Then, in 1066, Harold dies in battle at Hastings, and William begins our Norman dynasty, Northmen being succeeded by Normans.
Traces of the visits to Kent are found in various place-names, though more common in other parts of Britain, and indeed in other countries, since as marauders, colonists, or conquerors they were for three centuries the terror of Europe, from Iceland to Italy. The many places with the suffixes byr or by, thorpe, throp, or trop, toft, thwaite, ville in Normandy, or well and will in England, garth, beck, haugh, with, tarn, dale, force, fell, are all almost exclusively northern to Kent and mainly Norwegian. As to “by” for town, there are 600 north of the Thames and east of Watling Street, and hardly any in the south. The one apparent exception in 45Kent—Horton Kirkby—is no exception, for it was simply Horton until the time of Edward the First, when Roger de Kirkby, from Lancashire, married a Kentish heiress and the manor and place were re-named after him.
We have, however, certain records of their piratical visits, as at Deptford and Fordwich, where the termination is not the Anglo-Saxon ford, meaning a passage across a river, but the Norse fiord, a roadstead for ships. Deptford is the deep fiord, where ships could anchor close to the bank, and Fordwich, the smallest “limb” of the Cinque Ports, was once the port of Canterbury on the Stour, and gives us wic, the Norse for station for ships, a small creek or bay. So, in Kent, we have also from the same source Wick in Romney Marsh, Greenwich, Woolwich, and Sandwich. Inland, however, Wich or Wick, is an Anglo-Saxon borrowing from the Latin vicus, and means houses or a village.
Another Norse word in Kent is Ness or Naze, a nose or promontory, such as Dungeness, Shoeburyness, Pepperness, Foulness, Shellness, Sheerness, Sharpness Cliff at Dover, whence criminals were hurled, Whiteness, Foreness, Bartlett Ness and Oakham Ness. The Nore, in Kent, is the Norse, or perhaps Jutish, Nôr, a bay with a narrow entrance, and the word is unique in Britain, unless we may find it also in Normarsh, near Rainham. Again attributable to our invaders, and again purely coastal, are the places ending in fliot, a small river or creek, such as Northfleet, Southfleet, Ebbsfleet, with Purfleet on the opposite bank of the Thames. Thanet and Sheppey were for us their chief points of attack and their naval stations, while the Danelagh or Kingdom whence the Norse element predominated had the Wash as the chief entrance whence they radiated out.
The suffix “gate” may be either from the Saxon geat or the Scandinavian gata, but when 46we find Ramsgate, Dargate, Margate, Westgate, Kingsgate, Snargate, and Sandgate, all on the coast, while in Romney Marsh “gut” takes the place of “gate,” as in Jervis Kut, Clobesden Gut, and Denge Marsh Gut, we may incline to a Scandinavian origin.
It is in the north, and the north only according to the best authorities, that the suffix ing represents the Norse eng for grass-land.
The Islands of Kent.
Most islands are attached portions of the nearest mainland, severed in prehistoric times by subsidence of the intervening soil and the action of strong currents. Thus even England is a portion of the Continent, as its fauna and flora proclaim, while Ireland was severed earlier still. Thus also the Isle of Wight is Hampshire. So our Kentish islands, now only two and neither now to be effectually circumnavigated, are practically absorbed in the mainland. “Sheppey, Thanet—what else?” most would say. Yet the early geographer Nennius, writing in the eighth century, has the following quaint passage:—“The first marvel is the Lommon Marsh” (i.e., Limen, now Romney), “for in it are 340 islands with men and women living on them. It is girt by 340 rocks, and in every rock is an eagle’s nest, and 340 rivers run into it, and there goes out of it into the sea but one river, which is called the Lemn.” Truly a picturesque account of the numerous spots, where dry land first appeared in the shallow bay, and the countless sluices which intersected them.
“Romney” is probably formed by the addition of the Saxon Ige, By, or Ea—island, to the earlier Celtic Ruim—marsh, and so gives an idea of what the district was before the Romans 47reclaimed much by building their great Rhee Wall. Certain names in Romney Marsh preserved the same history. Oxeney (still we have the Island and the Hundred of Oxney, containing Wittersham and Stone parishes) is even now insulated by two branches of the Rother, and here, in the ancient and now diverted channel, was found in 1824 an oaken ship buried deep in sand and mud. Its name is said to mean the isle of the fat beeves. On pagan altars discovered there oxen were carved, and still it is a great cattle-raising district. We should look now in vain for the three ferries by which it was once entered. In its centre is Ebony, no doubt originally a sort of island, once called “Ebeney in Oxney,” and in an early document it appears as Hibbene. It has been suggested that the first part of the word is the old Celtic Avon, i.e., water or river, and I find that a Saxon charter of 793 A.D. calls the Gloucester Avon by the name of Aben. The third syllable is, of course, the Saxon word for island. Scotney Court, Lydd, and Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, no doubt preserve the name of the Barons de Scotini, who came from Scotigny in North France, and possessed, in the 12th century, much land, which they held until the reign of Edward the Third, while Scot’s Hall, near Smeeth, was the seat of Knights of that name down to the time of the Armada. But for this history one might have classed Scotney with Oxney and Ebony.
Coming now to Sheppey, still an island, washed on the north by the estuary of the Thames, on the west by that of the Medway, and insulated by the Swale (Saxon Suala), crossed by a railway bridge and two ferries, the Celtic name is said to have been Malata, from Mohlt, a sheep, which the Saxon conquerors translated into Sceap-ige, Sheep Isle. It includes Elmley and Harty, once its little islands, and now peninsulas. An old name for Harty was Hertai, 48in which we may perhaps find the Saxon Heorat—stag, hart—as in Hartlip and Hartbourne, and ea—island. And Elmley, which island would simply denote the ley or glade in the forest in which elms were frequent, might here be Elm-isle. And another islet was Graven-ea, the grain island, on the opposite side of the Swale, now in the Faversham marshes.
Thanet, the best known and most important island, was in the 5th century separated from the mainland by the Wantsum and the estuary of the Stour, which gave an expanse of water mainly two miles broad, so that vessels from or to London sailed from Reculver to Richborough, and avoided the longer and rougher route round the North Foreland. To guard this sea-way the Romans had placed their forts of Regulbium (Reculver) and Rutupia (Richborough) at its northern and eastern entrance. Now, and for long, by the dwindling of the Stour and the practical extinction of the Wantsum, Thanet is but in name an island. Even writing in 1570, Lambarde calls it a peninsula. It is said that its Celtic name was Rimn—a headland, and that its later Saxon name, Tenet, means a beacon. Solinus, who wrote about A.D. 80, calls it Ad-Tanatos (Thanatos, Greek for Death, because its soil killed snakes even when exported for that purpose!). Nennius, in the 8th century, says Guorthigern handed to Hengist and Horsa the island, “which in their language is called Tenet, but in British speech Ruoihm,” or Ru-oichim. In a charter of 679 it appears as Tenid. The name, says McClure, may involve the Celtic Tann for oaks, as in Glastenec, an early form of Glastonbury, surviving in the English, Tanner, Tanyard, etc. From this root is derived the Breton place-name Tannouet. Tenid is its oldest Saxon form, and the Saxon Chronicle records that in 969 Eadgar ordered Tenetland to be pillaged.
Variations in the Spelling of Place-Names.
In the search for the meaning of a place-name it is necessary to go back as far as possible and discover, if we can, its earliest form. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, and the later Domesday Book of 1086; the gradual blending of Saxon and Norman into the English tongue; and then the invention of printing; all may have had an effect on the pronunciation, and so the spelling, of a word. Also there is the tendency to shorten a long word, as when Pepingeberia becomes Pembury, or Godwinston, through Gusseton, becomes Guston. And before the standardization of spelling which printing to a great extent effected, and in written documents such as charters or wills, the most remarkable variations will occur according to personal varieties of pronunciation. Even now, though every one reads “I am going,” in one county you may hear “I’m a gowin’,” in another “I be gooin’,” in another “I be gwaine,” and so forth, and so one wonders less at the various forms in which a name appears in writing in Saxon, in Norman, or in Early English days.
