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Place names
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.

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News Record: 151     Updated: 20-11-2021 15:39:08

A wet and windy walk
On 6th November a small group of hardy SWAAG members braved the elements for a walk at Keld, led by Dave Brooks and Sue and Les Knight. Les began by explaining the geology and geomorphology of the area, then we set off to look at the East Stonesdale waterfall. The Yoredale rocks – repeating sequences of limestones, shales, and sandstones – are exposed along the Swale valley and in the waterfalls. We then followed the track across the slopes of Beldi Hill looking for crinoid fossils, which we found underfoot. Sue identified the lichens and we marvelled at their complexity using hand lenses. There were also some spectacular toadstools.

After a detour to look at the fault at the top of the Oldfield Gutter, we arrived at the ruins of Crackpot Hall. At the beginning of the 20th century this was a substantial two-storey house, but it now stands derelict because of mining subsidence and its remote location. Sheila shared the research she had undertaken into the buildings on this site and Dave told us about a costly mining dispute, centred there in the 18th century, which eventually reached the Court of the King’s Bench in London.

The original intention was to visit the well-preserved dressing floor on the lower level of the Beldi Hill lead mine, but this was thwarted by a length of barbed wire. By this point several of the group’s waterproofs were losing the battle against the driving rain and it was decided to postpone the planned picnic and head back to the car park! Despite the weather, it was an enjoyable and informative walk and a welcome opportunity to chat to other SWAAG members.

Beldi fault Crackpot Hall
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Crinoid Lichen
News Record: 150     Updated: 18-11-2021 16:59:23

Anglo-Saxon remains in Bamburgh
Last night SWAAG members were treated to an excellent talk by Professor Emerita Charlotte Roberts, about the excavation of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Bamburgh. The burials are in an area which is now sand dunes, near to Bamburgh Castle. They were first discovered in the 19th Century due to coastal erosion. In 1998 a rescue excavation began and between 1999 and 2007 there was a series of archaeological investigations of the site. The cemetery was linked to the royal centre that was Bamburgh in the 7th-9th centuries.

Professor Roberts led a study of the bones using paleo-osteological techniques. There were 98 skeletons in total, a quarter of which were those of juveniles of all ages. The average height in adulthood was calculated as around 5'7" for men and 5'4" for women.

Strikingly, there was a lot of evidence of very poor dental health. Charlotte described it as "grim". This could be the result of a diet high in protein and sugars, perhaps from honey and mead. There was also other evidence in the bones of obesity and gout. There was also some indication of chronic anaemia, which might suggest parasites in the gut.

One individual had grooved teeth suggesting someone who used their teeth in their work, perhaps textiles or basket making. There was evidence that many of these people habitually squatted when working. Another young man had suffered fatal wounds from a weapon.

Over half were not locals. Isotope analysis showed origins as far away as Scandinavia, the Mediterranean area and North Africa. 25% died young.

Once the project was concluded, the bones were once again laid to rest in specially made coffins in the crypt of St Aidan's church. Today you can visit the crypt where there is an audio-visual display explaining the project. In the church there is a touch-screen display and access to the digital ossuary which is also online.
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News Record: 149     Updated: 11-11-2021 14:28:26

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