[Inaudible] Vikings in the East Midlands. Today it’s my great pleasure to introduce Doctor Rebecca Gregory. She is local, from West Bridgford, so Nottinghamshire is her home – apparently she’s defected recently across the border to Leicestershire, so she’s trying to encompass more of the East Midlands. Rebecca's teaching affiliate and researcher for the English Place Name Society in the School of English here, but as of January she’s going to be Lecturer of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Glasgow. In the English Place Names Society she’s worked on the volumes for Cornwall and Staffordshire place-names and co-edits the Journal of the English Place Name Society. Her research is all Nottinghamshire field names and her PhD focussed on field names in Thurgaton wapentake. She’s particularly interested in Scandinavian influence on the field name vocabulary and what that can tell us about Viking settlement and integration in the county. She's also the author of the recently published ‘Viking Nottinghamshire’ - copies on sale in the museum shop and she will be doing a book signing afterwards if you want to get her to sign it for you, and that will be in the atrium and I'll also say that after the lecture there will be a handling session of original artefacts in the museum and we will have reproduction artefacts for handling in the atrium next to the book signing. So, without further ado, Doctor Rebecca Gregory. [Applause] Thank-you very much, I think that’s the biggest round of applause I’ve ever had. Is my microphone working, can you all hear me? Well, I’m a little bit croaky, so I’m going to do my best. Just wave at me if I’m going dim – as it were! So, thank-you very much for coming, and before I actually dive into East Midlands place names I’m just going to take a few minutes first to give you a bit of background to make sure that we’re all up to speed, both in terms of the historical context of the period that we’re looking at today and in terms of how place names work. As well, as you may not be familiar with that as a historical source. So think of this as a five minute crash course – if you know it all already you can sit there and feel smug, or have a power nap, preferably don’t snore. So the focus of this lecture is going to be, look here are some place names that have Viking origins – I can do that quite easily but it wouldn’t be that interesting – it wouldn’t be worth your time. So hopefully what I'm going to do instead is to start showing how place names actually add to the picture of what we know about Viking settlement in the East Midlands so - so from the fifth century onwards roughly speaking England was settled as I'm sure you know by groups of people from continental Europe generally referred to as the Anglo-Saxons and over the next few centuries Anglo-Saxon kingdoms developed and this map shows roughly how the country was looking at about 800 AD and as you can hopefully see the East Midlands that we’re concerned with today and fell into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia that great big one in the middle and from the late eighth century Viking raids began on coastal Britain and in the ninth century we have an invasion proper, so a fighting force often referred to as the great heathen army landed in East Anglia in 865 and they marauded their way basically around much of eastern England before they met their match eventually at the Battle of Eddington in 878 when King Alfred of Wessex defeated the Viking army there. So the Vikings retreated and their leader Guthrum struck up a peace treaty with King Alfred and as a result of that treaty two very important things happened. So firstly Guthrum the leader was baptized as a Christian and that began the whole process of conversion amongst the Vikings in England, but more relevant to our focus today is that an area of England was actually set aside to be ruled by the Vikings and that's what we kind of come to know as the Danelaw. So the Danelaw looked something like this so that whole area shaded in purple in the north and the east of England and in the years that followed five of the key boroughs or fortifications in the Danelaw were formed into a confederation, and those boroughs were Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and Stamford and this is the first sort of administrative unit that begins to look something very much like the modern East Midlands. So that's an extremely kind of broad brush version of the historical context for you. So we have an area of England given over for Scandinavian rule and settlement and we have the five boroughs looking quite like the East Midlands. Viking rule in the Danelaw didn't strictly last for ever so long, so Edward the elder an English King retook it for the English in the early 10th century. But nevertheless this area continued to be identified as different from the rest of England. So place names. How are place names actually relevant to this period in English history and in East Midland’s history more importantly? Well I'm hoping that I won't have to work too hard to convince you that they are interesting because you're all here I've got a captive audience. But I'm going to borrow Matthew Townend’s words actually because he puts this far better than I can and what he says is that, excuse me, ‘place name study has done as much as any discipline to bring us knowledge about the Scandinavian episode in England's past’ and he says ‘the history of the Danelaw would be un-writable without it’. Okay but why? Why are place names such useful historical evidence? Well, for a start they're everywhere. There's no other kind of evidence which is found in such abundance in so many places, they started out as descriptive labels so they tell us something very particular about a place or about its people, its resources