As a general rule the earliest form will be best and most likely to indicate why a name was given. To illustrate this source, both of information and of error, let me take two Kentish place-names—Westenhanger and Tenterden—giving the dates at which I find the various forms.
Westenhanger.—There is a Teutonic stem hanh which means to hang, with the Anglo-Saxon later forms, Hôn, Hêng, from which we get our place names of hanger, Ongar, etc. A hanger is a wood or copse hanging on the side of a hill, and in Kent we find Betteshanger, 50Hangherst, and Ackhanger, as well as Westenhanger, concerning which Leland in his Itinerary writes of “Ostinhaungre … of sum now corruptly called Westenanger.” I find it spelled Ostrynghangre in 1274 and 1291, Westynghangre in 1343, Westingangre in 1346, Ostrynhangre in 1376 and 1381, Estynghangre in 1383, Westynganger in 1385, Ostynhangre in 1409, Ostrynghanger in 1468, Westinganger in 1472, Ostrynhanger in 1478, Westynghanger in 1511, Westhanger in 1519, and Oystenhanger in 1541. The changes of the first syllable illustrate the continuance of the Saxon Wœst and the Norman Ouest until there is the reversion to the Saxon form in our West.
Tenterden, again, has a long list of variants. Probably its Saxon name indicated the place where the Theinwarden, or Thane’s Warden or Guardian, looked after the rights and dues of various other dens where his swine had pannage and his tenants tended them. It is not mentioned in Domesday, as not of sufficient importance or taxability; but in 1190 I find it as Tentwarden, in 1252 as Thendwardenne and Tentwardenn, in 1255 as Tentwardene—this early and probably original form cropping up at intervals for another three hundred years. But in 1259 we get nearer to the extant form, as Tendyrdenn. In 1300 there is Tenterdenne, and in 1311 Tentredenne. From this point I take the spellings from the Archbishop’s register of the institutions of its parish priests, and here the earliest record is Tenterdenne in 1311. Thenceforward Tent’denne and Tant’denn in 1322, Tentrdenn in 1327, Tenterdenne in 1333, Tentwardene in 1342, Tenterdenne in 1346, Tentwardyn in 1390, Tynterden in 1394, Tent’den in 1404, Tenterden (for the first time exactly in its present form) in 1407, Tendirden in 1436, Tentwarden at various dates from 1464 to 1531, Tentreden in 1501 and 1525, Tenterden in 1511, 1523, 1539, and 1546, “Tentwarden 51alias Tenterden” in 1541, Tynterden in 1546, Tenterden in 1556, Tentwarden in 1560, Tenterden in 1571 and 1615, Tentarden in 1619, Tendarden in 1626, Tentarden in 1627 and 1636. Henceforth it is always Tenterden in the Lambeth Registers. These variations are the more noticeable as all occurring in one office, where one would have expected a settled and continuously adopted form, whereas in such documents as wills the testator, or even the scrivener who wrote the will, would have only the current or the personal idea as to the right spelling of a name.
Elsewhere I have given variations of the places we now know as Edenbridge, Cuxton, Shepherdswell, Bethersden, Eastry, Throwley, etc. One might add the cases of Freondesbyry (Saxon), Frandesberie (Domesday), Frenesbery, and Frendesbury, for our Frindsbury; of Estbarbrenge, Barmyage, Barmling, Barmelinge, and Berblinge, for our Barming; Æpledure (Saxon), Apeldres (Domesday), Apoldre (1381), Apeltre, Appledrau, and Appuldre, for our Appledore; of Pœdlewrtha (Saxon), Pellesorde (Domesday), and Pallesford, for our three Paddlesworths; Hertlepeshille (temp. Edw. II.), Herclepe, Hertelepe, and Harclypp (1534), for our Hartlip; and Ok’olte (i.e., Oak Wood), Ocholte, Sud-Acholt, Scottesocholt, and Nokeholde, for our Knockholt. The etymological advantage of going back is seen in the case of Ringwould, which becomes more intelligible when down to the time of Henry 3rd it was known as Ridelinwalde or Rydelynewelde (i.e., the settlement of the clan of Ryddeling by the wood), whereas not till 1476 do I find Ringeweld, and Ringewold in 1502.
There are not so many as one would expect considering the importance and power and the possessions of the Church in Kent. Taking some as they occur to me, there are All Hallows, in Sheppey, so named from the dedication of its church to All Saints’. The Latin Sanctus and the Teutonic Helige are the same in meaning. So we have, too, in Lower Halstow the Saxon helige stow—the holy place. In a list of Jack Cade’s Kentish followers, in 1450, the parish of Omi Scor is mentioned, which puzzled me for a moment until I saw it was a contraction for Omnium Sanctorum, All Saints’.
The two Minsters, one in Thanet and one in Sheppey, both of Saxon foundation, are the Latin Monasterium, found later as Moynstre and then as Menstre. Monkton, earlier Moncstun and Monkynton, marks a manor given A.D. 961 by Queen Eadgiva to the monks of the community of Holy Trinity, which afterwards became the greater Christ Church, Canterbury. There are also, for the same reasons, Monks Horton and Monks Hill, by Herne Hill, in Blean. Bishopsbourne, earlier Bishopstone, and Bishopsdenne, denotes an episcopal manor. The old nucleus of Lydd was Bishopswic, and in Domesday Boughton Malherbe appears as Boltone Archiepiscopi. Preston, near Wingham (there is another by Aylesford, and a third near Faversham) is Priest’s Town, and denotes a place where there was a small college of clergy. That near Wingham is recorded in Domesday as Prestetune, and in a fine of Edward II. we have: “Preston next Wengham and Wykham Brewouse.” It belonged to S. Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury. S. Nicholas at Wade is named from the dedication of the ancient church. At Wade represents the Latin Ad 53Vadum, at the ford, over the Wantsum, into Thanet, near the existing-bridge at Sarre.
S. Margaret’s Bay and S. Margaret’s at Cliffe retain their Norman dedications. The church originally belonged to S. Martin’s Priory at Dover. Lillechurch House, near Higham, marks the site of the old Priory of Higham. The Hundred of Lesnes (A.S. leswes, pastures) is the district once attached to the Augustinian Abbey (whence the present name of Abbey Wood) founded in 1178 by the Chief Justice and Regent Richard de Lucy.
Of the five parishes named from the river Cray two are named from the patron saints of their churches. S. Mary Cray is, however, called Sentlynge in Domesday Book. S. Paul’s Cray is a misnomer, since the dedication is to S. Paulinus, Bishop of Rochester, and afterwards Archbishop of York. So in a deed of 1291 I find it as Creypaulin, and in a fine of Edward II., 1314, as Paulynescraye. In 1560, however, it appears as Powle’s Crey.
Brenzett, in Romney Marsh, does not suggest in its present form either a Celtic or a Saxon origin; but as its old church was dedicated to S. Eanswith, a popular Saxon Saint, also commemorated in the S. Mary and S. Eanswith of the original church at Folkestone, it has been suggested that Brenzett has been evolved in process of time out of Eanswith. Bresett and Brynsete (1416) are variants of the place-name. There is also the parish of S. Mary in the Marsh hard by. Newchurch, also in the Marsh, is Neucerce in Domesday (1036), but as there is no Norman work in the church, which is of Early English architecture, it is supposed that shortly before Domesday an older church had been pulled down. Then and still it gives its name to the Hundred of Newchurch in the Lathe of Limea or Limowart, which was re-named Shepway in the time of Henry the Third. Also in the Marsh 54is Dymchurch, earlier Demchurche. But earlier still it is said to have been called simply Dimhus or Dimhof, which would mean in Saxon the dark or hiding place; so that “church” may be a later addition to an old name. Eastchurch, in Sheppey, was, and is, the easternmost church in the island.
Place-Names from Persons.
