Locating Another Age



Within a few hundred years of the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the fifth century AD, Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons, had been accepted by the upper classes and supplanted British and Latin.

Understanding how Old English shaped English place-names can help us to uncover the nature and economic life of the early medieval countryside and how it was populated and organised.

During Anglo-Saxon times, British names survived for major features such as hills, rivers or extensive wooded regions: Malvern, for instance, is ‘the bare hill’; Arden incorporates a word meaning ‘high land’; the Trent is ‘great wanderer’ or ‘great flooder’, while the River Avon is simply ‘river’. Some settlements also took their names from such features: Lichfield is ‘the open land at or called Lyccid ’, the latter perhaps an extensive area of woodland in the surrounding district, ‘the grey wood’, as found in the Roman name Letocetum for the Roman settlement at Wall.

Others took their name from British institutions – like the ecles settlements of Eccleshall, Staffordshire, that indicated a surviving British Christian community. In general, however, the new settlements established in the Anglo-Saxon period acquired Old English names.

KEYWORDS: Anglo Saxon, Mercia, Place Names

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Anglo Saxons