at the time that that name was coined and first used. Those labels had to be useful so they were given using words that people would have understood essentially. They preserve the language used by normal people in their everyday lives and that's the kind of information that you don't often get in documentary sources so they fill a huge hole in the evidence that we have for the early medieval period. To a great extent then the languages used in place names will reflect the language used by the local people their Anglo Saxon place names were given in Old English the language that the Anglo Saxon spoke while Viking place names were generally given in Old Norse their language. So when I talk about Old English I'm talking Anglo-Saxon when I talk Old Norse or Norse I'm talking about Vikings, Scandinavians. So here's a very well-known map to some of you I'm sure of place-name distribution. These are all the parish names in England which appear to have an Old Norse, so a Viking origin, and that thick black line that cuts partway through the country that's roughly the southern boundary of the Danelaw and so what appears to be going on is that Old Norse names are found in the places where documentary evidence tells us that Vikings settled - easy-peasy, job done, we can go home! No, because it’s not quite that simple - so arguments have gone back and forth over the years about what Old Norse place names actually signify. Some people have suggested that a few Viking military or aristocratic leaders might have just come in and changed place names when they took over, or that the Anglo-Saxons just followed Viking fashion and started naming places using Norse words instead of English ones. There's been a bit of an obsession with numbers as well Vikings were there, how many phases of settlements, how many villagers were Anglo-Saxon how many were Viking and I'm not sure how many friends I'm going to make myself here but what I'm gonna say is that that doesn't matter not for our purposes today. We can look at the effect that Viking settlement had on the East Midlands and East Midlands place-names without knowing how many Vikings they're actually were. So we can think about language we can think about culture about influence without having to think about numbers in any strict sense at all. So what we're going to do instead is we're going to think about some of the more nuanced ways that we can use place names so here are a few things you need to know and bear with me here. Number one, names change over time. That might sound really obvious but if you look at the modern spelling or use the modern pronunciation of a name it might bear very little resemblance to that names original form or its original meaning. So to use place name material we have to look for the oldest spelling's that are closest to the original forms, and because we're working with names that might be well over a thousand years old and many of them are the written records that we have for that period are scarce so although an Anglo-Saxon settlement might have been founded in say the seventh century, we might not have a written record of it for another four hundred years. Many place names in England are first recorded in the Doomsday Book which is a survey undertaken in the late 11th century on behalf of William the Conqueror. So even with the oldest written forms there can still be some kind of educated guesswork needed and thankfully there are some excellent place name dictionaries that have done all that work for us so to look at place names yourself you don't have to do all that kind of legwork. So I'm just gonna use one local example just to illustrate this point - so Attenborough just down the road from us now was first recorded in the 12th century so it's a little bit later than many place names are recorded, and it has a whole run of different spellings after that day and these are in chronological order column to column. Now the first time we see it with its modern spelling as we would recognize it isn't until 1637, so that's about 500 years after the first written record that we have and even longer after the place was certainly first named, so I'm not going to talk you through all the different variations but in general that you can see that in the earliest spellings we've got D instead of a T, we've got an I rather than an E in that second syllable, although that the way that's kind of represented in the spellings seems to change a little bit through time, and it's actually only really, really late that we get this T coming in and we get a recognizable Attenborough. So by using those early forms, place-name researchers can tell that the name was originally made up of three separate words or elements, so Udder is a man's name, Ing is a kind of connective word that implies association or ownership, and burgh means a fortification and that's the same word that you get coming through in many modern names that end in borough for example. Now in the case of Attenborough the names actually referring to a church and not a sort of defensive fortification, so hopefully you can see how those early spellings are much, much more useful in working out where this name comes from what significance it has what it can tell us. And in fact in the case of this particular name all the words in it are in Old English the Anglo-Saxon language. So although we've said that place names are generally given in the language that people are speaking in their day to day live, they can in fact be made up of more than one language. Now this can happen for a number of reasons so sometimes words can be added to pre-existing names for extra clarification so for East and West Leake for example in Nottinghamshire they were both originally just called Leake which is from the Old Norse word for a stream, and English East and West have