We have seen how common in Kent are place-names derived from patronymics of the name of a family or clan, such as Kennington, the settlement of the Cennings, but there are others, mainly more modern, which include the name of an individual, who usually would be the lord of the manor. Thus some have imagined that Swingfield, near Dover, is Sweyn’s Field, as if the Saxons would have named a place after their piratical enemy. The older forms, Swonesfelde and Swynefelde, would more naturally point to swine, the keeping of which was the chief pastoral pursuit of the Saxons in the dens and clearings of the forest. Queenborough, or Quinborowe, however (earlier known as Bynnee), was named by Edward the Third (who built a strong fort there) in honour of Queen Philippa in 1368. Rosherville is very recent, being named after Jeremiah Rosher, lord of the manor in the nineteenth century. Sutton Valence was Town Sutton until 1265, when it became part of the possessions of William de Valence, half-brother of Henry the Third.
Boughton Aluph—Bocton Anulphi in a charter of Edward the Second—was the seat in the time of Henry the Seventh of the family of Aloff, to which Wye belonged. Boughton Monchelsea (Bocton Chanesy in the time of Edward the Second) owes its additional name to 55a Norman noble; and Boughton Malherbe (another Bush-ton, or town in the woods) was given as a manor to the Norman family of Malherbe. Bethersden can be traced back to Norman times as Beatrichesdenne, probably as held by an heiress of that name. So Patrixbourne appears earliest as Bourne until a Patrick held the manor. Capel le Ferne, near Dover, was originally Mauregge; but in 1175 the Capel family owned Capel’s Court in Ivychurch, and had estates in several parts of Kent. In the fifteenth century it was called sometimes S. Mary Marige and sometimes Capelle le farne, and in a deed of 1511 it appears as “Capelferne or S. Mary Merge.”
Shepherdswell, near Dover, has nothing to do with a shepherd or a well; but is an early corruption of Sibertswalt, as it appears in Domesday, i.e., the wood of Sibert. The phonetic changes are found in later charters and wills, Sybersysweld in 1474, Sybberdiswold 1484, Shipriswold 1501, Shepswold 1506, and Sheperterswold in 1522. Suabert, or Sieberht, was a great Saxon thane, and granted land in Sturgeth (Sturry) and Bodesham to St. Domneva’s new Minster in Thanet, while in a charter of 814 we read of Selebertineg-lond. Great Chart was originally Selebert’s Chart. Sibbertston (or Selebertston) was a sub-manor in Chilham, and there is still the Hundred of Sebrittenden or Selebertsden in what was the old Lathe of Wye.
Mongeham is probably Monyn’s Home, for the Monins family have been there or near there since the time of Henry the Third, and are there still. Goodneston, commonly called Guston, was no doubt Godwinston, as in the territory of the great Earl Godwin, and we trace its present name through the earlier forms Gounceston, Goceston, Gusseton, to Guston. Another Goodnestone, near Faversham, appears as Gudewynston in 1469 and Goodwinston in 1529. The 56Breux, of Wickham Breux, is another Norman addition to a Saxon name.
Ebbsfleet, the so important landing place, first of Hengist and then of S. Augustine, has, of course, been explained by ignorant guessers as the place where the sea ebbs! But its earliest name to be traced is Ypwine’s fliot, i.e., the creek where some Jute of that name settled. Yp is probably the Eop in Eoppa, which is a common Saxon name, also found as Eobba, so that Eobbe’s fleet easily becomes Ebbsfleet. Upper Hardres may take us to the Norman family which came from Ardres in Picardy, although it is possible to find a common Celtic origin for the name both of the French and the English village in the Celtic Ardd, that is, ploughland. It is Heg Hardres, i.e., High Hardies, in early documents.
Horton Kirby was simply Horton until the reign of Edward III., when a Lancashire Kirby married the heiress of the manor and rebuilt the castle. Even in 1377 I find it still called Hortune only. Offham is Offa’s home, and several places, including probably Otham, bear his name. Here this Christian King of Mercia is said to have conquered Edmund of Kent. So Old Romney was earlier Offeton, Effeton, or Affeton. Offa ruled Sussex and Kent, and so we have Offham near Lewes, Offington near Worthing, Offham near Arundel, and Ufton near Tunstall. But the name of Offeton for Old Romney disappears after 1281. Foot’s Cray, and Footbury Hill near there, is named from Godwin Fot the Saxon. Chelsfield is said to record the name of a Saxon Ceol, a shortened form of Ceolmund, or Ceolbald, or Ceolwulf, all of which were common names. Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, belonged in the 12th century to the Barons de Scoterni, who came from Pontigny, in N. France. They had also Scotney Court, at Lydd.
One may add to these samples of places named from persons, two or three that very probably 57take us back to mythical personages. Woodnesborough (Wodenesbergh 1465, Wynsbergh 1496), was named by the Jutish conquerors after their god Woden, whom they commemorated among the Teutonic names they bequeathed to our names of the week. There is another Woodnesborough in Wilts, and Wednesbury and Wednesfield in Staffordshire. And we note that the next parish is Eastry. For the name of this very old and important place in Saxon time various derivations have been proposed, but it is more than possible that it is the town of Eástor or Eostre, the goddess of Spring, whose name survived when the conversion of the heathen Saxons gave a new light to the festival in the Spring, which henceforth was to celebrate a greater Resurrection than that merely of the flowers. And possibly a third instance may be found in the name of Aylesford, which is Egelesford in the Saxon Chronicle, and Elesford in Domesday. Amongst various possible derivations that of Eigil, the Teutonic hero-archer or demigod, is worthy of consideration, since it is found as naming places elsewhere; for example, Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire, which in the Saxon Chronicle appears as Ægelesburh.
Absurdities in Derivation.
When a language is not pure, but the result of the intermingling and interaction of several tongues as distinct as Celtic, Saxon and Norman; and when, by the wear and tear of daily use through centuries, place-names have altered in detail of spelling and pronunciation; and when for a long time spelling and reading were arts known but to a small minority of 58the population, it is plainly inevitable that the original form and real meaning of a place-name should often be difficult to trace. But always in an enquiring mind there was the insistent WHY? which is a characteristic and a glory of man as a reasoning animal, and hence often a meaning was given to a word that is simply a sort of pun, an endeavour to explain a word by what it looks like in current speech or dialect when there was not the knowledge of earlier times and older tongues which elevates mere guessing into the science of etymology.
Some Kentish examples of this source of error may be useful. Thus, when we trace Maidstone back into the earliest records we find that it has nothing to do with either Maid or Stone, but comes through many variations from the Celto-Saxon Medwegston, or town on the Medway. Yet though Lambard knew and quoted this in 1570 he suggested also a meaning of “mighty stone, a name given for the quarry of hard stone there!” So, too, Hasted thinks Loose is so called because the stream loses itself underground (like the Mole in Surrey) for some eight hundred yards at Brishing! He might as well have ascribed the name to Loose and Detling having been long only Chapelries of Maidstone, but at last having been cut loose and made into separate parishes in Elizabethan times!
Tenterden is named, says an old Kentish writer, as “some vulgar fancies conjecture, from the tenderness of its soil”; Feversham, says another old Kentish writer, Phillipott, useful as an historian, useless to etymologists, “is an unhealthy town, and carries the tokens of it in its name.” Id. est., the home of fevers! Harbledown, says Black, is so-called “in allusion to its grassy downs and hills,” as if grassiness were not a characteristic of any and every down and hill in Kent. Gadshill, we are solemnly told, is named from “gads,” clubs used by footpads who 59were not unknown there (or anywhere else) on Watling Street. We should smile less if the name was Padshill.
And one of the most ancient, and indeed prehistoric, names in Kent is Penypot, a hill opposite Chilham. “Here once,” one old rustic would say, “they dug up a pot full of pennies.” “Nay,” another would respond, “it was where they used to sell ale for a penny a pot in the good old days!” To such vile meanings may descend the venerable Celtic Pen y wlh—the Head of the Mound.
