School of English
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Shropshire and Staffordshire place-names:


Unlocking the cultural and linguistic heritage of local landscapes for heritage practitioners, schools and communities

The issue

Place-names have unrivalled potential to inform and educate within heritage and school contexts, but are under-utilised in both. Many Shropshire and Staffordshire heritage organisations have recently faced budget cuts and site closures, while local schools lack the INS's specialist expertise. These restrictions limit capacity for community engagement.

INS research aimed to preserve the richness of Shropshire’s and Staffordshire’s linguistic and cultural past by enabling local heritage organisations and primary schools to use place-names to educate and inspire their communities and forge a stronger sense of belonging and identity.

The research 

Research by the Institute for Name-Studies (INS) at the University of Nottingham unlocked the rich linguistic and cultural history of Shropshire and Staffordshire via specialist interpretation of the counties’ place-names.

Drawing on historical, linguistic and innovative geographic (GIS) investigation, the research explains the languages in which the names were formed, the periods in which they arose, and what they meant when they came into existence as meaningful descriptions of places in everyday speech.These insights enable new understanding and appreciation of the landscape, its inhabitants, and their values.

The impact

I now have a greater understanding of how place-names can lead to so many learning opportunities!
Teacher, Key Stage 2

The key areas of impact are outlined briefly below:

  1. Enhancing regional heritage preservation and interpretation through building organisational capacity and increasing public understanding of local history;
  2. Enhancing cross- and extra-curricular primary education in south Shropshire, addressing Ofsted’s revised Education Inspection Framework (2019); 
  3. Inspiring new creative responses to the local Shropshire landscape in fiction for, and by, school children at a time of lockdown and national crisis.

Spotlight On:
Revealing Shropshire's heritage

The INS’s ‘Place-Names of Shropshire’ project fostered new partnerships with archives, museums and libraries across the county and boosted these organisations’ capacity to present and interpret Shropshire’s rich linguistic and cultural history to the local public.

The research expertise supplied by Dr John Baker, Dr Jayne Carroll and Dr Paul Cavill mitigated staffing issues at Shropshire Archives and Ludlow Library by providing specialist content for a 15-month travelling exhibition, public talks across the county, and a booklet on Shropshire’s place-names. This enabled the Shropshire Archives ‘to link [their] documents with the lives of local people, unlocking the hoard of knowledge preserved in those early records’, which was ‘important in helping to fill a gap in provision for Archives users’. 

Read more about our place names projects

Key outputs

Selected publications emerging from this research:

  • Baker, J., (2018). The Place-Names of Shropshire, Part Seven: Stottesdon Hundred and the Borough of Bridgnorth. EPNS. ISBN: 978 0 904889 93 2.
  • Baker, J. and Carroll, J., (2020). The Place-Names of Shropshire, Part Eight: Overs Hundred, the Borough of Ludlow, the southern part of Munslow Hundred, and the Stowe division of Purslow Hundred. EPNS. ISBN: 978 0 904889 94 9.
  • Cavill, P., (2020). The Place-Names of Shropshire, Part Nine: Chirbury Hundred and the Bishop’s Castle Division of Purslow Hundred. EPNS. ISBN: 978 1 911640 05 9.

Research period

2013 - 2020

Key researchers

John Baker (Associate Professor in Name-Studies) Jayne Carroll (Associate Professor in History of English)

Paul Cavill (Associate Professor in Early English)

Key grants

  • AHRC, ‘Place-Names of Shropshire’ (2013-2016), £714,720. PI: Carroll. Co-I: Cavill. RF: Baker.
  • AHRC Follow-on Fund, ‘Learning the Landscape Through Language: Place-Names and Childhood Education’ (2019-2020), £75,824; UKRI Covid extension funding £28,470. PI: Baker PI. Co-I: Carroll.

In providing the onomastic expertise that local heritage professionals and primary school teachers do not usually have, the INS has increased their capacity to respond to the challenges of recent funding cuts and new KS2 curriculum requirements, supplying training and content for exhibitions, talks, and new educational resources.


Related projects

Learning the language through landscapePlace-names of ShropshireStaffordshire place-names




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School of English

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