been added to those to distinguish one from another you can see how that's more useful. Sometimes we can see these developments in the written record we have an original spelling without these additions but often they took place before the names were ever written down. Sometimes parts of a name could be replaced by a word from another language and sometimes words were borrowed from one language into another and then used in names, so if I were to call my house Brook Villa for example that doesn't mean I speak Spanish or Italian or any other language that uses the word Villa it just means that I happen to know what that word means, I've decided to use it for my own particular purpose and reason. So we have to be careful with place names and with languages and rather than making conclusions based on one individual name and its meaning, it can be much more helpful to look at patterns of names and what they might indicate and that's what we're going to be doing today not picking apart individual names but looking at some of these patterns and what they tell us about history. So broadly speaking, our questions are what patterns can we see in Old Norse, in Viking names in the East Midlands, and what does that actually tell us about Vikings and Viking settlements? So I thought we'd start with some of the Old Norse vocabulary that's easier to recognize in modern names just to give you a sense of quite how abundant this vocabulary actually is in place names that you'll all be familiar with. So Old Norse By is the most common and this comes through in place names ending B Y - it means something like settlement and it's found as the final word, final element in place names. A Thorpe is a secondary or a dependent settlement and there are many of these too. So Thorpe on the Hill in Lincolnshire is one example and this is an illustration of exactly that previous point there are so many thoughts that Thorpe on the Hill is much easier to distinguish than just any old Thorpe. A Beck is from Old Norse as well and this is a word which of course has been thoroughly absorbed into northern English and Scots dialects as well, as a word for a stream but in older settlement names like maple back in Nottingham sure it hasn't yet become an English dialect word in the same way. A Holme can be roughly translated as an island either in the sense of raised drier ground in kind of marshy waterlogged land, so land essentially suitable for putting a village on, or land almost completely surrounded by water and this is Holme Pierrepoint in Nottinghamshire, in fact it's Holme Lane in Holme Pierrepoint, looking suitably soggy I'm sure you'll agree and the old Norse word for Valley which you'll probably recognize; that can be used at the beginning or the end of a place name. I had to use this photo because not only do we have Great and Little Dolby and but we also have Moscow in Leicestershire! Your guess is frankly as good as mine; and then we have names in Lund or Lound, which is the word for a grove or wood, Sutton Cum Lound is one of these, used to be two separate settlements and they're treated as one for administrative purpose. So I imagine you can think of many, many more examples just off the top of your head using these elements without trying particularly hard, which should give you some idea of just how many Old Norse words have made it into East Midlands place things whether we recognize them as such or not, and we're going to come back to several of these place name elements in a moment. But in fact the first pattern that I want to look at actually contains an old English word not an Old Norse one; so these place names I'm going to talk about are known as Toton hybrids don't worry too much about the terminology but they are named from Toton in Nottinghamshire and they are made up of the old English word tun meaning settlement along with a Scandinavian personal name which you can see is the case in Toton. So part of the name is in the Anglo-Saxon language and part of it seems to be Viking And there are a whole host of these names in the East Midlands so this table shows you all the different personal names, people's names in bold with the place names that they're found in given underneath. I should say that some of these are almost certain we're sure about the etymology some of them are less clear but what you'll hopefully be able to see any other case is that there's very little repetition actually, so it's not that one Viking name is being used again and again in a dozen settlements. We've got a whole variety of names and therefore people being represented here. So this is a pattern of names which begs some particular questions I think. So firstly who were all the people we've just seen who referred to in those place names? Well what we do know about them is that they had Scandinavian names. That doesn't necessarily mean that they were Vikings, but with such a strong pattern and such a trend towards these Viking names I think it's a fairly safe bet to say that most of them were, and we also know that they were important enough people for whatever reason to be commemorated in the names of settlements and for those names to stick, and although there's been a lot of debate on this subject which I won't go into it seems likely that these were some of the first Viking settlers in the East Midlands perhaps even members of the great heathen army after they split up and started taking ownership of land and of settlements. Their names in the place names do seem to indicate ownership or certainly authority of some sort but who was actually doing the naming? Did these men just name the villages after themselves and there are several options here as well so it's possible that new landlords simply replaced part of an existing village name with their own name a kind of marker of