One of the earliest Roman geographers heard of Thanet under its earliest name of Tanet, and because he knew a Greek word Thanatos, which means death, he so interpreted Thanet. On this absurdity he based a baseless legend which Lambarde in 1570 thus describes: “There be no snakes in Tanet (saith he), and the earth that is brought from thence will kill them.” (Why death to snakes any more than to sheep or shepherds? Why not go further and make Thanatos a lifeless place like the Dead Sea?) “But whether he wrote this of any sure understanding that he had of the quality of the soil, or only by conjecture at the woord Thanatos, which in Greeke signifieth death, I wote not.” This is as strong an example of conjectural derivation, with nothing but a superficial resemblance to support it, as we could find. But Lambarde himself, great as he is in many ways, gives derivations almost as baseless, e.g., Blackheath, “called of the colour of the soil!” Wrotham, “given for the great plentie of woorts or good hearbs that growe there.” Farley, “interpreted the place of the Boares, or Bulles” (which? and why?). Sittingbourne, “one interprets it Seethingbourne, Rivus Fervens aut Hulliens” (i.e., the boiling or bubbling river—in that flat country!). This is too much even for him and his times, and so he adds, “but how likely let others see.”
Our “Tons” and “Stones.”
As given in Kelly’s Kent Directory, our Tons and Stones are: Addington, Aldington, Allington, Barfreston, Bedmonton, Bilsington, Birchington, Blackmanstone, Bonnington (two), Bossington, Boughton (four), Brompton, Charlton (two), Cheriton, Chiddingstone, Chilmington, Chilton, Cliftonville, Cossington, Cozenton, Crofton, Culverstone, Cuxton, Davington, Denton (two), Doddington, Dumpton, Dunton Green, Eddington, Ellington, Egerton, Eggerton, Elmstone, Elvington, Folkestone, Foston Green, Funton, Garrington, Goldstone, Goodnestone (two), Guston, Hackington, Hampton (two), Hamptons, Holmstone Camp, Horton (two), Horton Kirby, Hunton, Kenardington, Kennington, Keston, Kingston or Kingstone, Kippington, Knowlton, Langton Green, Linton, Littlestone, Liverton Street, Loddington, Lullingstone, Lowton, Luton, Maidstone, Manston, Milton (two), Milton Regis, Milton Street, Monks Horton, Monkton, Murston, Nackington, Newington (three), Nonington, Horton, Orlestone, Orpington, Pevington, Plumpton, Poulton, Preston (two), Ripton, Salmestone, Scuddington, Seaton, Sevington, Sibton, Stone (four), Stonebridge (two), Stonebridge Green, Stone Cross (three), Stone Crouch, Stone Hill, Stone House, Stone Stairs, Stone Street, Stonehill (two), Sutton (three), Swanton Street, Tankerton, Teston, Thanington, Tilmanstone, Tottington, Twitton, Ufton, Upton, Wanstone, Weddington, Wierton Street, Wilderton, Willington Street, Wilmington, Wootton (three)—147 in all. One may add, for purposes of investigation, Stone, an old borough in Maidstone.
First, one must endeavour to separate the tons and the stones—the Saxon settlements or towns and the places named from stones set for boundaries 61or for marks where manor courts or motes were held. And this is not always easy, since mediæval spelling was vague, and in some cases an original “stone” has become “ton” in later years, or vice versa. Generally, a reference to the earliest forms (where such can be found in Saxon or Norman, or even Early English documents) will settle the point. Thus Folkestone is by some identified with the site of the “stone of inscription on the Gallic sea,” mentioned by Nennius, the Saxon geographer. It is Folcesstane in the Saxon Chronicle, and Falchestan in Domesday, and therefore no explanation involving ton need be entertained. Keston, again, is Cystaninga, hence in Saxon charters between 862 and 966, as being or having a boundary mark stone. It is Chestan in Domesday. But Chiddingstone should probably lose its final e and derive from a Saxon patronymic, although a modern and grotesque suggestion is that the dolmen there was used as a Chiding or judgment stone by Celtic or Saxon priests. Maidstone, again, should probably be Maidston, being Medwegston in the Saxon Chronicle, and almost certainly meaning the town on the Medway; although it is fair to say that an ending in stane is early found. Tilmanstone was earlier Telmeston, and Elmstone was Elmerston, and the earlier spellings of Goodnestone are Goodwinston, Gudewynston, and Goodneston.
Stones are much fewer than “tons,” although no doubt the number of such marks (origin of our milestones) was increased by the Romans. Thus the place Stone, two miles west of Faversham and on their great main road Watling Street, is thought to mark the site of their military station of Durolevo, and thus to be named from the distance mark. We must also note that stone bridges were practically unknown to the Saxons, except those the Romans had left, and Stone Cross would not appear as a place-name 62until after their conversion, while a stone house, except as the castle of a Norman noble, would be of quite late date.
As to the Tons, some are named from geographical position, such as Norton (Northtown), near Faversham, and the Suttons (South-town), on the edge of the Weald or south of Dartford; and, whatever may be the case with others, the Milton near Sittingbourne is called Middeltuna in the Saxon Chronicle and in Domesday, since it was reckoned the central town of Kent when Watling Street was far the greatest and most frequented route to be considered, being 42 miles from London and 31 from Dover. Our various Boughtons are “settlements in the wood,” as are also the Woottons. Monkton and the Prestons were settlements of monks and of colleges of priests.
The great majority, however, denote the settlement of some Saxon (i.e. Jutish) family, such as Seafings or Sevingas at Sevington, the Ælings at Allington, the Noningas at Nonington, the Cennings at Kennington, and so forth. We find this Saxon patronymic “ing” in 37 of our Kentish place names ending in ton, and when we add the ings like Barming (Bamling, Barmelinge, and Berblinge in Early English documents), Beltring, Bilting, Birling, Bobbing (Bobing-seata in a Saxon charter of 798—compare Bobbingsworth in Essex), Bramling. Bazing (at the junction of Kent, Sussex and Surrey), reminds us of Basing and Basingstoke in Hants and Basingham (in Domesday Book) in Sussex. Charing, Chevening (although this may be earlier and Celtic), Cooling, Detling, perhaps Drelingore, Eastling, Etching, Garlinge, Geddinge, Hacklinge, Hailing, Hawkinge, Hucking, Kemsing, Lidsing (not Lyminge, however), Mailing, Nullinge, Ospringe, Ottinge, Pedlinge, Postling, Ratling, Rawling, Reading Street (three), Rowling, Ruckinge, Sandling 63(two), Selling, Sellinge, Shelving, Spratling Street, Stelling, Stowting, Weavering Street, Welling, Witchling, and Yalding; and when to these we add the “inghams” I have given in a previous article, we might alter Tennyson’s “Saxon, and Norman, and Dane are we,” into “Mostly Saxon are we as to our place-names in Kent.” Our two Charltons are of old Ceorletone—the town of the ceorls or husbandmen. Some “tons” come from personal names also, e.g., Cuxton (compare Cuckfield in Sussex), Cuca and its diminutive Cucola are found as Anglo-Saxon names, and as Cockstane the place appears in Domesday, and as Cokelstone in 1472, nearly 400 years later, with other forms Cockston, Coklestane, Cukelestane, Cookstone, etc. (all pointing to stone, and not ton, being properly the final syllable).
There is, however, obviously much to be done before we can know—or even in some cases guess—as to the origin of some “tons” or “stones.”
In considering the three score and ten, or more, place-names in Kent which end in ham, we are met with the initial difficulty that there are two Saxon words Ham—home, and Hamm—land drained by dykes, an East Friesian word, though the far more common Ham is the Teutonic heim, familiar as a suffix in Germany, which in Picardy becomes hen, and in Friesland um. Either ton or ham as a suffix after ing denotes where a Saxon family or clan had settled and made its toun or heim. Thus the Pæfings made a Pevington in Kent and a Pavingham in Bedfordshire, and the Aldings an Aldington in Kent and Worcester, and an Aldingham in 64Lancashire, the Leasings a Lossingham in Kent and a Lissington in Lancashire. Such instances do not uphold what some have held—that there were two words spelled the same, the one meaning home and the other an enclosure.
As to the Hamm or Haam for marshy ground, it would seem to be found in Kent as accounting for Ham Ponds, near Sandwich, marshy ground dear to botanists, and Mersham (A.S. Mersc—marsh) in Romney, and Merston (Merxton in 74), near Rochester. Ham Green and Ham Street are also Romney Marsh names. Waterham and Wetham would suggest the same origin, the latter being in the Rainham marshes and the former, I think, not far from the Faversham marshes. Dagenham also (as elsewhere) is Decca’s marsh land. But the ordinary hams, as we may call them, have again to be subdivided into those which indicate the settlement of a Saxon family; those which enshrine a personal name; and those which relate to the environment or situation of the home.
