|For November’s online SWAAG meeting, member Will Swales gave a fascinating talk about local place names. Members had previously been asked to submit suggestions. Will researched these names, assessing views on their origin from different sources, as well as drawing on his own understanding acquired through years of interest in the subject.
Several place names incorporated the word saetr from the Old Norse (ON) word for a ‘shieling’ or ‘upland pasture’. For example, Appersett, in Wensleydale, comes from the Old English (OE) appeltreow meaning ‘apple tree’ and the ON saetr. Here, as in other places, the name first given to distinguish a patch of ground was eventually transferred to the name of the adjacent village. Elsewhere a personal name was incorporated into the place name. Gunnerside probably came from the ON name Gunnarr and ON saetr. The village is first documented in 1301 as Gunnersete and that pronunciation has persisted down the centuries in local dialect. Harkerside and Shunner Fell may also incorporate the name of a person. Names linked to physical features in the landscape were also common. Dubbingarth Hill probably came from the local dialect word dub meaning a pool or pond.
The origin of some place names is uncertain. Booze, for example, has been variously interpreted as ‘house by the bow’, ‘cow stall’ or ‘cow house’. Others like Helwith are more straightforward, coming from the ON hella meaning ‘flat stone’ and ON vath meaning ‘ford’.
Will also researched the wonderfully named Great and Little Cockup in the Lake District. Cocc is OE for ‘game bird’, possibly a woodcock, whilst hop might come from the OE meaning ‘a blind and rounded valley’ or alternatively from the ME meaning ‘a remote valley’. Curiously Great and Little Cockup are now the names of fells, but perhaps Cockup was originally the name of a valley below. Closer to home, Oxnop probably had a similar origin, deriving from OE meaning oxna or ‘oxen’ and same OE or ME word hop.
These are just some of the place names that Will investigated for this excellent talk. The discussions that followed generated further questions and observations.