ownership, stamping their identity on their new territory. It's also possible the English speakers so using Old English name the places in their own language hence the old English word Tun being used rather than Old Norse word but that they were also referring to these new landlords. Another option is that the word Tun was actually adopted by the Viking settlers to refer to an English village which they'd taken over. Now there was an almost identical word to Tun in Old Norse but it wasn't really used in Danish place names, so it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to think that this easily understandable recognizable word might have been adopted. So what might that actually tell us about these places named as Toton hybrids - well if the place names are the names of members of the Viking army or certainly important Scandinavians then these look like potentially some of the first places Scandinavians settled or at least took over in the late 9th century. It also seems like whatever you think about that topic there's a conscious use of a name type, a name formation to mark these places out in some way and that does fit nicely with the idea that they're newly taken over by Scandinavians so that would be administratively important. So there's one group of place names that seems to represent potentially a particular phase in Viking settlement, and I want to think next about names in Old Norse By, so this word has essentially the same meaning as Old English Tun that we've just been thinking about but in the language of the Vikings this time in Old Norse, and again we can think about the same kinds of questions so who's giving the names what do they tell us why might they be significant if they are significant. So some things we do already know about these names firstly By is much more likely to be used in a place name alongside other Old Norse words rather than Old English ones so entirely in the Viking language. So it doesn't look like it's a word that's being borrowed by English speakers and using used for their kind of their own purposes. About half the By names contain a personal name, the name of a person and these are overwhelmingly old Norse as well so this tells the same story and it looks essentially like most of these view names are being coined in an Old Norse linguistic context in other words in an environment in a community where Norse is a language of choice. And we can reasonably assume I think that a Norse speaking community is a Viking community of sorts. So that’s what the language is telling us but what about the landscape? Well that also tells a story of new Scandinavia settlements, fitting in potentially around Anglo-Saxon ones. Now Kenneth Cameron's pioneering work in the 1960s and afterwards, demonstrated a difference in the location of Viking name settlements from Anglo-Saxon ones. And he showed that in general Anglo-Saxon settlements occupied the most desirable locations, so on well-drained soil, within close proximity to fertile land for farming and that Scandinavian name settlements were in slightly less desirable places, so they might be on more waterlogged ground, or further away from that ideal farmland; and so to illustrate this here's one of Cameron's maps for Alford in Lincolnshire - the map came up after the blobs which really wasn't particularly helpful though realize there will be more blobs in a moment - so the dotted areas kind of in the middle of the map if you can make those out they’re areas of gravel, so there this well drained ground that’s suitable for building a settlement on. The area that looks like brick work in the bottom left that's chalk, so again we've not got particular drainage problems there. Most of the rest of the map with this kind of striped effect on it, that's all clay, so clays great for farming - it's heavy but it's fertile and so you want access to that land but you don't necessarily want to be building on it. So what we've got are these blue blobs and they are English settlements, or English named settlements I should say. So Alford in the middle that's smack bang on a nice patch of gravel, it's a bit near the edge of the patch of gravel so it's got access to this clay land but it's on that gravel, Well at the bottom there that's on chalk again near that edge so it's got access to the clay. If we then look at the names in By, these red ones here, they're in quite different positions. So Rigsby doesn't do too badly that's the other one on the edge of the chalk at the bottom there so that's in quite a reasonable position and but the other settlements do show signs of being pushed onto less favourable land so Ailby and Tothby in the middle they're just kind of on the edge of that gravel patch you can see where they want to be but they're kind of being pushed off. Saleby, that's further towards the top I assume that's actually north there's not a marker on there, on a very small patch of gravel you can see what they've done there but it's not in such a prime position as Alford, and the other three Beesby, Markby and Bilsby, their firmly on that clay on that really poorly draining land. So you can kind of see the effect here can't you I think this perfectly illustrates Cameron's point, that what we seem to have or a kind of further set of settlements that are fitting in around those English named ones and it is tempting to think yes we've got Scandinavians coming in and they're building new villages. I wanted to look at a couple of these By names in detail or some By names in detail I should say, and I settled on Aisby near Sleaford in Lincolnshire and then I stumbled across this photo believe it or not it did happen in that order, of a signpost near Aisby with not one but five By names on it so we have Aisby, Oasby, Welby, Aunsby and Swarby on this one signpost, and if I show you a map of where