In the first division would came the cases in which ham followed the patronymic ing, denoting “the sons of.” Thus Gillingham (Gelingham in Domesday) was the settlement of the Gillings, who are also found at Gilling in Yorkshire, Gillingham in Norfolk, and Gillingham in Dorset. The home of the Mottings was at Mottingham, and that of the Leasings at Lossenham. Our Chilham would not at first sight seem to come in here; but in a charter of King Wihdraed in 699 it is called “Cilling,” and in another of 814 “the port which is called Cillincg” (the Stour was then navigable up to here for small craft), and a manor in Chilham is Shillingfield, so that a connection with the Gillings may be suggested. Farningham might seem prima facie to add another to this unexpectedly small class; but there is no known tribe of Farnings, and the old name was Fremyngham (again with no tribe 65name to support it). It has been suggested that it derives from the A.S. Frem or foreign, and denotes a settlement of foreigners (possibly Danes) coming from the Thames up the Darenth valley.
In the second division we might place any hams recording the personal names of those who founded them. Here Isaac Taylor may err in saying: “In the Anglo-Saxon charters we frequently find this suffix united with the names of families—never with those of individuals.” In this he follows Leo in his Anglo Saxon Names. And yet on another page (compare p. 331 with p. 131) he gives a list of places derived from the names of individuals. But certainly Godmersham and Rodmersham suggest personal names, and no one has ascribed any other origin to Harrietsham, which, even down to the fifteenth century, appears as Heryotesham. In one probably illiterate will of 1594 it is called “Henry Etisham alias Harrysam,” the latter being no doubt the vernacular pronunciation. So surely Meopham is Mepa’s Home. No letter o appeared in the name before or during the 14th century, when Simon de Mepham was Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a modern intrusion, left unpronounced. Icelham, McClure gives as meaning the Home of Icel, like Icelsham in Sussex, thus contravening the dictum of Taylor and Leo as to personal names. So Offham, and probably Otham, is said by the learned Sussex Place-Names to be named after King Offa, who had such power and made such great benefactions to the Church in Sussex and Kent. Finglesham, called Flenguessa in Domesday and Fengesham in 1206, suggests a person rather than a family when the common ing is not then found in the name, and so does Wittersham, especially in its old forms of Westricheshamme and Witrychesham. Faversham was Febres-ham in 811 (Charters and Rolls), and Febresham in 858. In Domesday (1086) it appears as Faversham, and as to 66this McClure, a great recent authority in Saxon, says: “The first element is a personal name in the genitive.” As, however, there seems to be no similar Saxon designation, he suggests a possible survival of the Latin Faber, i.e., Smith, in a thoroughly Latinized part of Kent. But this pre-supposes that the place was named from a single unnamed operative. Betsham is obscure, but when we find, also in Kent, Betshurst and Betteshanger, a personal origin seems likely. As McClure says, our Luddesdown seems to involve a personal name; he might say the same of Luddenham.
The third division introduces us to settlements or homes named from their environment or situation. Thus Higham (Heahhaam in a charter of 770, and Hehham in one of 774), is plainly from the A.S. Heah, whence our High; and so is Hougham (earlier Hugham), near Dover. Burham is the fortified place or Burh, found in 1498 as Borowham, in 1511 as Borougham, and in 1549 in its present form. Homes between Rochester and Aylesford had to be strong in the days and the place of constant maraudings and wars. Mersham is the Mersc home in Romney Marsh. Westerham, of old Ostreham (compare Westenhanger alias Ostringhanger) is the little white “home in the west” of Kent. Ickham—Ioccham in a charter of 785, in Andrededa—otherwise Yeckham, is probably the settlement on the yoke of arable land, from the Saxon measure Yeok. Chartham (Certeham in Domesday) is the home in the forest, chart and hart being varying forms of the Teutonic word for forest, the former more common in England, the latter in Germany. Perhamsted, says McClure, is the homestead where pears were cultivated. Thornham (though Turnham in Domesday) is said to derive from Hawthorns, Thynne being Saxon for thorn, and haegathorn later for hedge-thorn—whence also probably our 67Kentish Eythorne (anciently Hegythe Thorne), and Eyhorne (Haythorne in Plea of Henry III.), as place-names. Weald, Wold, Wald, and Wood (A.S., Wudu and Weald), all mean woods, so that we can understand our Wouldham and Waltham. Lenham must be the settlement of the Len, unless it could be proved that the river ever had another name, Celtic as it probably is.
The following is a full list of the “Hams” in Kent according to Kelly’s Directory of Kent, and I have extracted them in the hope that it may save some trouble to a future writer on our place-names. I am not of the class of those who say: “Posterity has done nothing for me, so why should I do anything for posterity?”
Adisham, Alkham, Barham, Bagham, Beckenham, Burham, Bentham, Betsham, Bayham, Cudham, Cobham, Clapham, Chatham, Chartham, Chilham, Crowdleham, Crockham, Dagenham, Eltham, Elham, Fawkham, Faversham, Farningham, Finglesham, Frogham, Godmersham, Gillingham, Ham ponds, Ham Green (two), Ham Hill, Ham Street, Heverham, Ham, Harrietsham, Hougham, Higham, Horsham, Ickham, Ightham, Lenham, Luddenham, Lossenham, Meopham, Mersham, Mongeham, Mottingham, Newnham, Offham, Otham, Otterham, Petham, Peckham, Rayham, Rainham, Rodmersham, Sydenham, Shoreham, Teynham, Thornham, Waltham, Waterham, Wetham, Wickham, Wickhambreux, Westerham, Wrotham, Wingham, Wittersham, Wouldham, Yaldham. Kilburne wrote that there were 49, but here I enumerate 71, and one might add Perhamsted, Iselham, Freckenham, Mistelham, and the Hundreds of Kinghamford and Downhamford, making 77, all of undoubtedly Saxon origin.
Our “Soles,” “Burys,” and “Hithes.”
The word Sole occurs frequently as a Kentish place-name, and is purely Saxon. Dr. Bosworth’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary gives Sol as meaning “soil—dirt—a wallowing place”; while Lewis defines it as “a dirty pond of standing water.” The Saxon verb is Sylian, “to soil or cover with mud.” So an old Kentish will has the words “beside the wateringe sole in trend (i.e., the end) of Yckhame streete.” Now, as the chief industries of the Saxons in Kent were pigs and pots—as now they are bricks and beer—it is obvious that pigs, especially in clay soil, would create many wallowing places. So we find Sole Street, near Broadstairs (now corrupted into Sorvell and so made unmeaning and unintelligible), another by Cobham, another by Crundale, and another by Selling. We find also Bradsole (S. Radigund’s near Dover), Buttsole in Eastry, Blacksole at Wrotham, Maidensole, Longsole Heath by Allington, Thewsole, and Hangmansole in Romney Marsh, Eastsole, Newsole near Coldred, Esole near Nonington, Podsole near Headcorn, a Mote-sole Street in Sandwich, Mudshole by Hawkinge, Barnsole Lane, Gillingham, Capel Sole, Barnsole in Staple, Westfield Sole in Boxley, Rigsol Road in Otterden, and last, but not least, Paddisole, or Padsole, at Maidstone.
There are two Anglo-Saxon words which have to be distinguished—Beorh, like the German Berg, meaning a hill; and Buruh or Byrig, which comes later into the suffix Bury, which again later comes to be used for a division of 69Hundred or simply for a town. In the south of England we have most of the distinctively Saxon or Jutish Bury, while in the north we have the Anglian and Norse forms of Burgh, Brough, Borough, more common. And one must add, as a variant of the same word, Barrow, which in modern use we confine to a tumulus for the sepulture of a great warrior or leader. As these British camps were generally on high ground for observation and for defence, the ideas represented by Beorh and by Buruh would inevitably intertwine. The British and Saxon camps were no doubt numerous when we consider the centuries of marauders and invaders which kept our earliest forefathers in a constant fear. They were usually round or oblong, whereas the fewer and later camps or forts of the Romans were rectangular. Surrounded by a deep ditch, the earth of which was thrown up to make a wall, into them in troublous times were collected families and flocks, so that the transition of meaning from the Byrig or fort to the Borough or town was easy. Canterbury, for example, began as Cantwara-byrig, the fort of the folk of Kent, long before it developed into its most important borough or city. So, in another county, Glæstingaberig became Glastonbury.
