Following my post about Sutton Hoo, many of you wrote in to share your favourite British place names, so I thought I would do some etymological research for you.
First up, the impossibly picturesque Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter (pictured above) in the Cotswolds, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.
Lest you think the lovely little river was the scene of some gory battle, the explanation is much more banal. "Slaughter" in this case comes from an Old English form *slōhtre ‘muddy place’ or ‘ravine, deep channel’, probably related to our word "slough".. Not dripping with blood.
Not far away in Oxfordshire is Chipping Norton, originally Old English cēping ‘market’ Norton 'north of' (the opposite of "sutton").
Near Salisbury in Hampshire one finds the Wallops: Nether Wallop, Over Wallop, and Middle Wallop. This possibly comes from Old English wella, wælla ‘valley with a spring or stream’. OE + hop 'small enclosed valley'. Alternatively the first element may be Old English weall ‘a wall’ or walu ‘a ridge, an embankment’. This is not to be confused with our common verb "wallop" which has its own interesting story. See here: https://katherinebarber.blogspot.com/2010/11/word-of-week-wallop.html
Moving a little further southwest to Dorset, we come across Piddletrenthide on the River Piddle. This is not alas from nursery talk; in Old English pidele meant simply ‘a marsh or fen’ and the town meant 'Estate on the River Piddle assessed at thirty hides’.
In Yorkshire someone found the lachrymose-sounding Blubberhouses. This is in fact much cheerier, coming from Middle Engllsh bluber bubble + Old English hūs: ‘(Place at) the houses by the bubbling spring’.
Sheepy Magna & Sheepy Parva Leicestershire.
This one actually does have something to do with sheep: ‘Island, or dry ground in marsh, where sheep graze’. Distinguishing affixes are Latin magna ‘great’ and parva ‘little’.
Helions Bumpstead , Essex.
"Bumpstead" meant ‘Place where reeds grow’, from Old English bune reeds + stede enclosed pasture. Tihel de Helion was the name of a man who held one manor in 1086.
One reader was entertained to learn that a neighbourhood of York is known as "The Shambles". You can find the explanation here:
I hope I haven't been boring you but perhaps it is appropriate to leave you in Norfolk with Great and Little Snoring (settlement of the family of a man called Snear).