it is you've got not only those five By names but then you also have Osbornby, Silk Willoughby kind of falling off the top of the map, we've got Kelby Dembleby, Aswarby, Spanby, I'm probably pronouncing some of these wrong so if you're a Lincolnshire native please forgive me. We also have a Thorpe in Culverthorpe remember we’ve seen Thorpe's, and we have two Becks as well, north and south. So if I tried to find a Scandinavian bit of Lincolnshire I probably couldn't have done any better - it wasn't calculated I promise and anyway that's Aisby and the arrow points to just about where the photograph was taken just to give you a sense of the landscape. So what can we say about the five names on this sign? Well we know that personal names are often found in By we said they were about half of cases so we'd expect at least one probably more of these names to contain personal names. So Aisby does, Oasby probably does, Aunsby might, Swaby be probably does too so up to four out of our five names fit the stereotype, essentially they contain personal names, or might contain personal names; and in fact one of them preserves a rare personal name as well. Aunsby might instead contain an Old Norse normal vocabulary word rather than a personal name which means something like Wasteland. So these four names essentially seem to conform to that Scandinavian linguistic context that we were suggesting a few minutes ago. So they're made up entirely of either Old Norse words or names and were therefore probably given by speakers of Old Norse. Welby’s the odd one out so it comes from an old English word Wella meaning a stream or a spring. Now this name was who said could have been formed in a number of ways, so it could have been an old English name originally that's been partly renamed, it could have been an entirely old Norse name that's then been replaced with an old English word, or it could have been formed from words in two different languages originally that's perfectly possible .So maybe Old Norse speakers adopted the word Wella but maybe Old English speaker started using the word By. Now the latter option I think is maybe more likely because we've got By as you can see as such a common naming element in this area that it's not difficult to see how that might just become part of the local kind of naming vocabulary naming dialect that sort of thing. We can't be sure we don't have any early spelling's that might tell us that but we've got a combination of the two different languages in that name there. Now in the East Midlands we've got a few examples of this kind of linguistic replacement taking place, where an element from one language is replaced by an element from another language. Bleasby in Nottinghamshire is first recorded as Blease to Tun with Old English Tun but a century later it appears to be a name in By. Now the first element in the name is interesting because that appears to be Old Norse it's either a personal name or a normal vocabulary word. So it's possible that the name did actually start as a kind of fully Scandinavian compound and that Tuns been sort of used there and alternated with By, we can't know, but it's certainly an interesting example. One of the Normanbys in Lincolnshire, there are a few Normanbys, appears to have originally had an old English name so Northman which is the first element in this name is an old English word for Norwegian or Norwegian Viking, so that's being used to distinguish people in this place from the Danes who were more usual in the East Midlands. Stow which is in that first spelling you can see is an Old English word it means a place sometimes an assembly place, holy place something special potentially, and in 1086 we have examples of Normanstow and Normanby, so we have both these names apparently being used at the same date which is a little bit peculiar. But as you can see what we've got is the Old Norse element winning out, we end up with a By, we've got a Normanby not a Normanton in this case, or a Normanstow I should say in fact. Now Derby is possibly the most complicated example. I did think twice about including Derby but you can't not include Derby! So the larger a settlement is as a general rule, the less likely it is that a name will be changed. More people know it more people use it as less subject to change that makes sense so for an important town such as Derby which isn't you know we know it becomes one of those five boroughs. To have a new name is really interesting. So the Anglo-Saxons called the town Northworthy, northern enclosure, but the Viking names completely different. So the Vikings use the name something like Djúrby, which in Norse means deer settlement so at first glance there's no clear reason for this change there's no real similarities between the Old Norse and the Old English, it's not a partial replacement it's not even a translation, it looks like a wholesale renaming essentially. But actually, the Vikings may well have been influenced by a previous name which was used by the Romano-British population so pre Anglo Saxon now they used the name of the River Derwent which cause flows through Derby to refer to the settlement there which they called Derventio and that name seems to have been recognized in some way reinterpreted as a Norse name by the Viking settlers and has led to them using this Norse name which became Derby. Clearly there was some really complex processes going on here with naming, renaming subject to all kinds of considerations and I couldn't, I couldn't not show you that one. So broadly speaking these By names they're generally Viking names, generally given by speakers of Old Norse, but there are of course exceptions to the rule. The word By might sometimes have been used by speakers of Old English especially in areas where lots of By names already existed, and if this is