In Kent we find Farnborough, Frindsbury, Wateringbury, Hildenborough, Pembury, Cobhambury, Southborough, Oldbury, Bigbury, Glassenbury, two Hawkenburies, Holborough, Howbury, Scadbury, Goodbury, Eastbury, Fallburie, Stockbury (where the ditch and bank had been supplemented by a palisade of stocks, the predecessor of our fathers’ cheveaux de frise in warlike defence), Binbury, Westborough (in Maidstone above and defending the Medway), Woodnesbury, Willesborough, Queenborough, Richborough, Bidborough, Marshborough, Statenborough, Tattlebury, Downbury, Hockenbury, Dunbury and Tatlingbury—a long list 70which predicates long years, or rather centuries, of fighting in defence, as much as my previous list of forestal names proves how much of Kent was covered with woods.
Some of these, like Oldbury and Bigbury, are undoubtedly old British camps or forts; others were adapted, or newly made, by Romans and, later, by Saxons, while again later still a Norman castle might be reared on the old strategic spot, as in the case of Thornham Castle, near me. Flinders Petrie, however, says that “many sites which by their name of bury suggest a camp or fort are now bare of remains.” So he writes after examining Downbury Farm, near Pembury, Hockenbury, and Dunbury, near Staplehurst, Tattlebury near Headcorn, Tatlingbury near Capel, Perry Hill near Cooling, Pembury, Frindsbury and Wateringbury.
Our Barrows in Kent are mainly small, graves rather than mounds, but we have the place-names Barrow Green, Barrow Hill near Ashford, and Barrow Hill by Sellindge.
Hithe is the Saxon for haven, or place where ships could lie, and Hythe (Heda in Domesday Book, and Hee in a deed of 1229) was near the edge of the sea when history begins; but West Hythe, which is now three miles from the sea, was the old port used by the Romans and by them called Limene, the harbour. Hence our modern Lympne—Portus Lemanis, in which the p is a modern addition. I find it Limene in 1291, Lymen in 1396, Limne in 1475, and Lymne in 1480.
Then, right in the Weald, is the hamlet of Smallhythe, three miles south of Tenterden. Down to 1509, however, there was a channel from the sea up to here.
Newheth, or New Hythe, is a hamlet of East Malling—and it was a sort of port (or perhaps a wharf) on the Medway for shipping goods from South Kent and the Weald.
On the Thames, below Dartford, is Greenhithe, which has kept both its name and the justification thereof from the times of the Saxons to the present day. There the Danish King had an entrenched camp as a winter station for his soldiers. Here William the Conqueror was stopped by the men of Kent until he confirmed them in their old Saxon laws and privileges. From here Sir John Franklin and Captain Crozier sailed in the Erebus and Terror (in the year and month of my birth) on their last and fatal voyage to the Pole. Here still the hithe discharges its lime and chalk, and has an environment and background of green fields and woods.
Ærrehythe, “the old haven,” known to us as Erith, the landing place for what was from 1178, when it was founded, the important Abbey of Lesnes, which still gives its name to the Hundred.
Our “Cold Harbours.”
Perhaps the most common place-name in England is that of Cold Harbour; though Sutton and Norton may run it close. Over one hundred and seventy have been enumerated in England, a number which would be brought up to over two hundred if we added the Caldecots and the Calcotts (we have a Calcott in Sturry parish) which are names with the same meaning. And yet in a sense Cold Harbour is not a place-name, for the only parish of that name was not formed and named until 1842. It is near Dorking. However, as a name of a manor or a farm it is common. Thus in London (where we should hardly expect Cold Harbours 72of the kind found in country places) there was the Manor of Coldherberghe, of which we know much since 1327. Situated on the bank of the Thames near London Bridge, its mansion was tenanted by royal dukes, a bishop, a Lord Mayor, and afterwards became the Hall of the Watermen’s Company, and at last the City of London Brewery. The other is in Camberwell, which was one great manor at the time of the Conquest, but later divided into minor lordships, to two of which the name of Cold Harbour was given, of which one was Cold Herbergh, Hachesham (Hatcham now), while the other survives in the well known Cold Harbour Lane, in Camberwell. In early 19th century maps Cold Blow Farm was the representative of the old manor (Kent has a Cold Blow in Bexley). A curious 15th century corruption was Coldabbeye, though there was never an abbey there. The farm succumbed to suburban expansion in the 19th century; but Harbour Road, Cold Harbour Lane, and Cold Harbour Place, tell us of its site.
The Cold Harbours in Kent are thirty in number, while ten are found in each of the contiguous counties of Surrey and Sussex. They are found at Addington, Aldington, Aylesford, Barham Downs, Bishopsbourne, Bridge, Chislehurst, Deptford, Ditton, Eltham, Higham, Hildenborough, Eltham, Lamberhurst, Lymne, Maidstone, Newington, Northfleet, Penshurst, Sellinge, Sittingbourne, Stoke-in-Hoo, Sutton-at-Hone, Tenterden, Trench, Tunbridge, Woodnesborough, Woolwich, Wrotham, and Wye. The majority of these are upon or near Roman sites, or on the Roman main roads, a fact to be borne in mind when we come to consider their origin. For Isaac Taylor says of early travelling: “Where no religious house existed to receive the traveller he would usually be compelled to content himself with the shelter of bare walls. 73The ruins of deserted Roman villas were no doubt so used, and such places seem commonly to have borne the name of Cold Harbour. In the neighbourhood of ancient roads we find no less than seventy, and about a dozen more bearing the analogous name of Caldecot or ‘cold cot.’” His figures have now been shown to be very much under the mark. So Forbes and Burmester, in their Our Roman Highways, say: “The appearance of such names is believed to be a sure indication of the use in comparatively modern times of Roman buildings for purposes of temporary shelters; and the occasional discovery of tessellated pavements injured by fires lighted in the corners of rooms suggests their utilization by wayfarers.”
Not that all would have been villas or private residences. The orderly and practical Romans on their great military roads had a colonia at each 15 or 20 miles with a mansio or government posting station, and between each, at about five miles distance, was a mutatio with less accommodation, and used by a humbler class. The manager of each was called a Strator—like our Way Warden. In many cases we find that the Cold Harbours come exactly where we should look for the regularly set mutatio. The same kind of arrangement is found in the Hans or Khans of the East, which provide shelter for traveller and stabling for his horse or other beast of burden; but no bed or food. Analogous also are the dak-bungalows familiar to us in India.
The name, however, is pure Saxon, like the German Kalt Herberg, and the surviving French Auberge for a small place of rest and refreshment. Mr. Unthank, a friend and church-worker of mine in Walworth, enlisted my interest in the name a dozen years ago, and since he has written learnedly on the subject in Notes and Queries (1914) and the Home Counties Magazine 74(1912). He calls them “the leanest shadows of our cheerful inns,” and though bare walls and a bit of a roof would be better than nothing to a traveller over Barham Downs, yet, compared with the “warmest welcome in an inn” experienced elsewhere, he would no doubt call it a cold harbour. Later, and in Middle English, the Heribeorg, shelter for a host, became as Herberg a synonym for any inn, and later still Harbourers or harbingers were the caterers or victuallers, who at last gained the right to sell ale in competition with the more normal hostelries. Then the trade-name became a surname, and John le Herberger appears, and perhaps the Harpers of to-day indicate an innkeeper rather than a musician as their ancestor.
Of course, the perverse ingenuity of some has invented strange derivations for the name. Stow suggests that they were coal-stations! Another writer (who apparently only knew of one Cold Harbour near London Bridge) that it was where the Köln or Cologne merchants had their headquarters! Another derives from Col (ubris) arbor—the tree or staff round which a serpent twines. This is the emblem of Mercury the messenger of Jupiter, and may have been therefore the sign of the Roman posting-stations!
As I have already said, Kent was once mainly either dense primæval forest, or marshland, which fringed nearly all its coastal border from Sussex to London. The greater part of the forest was that which extended along the northern border of the South Saxons with a breadth of thirty and a length of one hundred and twenty miles. But the royal forest of Blean (in which I was born) is continuous with Anderida, although it bears a separate name in 75a charter of King Offa in 791. This would make the forestal land extend from Whitstable through East and Mid Kent, Northern Sussex, Southern Surrey, and Eastern Hampshire, right down to Petersfield. Distinct, but contiguous, was the Cestmwarowalth or Cestersetta Wald, of which part remains in the woods between Rochester and Maidstone, although some would place it near Lyminge.
This primæval forest is still marked by a great survival of woodland and parks, as a coloured map of Kent would show, and also by the abundance of the characteristic terminations of burst, den, ley, holt, and feld. It names the Weald (Teutonic Wad—wood), although therein more cleared than anywhere else, and the less known Roman road, Well Street, which ran through it from Maidstone, should be probably the Wald road.
Generally called Anderida from the name the Romans gave to their fort and garrisoned place near Pevensey, this is only a change from the earlier Andred. Coed-Andred was its Celtic name, from Coed, a wood, which word appears also in Ked Coed (the hollow dolman in the wood), which was corrupted into Kits Coty House; while the Cotswolds give the Saxon addition to the Celtic name, so that the meaning is Wood-wood, just as Durbeck or the Ravensbourne mean Water-water by the Saxon surnaming of a Celtic name. In early Saxon charters, which are written in Latin, it appears as Saltus-Andred, Silva-Andred, Saltus communis, or Silva regalis, while in Saxon it is Andred, Andredsleage, or Andredsweald.
As to the meaning of the name, Edwards thinks it a proper name, which is very improbable considering its extent. Lambarde says Andred in the Celtic means great, which is simplest and best, provided that such a word is 76proved to exist. Dr. Guest refers it, less probably, to a Celtic negative an and dred, a dwelling, and Lewin to “an” for the “deni,” for oak-forest, and by a “dhu” for black.
It may be here interesting to give a list of the names borne nearly a thousand years ago by some towns and villages in Kent, especially those in the Weald. In a map in Furley’s Weald, he gives the manors and places mentioned in the Domesday Book (A.D. 1086), and by this it appears that settlements and cultivation were nearly all on the north and east edges of the great forest of Anderida. The only exceptions are Tivedale (now Tudely), Benindene (Benenden), Tepindene (Tiffenden), and Belicedene, which are deeper in the forest.
Taking the line of the Kentish Weald from west to east, we find fringing the primæval wood, Distreham (Westerham), Briestede (Brasted), Sondresse (Sundridge), Brotenham (Wrotham), Nargourde (Mereworth), Pecheham (W. Peckham), Pecheham (East Peckham), Otringebury (Wateringbury), Nedstede (Nettlestead), Hallinges (Yalding), Meddestane (Maidstone), Boltone Monchensei (Boughton Monchelsea), Certh (Chart Sutton), Suttone (Sutton Valence), Sudtone (East Sutton), Olecumbe (Ulcombe), Boltone Archiepiscopi (B. Malherbe), Bogelei (Bewley in B. Malherbe), Piventone (Pevington), Pluckelei (Pluckley), Rotinge (Roting in Pluckley), Litecert (Little Chart), Certh Mill, Certh (Great Chart), Eshetesford or Estefort (Ashford), Merseham (Mersham), Aldingtone (Aldington), Limes (Lymne), Boningtone (Bonnington), Bilsvitone (Bilsington), Rochinges (Ruckinge), Orleverstone (Orleston), Werahorne (Warehorne), Tintintone Dene (Tinton in Warehorne), Apeldres (Appledore), Palestre (Palster in Wittersham), Newedene (Newenden).
In the rest of Chenth (Kent) the chief places mentioned in Domesday were Bromlei (Bromley), 77Lolingstone (Lullingstone), Tarenteforte (Dartford), Gravesham (Gravesend), Rovescestre (Rochester), Esledes (Leeds), Scapige (Sheppey), Favershant (Faversham), Wi (Wye), Goversham (Godmersham), Cantuaria (Canterbury), Forewic (Fordwich), Roculf (Reculver), Tanet (Thanet), Sandwice (Sandwich), Estrei (Eastry), Addelam (Deal), Douere (Dover), Fulchestan (Folkestone), Heda (Hythe), and Romene (Romney).
One thing that strikes one at once is the proof any list of Kentish villages gives of the forestal character of Kent. As one of my aims is to save trouble on the part of some future writer who shall produce the long overdue History of Kentish Place-Names, I will here transcribe all which indicate a woodland origin. About a few I am doubtful, but probably others which I have in ignorance left out would balance them. There are in this list 20 of the characteristic dens, although far more survive as the names of manors or now uninhabited parts; there are 15 hursts and 35 woods—some of the last being no doubt modern as names of places. I make 174 of these forestal names as under:—
Abbey Wood, Ackhold (Oakwood), Acol (alias Wood), Acrise? (Oakridge), Appledore, Arnold’s Oak, Ash, Ashenden, Ashford, Ashley, Ashurst, Bargrove, Bellegrove (Benenden), Betteshanger, Bircholt, Boghurst Street, Bough Beech, Boughton (four), Boxhurst (Boxley), Bredhurst, Broad Oak, Brogueswood, Broome, Broomfield, High Brooms, Broomstreet, Bush, Challock Wood, Chart (four), Chartham, Chartham Hatch, Cheriton, Chesnut Street, Cobham Wood, Cowden, Cockham Wood, Colds Wood, Comp Woods, Crookhurst Street, Denstead, Denstroud, Denton (three), Denwood, Dingleden, East Malling Woods, Eastwood, Eggringe Wood, Elmley, Elmley Ferry, Elmstead (two), Elmstone, Eyehorne Hatch, Eyhorne Street, 78Eythorne, Hawkenhurst, Filmer’s Wood, Five Oak Green, Forest Hill, Four Elms, Frogholt, Goathurst Common, Gore Wood, Forsley Wood, Goudhurst, Grove, Grove End, Grove Ferry, Grove Green, Hatch Green, Hawkhurst, Hazelwood Hill, Hengrove, Henhurst, Henwood, Heronden, Hoaden, Hockenden, Hollingbourne, Hollanden, Holm Mill, Holmstone, Holt Street, Holwood Hill, Hookstead Green (Oakstead?), Horsmonden, Hurst, Ivy Hatch (Ileden), Kidbrooke?, King’s Wood, Kingsnorth, Knockhall, Knockholt, Lamberhurst, Leywood, Maiden Wood, Maplescombe, Marden, Mark Beech, Marwood, Mereworth Woods, Molash, Mussenden, Nagden, Northwood, Norwood (two), Nurstead (old Nutstead), Oakhurst, Oakley, Old Tree, Otterden, Oxenden Corner, Paddock Wood, Penenden Heath, Penshurst, Perry Street, Perry Wood, Pickhurst Green, Pinden, Plumstead, Plumpton, Quarry Wood, Rainden, Ringwould, Rolvenden, Saltwood, Sandhurst, Sevenoaks, Shadoxhurst, Sibertswold, Shottenden, Silcox Wood, Sissinghurst, Smarden, Snoll Hatch, Snoad Street, Southernden, Southwood, Speldhurst, Standen, Staplehurst, Swanscombe Wood, Tenterden, Thornham, Three Beeches, Eickenhurst, Waldershare, Waltham, Warden, Weald, Westenhanger, Westwood (two), Wissenden, Womenswould, Woodchurch, Woodcut Hill, Woodlands (two), Woodruff, Woodside Green, Wouldham.
Land Divisions of Kent.
Uninterruptedly from Saxon times Kent has been divided into districts called Lathes, and these into Hundreds, and these again into Borowes or Townes, the last being in Kent synonymous and used to the 79exclusion of the name parish down to the times of Elizabeth.
First, as to the meanings and uses of these three words.