the case it shows that Old Norse language was influencing the way that speakers of Old English named their own homes. We've got influence of one language on another. By could also replace Old English words and some names as we've seen so it seems to have fulfilled several different roles you know potentially widening its remit after the Viking settlement, after the speakers of the different languages have more chance to integrate and to communicate. The last pattern of names I want to talk about is Thorpes, again there are lots of these in the East Midlands I said that already, and detailed research on this type of name again means that we know some key things about them. So Thorpes are secondary or dependent settlements, and it seems as though they could be named in relation to places with either Old Norse or Old English names themselves. They're strongly associated with areas of England where which were sorry where the soil is most suitable for arable farming so that might suggest a phase of new settlements with a kind of arable farming function. We know that the vast majority of Thorpes have never got bigger than villages and villages named with Thorpe are much more likely to have been deserted in the medieval period they're not names with other elements. Now there was an old English word Throp which is I'm sure you can imagine could be easily confused with Old Norse Thorpe either in reality or in the documentary record that we have, and that's led some people to argue that Thorpe names aren't really Scandinavian at all they're just old English but like By’s about half of early Thorpe names probably contain a personal name and about half of those personal names are Scandinavian. As we said already you don't need to be of Scandinavian descent to have a Viking name, but a proportion that high still looks quite Viking; and just to demonstrate that Thorpes are generally these small places with a propensity to disappear here are some statistics. So this chart is taken from an excellent book called ‘Thorpes in a changing landscape’ and it gives the percentage of names in the East Midlands containing different elements that disappear. So they were recorded before 1500 and are now lost and as you can see Thorpe is a clear winner on the right hand side there. So one such example is Gainsthorpe in Lincolnshire. So it's name means secondary settlement belonging to Gamal; Gamal being a Scandinavian personal name, and the site of Gainsthorpe is now managed by English Heritage so you can go and have a stomp around it for free should you feel so inclined, get your wellies on, and you can see on this photo just about you can see the sunken track way where the village was and the lumps and bumps in the field there are all that remains of building foundations there. The village here was probably abandoned in the 14th century as many were and we still don't fully understand the reasons that this took place. So those are three major patterns of place naming in the East Midlands, just three there are more which tell us something about Viking settlement. So the first and probably the earliest are the Toton hybrids which might give us the names of some of the first Viking settlers perhaps military leaders, who came in claimed land in East Midlands. The By names probably come a little bit later and they were coined in an environment where Old Norse was spoken by enough people for place names in that language to be useful descriptive labels; in other words while the Toton hybrids don't necessarily point to more than a few Viking settlers the By names seem to suggest a denser settlement I promised I wouldn't talk about numbers I'm just saying denser. They seem often to have been new place names especially when their locations are taken into account but they also have really interesting relationships with pre-existing English names as well. The final group of place names, the Thorpes, they tend to name less significant places and they're more prone to disappearing than any other group. They do in their early incarnations at least have a strong association with Scandinavian personal names, so it's quite possible that Viking settlers using the word Thorpe influenced English speakers to start using the word themselves. So just like Vikings possibly starting to use the word Tun because it was common amongst English place names use of the English word Throp likely increased due to Scandinavian influence and so the two words are kind of almost indistinguishable now in the placement record. So from just three kinds of names we have potential evidence for individual settlers, for groups of settlers speaking Old Norse in the East Midlands and for the influence of Viking naming patterns on the English population as well. And the last thing I want to do let's talk about Holmes - I should really shouldn't I, and I want to talk about what happens to an Old Norse word once it's adopted in England in what you'd call an Anglo-Scandinavian context following the Viking settlement and integration. So names in Holme in England they come from that Old Norse word I mentioned earlier indicating raised ground and marsh or a place almost surrounded by water a kind of island but in these two different senses. So there are 11 settlement names in the East Midlands which contain this word and are recorded before 1150. So 11 Holmes that we know to be early. All but one of these is wholly Old Norse; Killingholme is the exception in which Holme probably replaced an earlier Old English word and by 1500 we have another 14 recorded as well and they may be much older it just depends when we have those records from. Now it's not possible to tell of course from a written record which precise meaning the word had whether it was is this dry ground in a marsh, whether it was surrounded by water proper, and to do that you have to look at the landscape either on a map or in the ground. So this is Broadholme in Lincolnshire which contains a Scandinavian personal name so you can see on the map it doesn't appear to be surrounded by water the landscape can of course change a great deal between the medieval period and modern maps but it doesn't appear that that would have been the case, so is it marshy? Well like many places there are well-constructed drains now and this is particularly the case in parts of Lincolnshire, where areas have been drained but I don't think this is hard to imagine as a boggy landscape artist's impression possibly. Broxholme also in Lincolnshire that gives us a clue in the name so it's probably from an Old Danish word that means marsh; it's near the River Till which you can hopefully see flowing through the map there and again if you look at a photograph it doesn't take much imagination to see marshland I don't think. With Flaxholme in Derbyshire this is a slightly later example it's not recorded until the 13th century and it's more difficult to tell which sense is appropriate here. So the course of the river from what I can tell looks to have been artificially altered so we can't really know certainly from modern maps which sense might have been more appropriate, and so this is the way this word is used in settlement names and it's a word which was absorbed into English to the extent that it was used in place names in areas far away from documented Scandinavian settlement. So what happens to the meaning of a word and the way a word is used when this happens? And in the case of home it gets used in a slightly different way as we move a little bit later and as we move to a bit of a different type of name, because the names that we have recorded later are often what we call minor place names and they are the names of smaller landscape features so it can be things like you know Hills, woodlands, fields anything of kind of local significance but not settlement names. So this modern map this shows the River Trent in Northeast Nottinghamshire towards Newark and you can hopefully see that there are four different places called Holmes on here so there's Normanton Holme right in the north there, named from Normanton on Trent, there's Grassthorpe Holme named from Grassthorpe, and we have North and South Holme both next to Sutton on Trent, so a Holme in this particular context appears to be riverside land and that's the pattern that actually continues through Nottingham sure as well along the Trent, and the word seems to indicate wet meadow so not water meadow in the sense kind of intentionally inundated and managed land, but simply land that's too waterlogged to be of any use for arable farming but it does make great pasture land generally speaking. And just to prove it this is Willow Holme this is in Rolleston in Nottinghamshire, so just slightly upstream from Sutton and from the map that we've just seen so similar area, and this photo was taken on a scorching July day I promise it hadn't rained for days they are not permanent pools that's just really soggy! So we've got an artificial embankment between the river and the land so it's not that the rivers flooded it's just the nature of the land. It's used mainly for grazing cattle as it happens on this stretch, and this is pretty much how all the Nottinghamshire Holmes that I've been to look, this is just a great picture and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that that's the same in in other parts of the region as well. And this is of course a subtle but quite important difference from the definition of Holme as found in settlement names. So in settlement names it's used to mark these areas that are suitable for building on, they are the dry bits. In minor place names rather than indicating where the waterlogged ground isn't, it's indicating where the waterlogged ground is. So that's given you something of a sampler looking at different kinds of Viking and Viking influenced place names in the East Midlands. We've seen the evidence that patterns of settlement names can give us and I've shown you the way that Norse words can be absorbed into English as dialect terms like back as influence on English place naming like Thorpe, and on the vocabulary used in minor place things as well like these Holmes. Now there are of course a number of different possible interpretations for many of the things that I've said for many of these naming patterns, but whichever the way you want to look at it I think it's clear that Viking settlers and their language and their own place naming habits in fact, have had a huge influence on the place names of the East Midlands and if you want to find out more about the place names in your local area - shameless plug time - and explore patterns and meanings you don't even have to buy a book, okay not plugging my book, I'd highly recommend that you take a look at the key to English place names. So this is a completely free online resource put together by the Institute for Name Studies here at the University and it lets you search for settlement names in England, explore patterns of names using the same languages, the same elements and even look for places around the country which bear the same name. So that's been something of a whirlwind I think, I hope I hope you're still with me here and but hopefully you're going away a bit better informed about the way that place names can actually inform our understanding of Viking settlement than when you arrived, and hopefully you'll be able to spot some of these places with possible Viking heritage as you go on your own travels around the East Midlands thank you very much. [Applause]
What can place-names tell us about Vikings in the East Midlands?
Dr Rebecca Gregory
Wednesday 20 December 2017
- Viking Talks
Dr Rebecca Gregory