Lathe takes us back to the Saxon Læth for land, and in Latin documents appears as Lestus or Lastus, e.g., “In Lasto Sanctii Augustini” in a deed of 1347. Lambarde, however, derives it from a verb gelathian, to assemble; while Latham, following the German writer Zeuss, says the Terræ lœticæ were lands given to the Lœti. Lœti is the Roman form of Leute, i.e., People, i.e., the Teutonic mercenaries who were imported to defend the Litus Saxonicum—the eastern and south-eastern coast—which was especially open to the attacks of Scandinavian pirates. The abstruse and involved explanation will hardy be preferred. It is a purely Kentish word.
Hundred.—This familiar word, first found in the Laws of King Edgar, 1000 A.D., comes from the old High German (Allemannisch), Huntare or Huntre. The Huntares in N. Europe were the sub-divisions of the Gau, the primary settlement with independent jurisdiction, a word to be traced in such place-names as Spengay and Wormegay, and even in Ely, for its earliest form was Eligabirig. But why Hundred? Some say each contained an hundred hides of land (but hundreds vary much in size). Some say each was a district wherein 100 soldiers had to be forthcoming in war—this approves itself to Lambarde and Spelman. Some refer it to the original settlement of 100 Jutish warriors, as sub-divisions of the Teutonic army which conquered the Britons. Brampton thinks each was to contain 100 villages. But in view of the historical and legal use of the word one may prefer the number of the freeholders in an area as constituting the Hundred. Thus the great legal authority, Blackstone, says: “As 10 families of 80freeholders made a town or tithing, so 10 tithings made an Hundred.” Each had its Hundred Court for civil and criminal jurisdiction; each its Hundred man or constable; each its Hundred Mote or assembly or parliament; each its Hundred-penny, or local tax on and in the Hundred. Most English counties were, and are, divided into Hundreds, wapentakes, or wards. So Caxton, writing in 1485, says: “In Yorkshire ben xxii hondredes.” Of these words Wapentake indicates the defensive military organisation of the Danish intruders, and Hundred the more peaceful settlements of Jutes and Saxons. A synonym peculiar to Sussex is the word Rape, the origin of which is said to be that lands seized by the Conqueror were plotted out by the hrepp or rope.
Tithings were the divisions of the Hundred or Wapentake or Ward or Rape, and the term is used in most counties. But in Kent Borowe or Ton or Towne is used instead. A Tything, Freeburgh or Decennary, was a district containing ten householders, who were answerable to the King for each other’s good behaviour. Each tything formed a little commonwealth, and chose its own dean (decanus or chief man of ten) or head, who was sometimes called Alderman on account of his age and experience. Most commonly, however, he was called the Borsholder from the Anglo-Saxon Bohr a surety, and Ealder, head or chief. The members of each tything formed a court of justice in which disputes were heard. Right down to 1836 the inhabitants of an Hundred where damage was done were each liable to pay compensation for it. The tendency of small bodies to take petty and shortsighted views in social matters is evidenced in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, where, quoting a much earlier proverb, he speaks of “Mr. Penny-wise-pound-foolish,” and “Mr. Get-i’-th’ Hundred and lose i’ the Shire.”
Originally there were seven Lathes in Kent—Borowart, Estrei, Middletune, Wiwarlet, Limowart, Sudtone, and Elesford, of which the first five covered East Kent and the last two West Kent. Each derived its name from the chief town in each. Those in East Kent had previously been Roman Villas or towns, while Sutton-at-Hone and Aylesford were of great antiquity.
Later Borowart and Estrei were united under the name of S. Augustine’s, and Middletune and Wiwarlet together formed the Lathe of Sherwinhope, which again, by the addition of the Seven Hundreds of the Weald and the Hundred of Marden, received its present territory and name of the Lathe of Scray.
One finds also a Lestus de Hedelynge containing the three Hundreds of Eastry, Quernilo and Beawesberghe. In this district an old wood in Waldershare is still Hedlinge.
Since the time of Henry the Third there have been but five Lathes, named S. Augustine’s, Shepway, Scray, Aylesford, and Sutton-at-Hone.
Now as to their names.
Borowart, Boro-wara-lest, was named from Canterbury, the chief borough in Kent, and so means the people of the borough, the chief one. Later it was named from S. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, to which a great part of the land in the Lathe belonged.
Estrei, or Estre Last, named from the ancient town of Eastry (which may enshrine the name of the Saxon goddess of Spring, Eastre—whence our Easter, from the Christian festival coinciding in time with the heathen festival) was absorbed into the Lathe of S. Augustine.
Middletune (Middeltuna both in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in Domesday) is our Milton by Sittingbourne, and is said to be named from being the central town of Kent, as it was then populated and of importance.
Wiwarlet (Wi-wara-lest), the lest of the people of Wye, together with Middletune, became later part of the Lathe of Sherwinhope (Scrawynghop, temp. Hen. 3, and Shewynghope 1347). This name was later changed into that of Scray. What is the meaning of Sherwinhope? Hope in Saxon denotes a river valley, and Sands, in his Memorials of Old Kent, speaks of the brook Sherway, which falls into the Beult. But what of Scray?
Limowart, or Limea, denotes the people of Lymne, the old Roman Portus Lemanis, called Limene in 1291, then Lymene, Lymen 1396, Limne 1475, and Lymne 1480. I do not find the intrusive and erroneous p in the name earlier than 1504. The name was changed to Shippeway or Shipway, temp. Henry III., and a place in Lymne is still called Shipway Cross.
Sudtone, i.e., the town south of Dartford, distinguished from other Suttons by the later addition of “at Hone,” which is said to mean low in the valley.
Elesford, our Aylesford, is so spelled in Domesday, but in the Saxon Chronicle it is Egelsford, and in Nennius Egisford. It may very well have been named by the Saxons after the Teutonic hero-archer or demigod Eigil, though the Celtic Eglwys, a church, has been suggested. It also appears as Ægelesthrep, and for this a personal name (e.g., Ecglaf), with threp or thorp for town has been suggested. But thorp we get from the Danes, and find chiefly in the N.E. There are none in Kent.
The place-name difficulty, however, is intensified when we find, according to Lambarde in 1570, 13 Hundreds in S. Augustine’s, 14 in Shepway, 18 in Scray, 14 in Aylesford, and 8 in Sutton-at-Hone, many of them being long obsolete names, such as Cornilo in S. Augustine’s, Franchesse in Shepway, Calehill in 83Scray, Eythorde in Aylesford, and Coddeshethe in Sutton-at-Hone. And then in some places there are Half-Hundreds, which, however, did not exist before the reign of Edward II.
As a matter of nearer local interest I may quote the divisions and assessments in the time of the Black Prince of the boroughs of the Hundred of Maydstone.
£ s. d.
Borough of Maydestone was assessed at 19 9 2
Westre (now West Borough) at 44 2
Stone (now Stone St. Ward) at 78 2
Loose at 34 4
Detlinge at 58 4
(These two villages were attached to Maidstone ecclesiastically until the reign of Elizabeth).
£ s. d.
Lynton and Crookherst at 50 8
East Farleyghe at 45 1
Boxley at 4 3 4
Sum £38 18 3
I do not understand the omission of the borough of Week or Wyke—whence Week Street—of which the old manor house still remains in Week Street, unless it was then included in Boxley.
The study of the place-names of a county (as has been well done for our neighbour Sussex) mainly confines itself to the derivation and meaning of existing towns and villages, rivers, and hills, and I have done little more in these notes. But the subject is not then exhausted, for there is much of great interest to be gathered from the names of Hundreds, of Manors, and even of separate farms, and their consideration would largely extend the enquiry. For example, the Hundred Eyhorne in 1347 had the manors of Herbyltone (Harbledown in Harrietsham), Rissheforde in Hedcorne, Bromfield and Ledes, 84Sutton Valence, Olecombe, Heryetesham, Thorneham, Eynton, Bengebery, Wrensted, Frensted, Yoke, Wytchlinge, Aldington Septvance, Bocton, Malherbe-cum-Wormsell, Fokeham, Stockberye, Langele, Bygnor, Aldington Cobham, Otteham, B. Monchelsey alias Westboltone, West Farnebourne, Shelve in Lenham, Leneham, Downe, Berghestede, Bugeley, Cherletone, and Bressinge, many of these names being very unfamiliar now.#ENGLISH