This four-year project, launched in January 2013, brings to completion a long-term study of Shropshire place-names begun by Dr Margaret Gelling, former president of the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) and one of the subject’s leading exponents of the last fifty years.
Before her death in April 2009, Gelling had published around half the county in five volumes, with a sixth almost complete and now published (see Map 1). In six further volumes, we aimed to cover the remainder of the county (see Map 2) and to provide a full introduction to the completed survey.
In the process we have assembled and discussed the evidence for thousands of names of settlements, natural features, and landholdings. These names were coined from the early medieval period onwards by those who owned, governed, lived on, or worked on the land, and they provide evidence for the concerns and perceptions of these people, for the languages that they spoke, and for a landscape sometimes quite recognisable, sometimes wholly altered.
Place-names can offer a unique insight into aspects of the past which – because they are so local, so commonplace, or reflect developments at such an early date – are not recorded in other kinds of documentation. They illuminate the essentially local and particular, in indicating the former presence of the long-extinct lynx at Lostford, for example, or in identifying the sites of now-drained pools or levelled tumuli.
However, place-name evidence can also be used in addressing weightier aspects of social or linguistic history, and in our final, introductory volume, we address a wide range of research questions relating to the linguistic, social, and political history of this large division of the western midlands of England. There are questions here about the origins and boundaries of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, about the creation of shires and hundreds, about the variety of agricultural practice across the county (and particularly the extent of the spread of ‘open-field’ farming), and about the regional development of the English and Welsh languages in this border region.
Gelling's work was based on a substantial collection of historic place-name forms largely assembled over many years by local Shropshire volunteers. This collection has now passed to the INS in Nottingham where we can draw on established resources and experience to carry out the necessary tasks of organising, analysing, and interpreting the material. For the Welsh element of the work we were able to draw on the resources of CAWCS at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Publications and Conferences
Six published volumes of place-names constitute the main output of this project, which completes a twelve-volume survey of the place-names of Shropshire and makes available a large collection of unpublished evidence for the historical nomenclature of a significant division of the western midlands of England.
The published volumes II-VI present the detailed nomenclature (minor settlements, natural features, street-names in towns, medieval and modern field names) of ten historic divisions of Shropshire. The material for the remaining seven hundreds (the south and west of the county) are treated in five further volumes (volumes VII, VIII, IX, X, and XI), followed by a general introduction (volume XII) to all eleven preceding volumes. These volumes will soon be available from the English Place-Name Society.
Stottesdon Hundred; Bridgnorth.
Four subsequent volumes will cover the following areas:
- Chirbury Hundred; the Bishop's Castle division of Purslow Hundred
- Oswestry Hundred
- Clun Hundred; the Stow division of Purslow Hundred
- Overs Hundred; the lower division of Munslow Hundred; Ludlow
General introduction to the survey of Shropshire place-names, including sections on the landscape of the region, the origins of its administrative geography, the evidence for the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and for Romano-British survival, the impact of the Norman Conquest, and a detailed analysis of linguistic features.
The research outlined above will be made widely available in the form of EPNS volumes, taking their place in a series which is an established and familiar resource to a wide range of scholars from many disciplines across medieval and modern periods, including political, social and economic historians, linguists, archaeologists, and historical geographers.
Members of the research team have presented the findings of this project at a number of national and international conferences.
Members of the research team have presented findings at a number of national and international conferences, including:
- Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI) spring conference (Glasgow)
- Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic conference (Cambridge)
- SNSBI spring and autumn conferences (Gregynog, Shrewsbury)
- International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (Glasgow)
- Society for Medieval Archaeology conference (Oxford)
- International Society of Anglo-Saxonists conference (Glasgow)
- Naming in Diasporic Contexts workshop (Leicester)
- Storia Linguistica Inglese conference (Ragusa)
- Sachsensymposion (Leipzig)
- International Medieval Congress (Leeds)
A poster version of the Place-Names of Shropshire Travelling Exhibition was displayed at the SNSBI 2016 spring conference in Maynooth (Ireland).
In addition to the published volumes, an exhibition and a series of talks conveyed to the Shropshire community the interest of the subject and its relevance to so many historical topics.
Public Talks and Travelling Exhibition
A travelling exhibition took place on Shropshire’s place-names and includes photographs, maps, and documents (for example, copies of medieval charters and relevant extracts from Domesday Book and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle).
The exhibition has visited Oswestry Library, Oswestry Town Museum, Ludlow Library and Museum Resource Centre, and Shropshire Archives in Shrewsbury.
The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated 50-page booklet and a series of public lectures. The lectures provided a general, non-technical introduction to the subject and to the research, focusing on the items which were reproduced for display. The lectures were tailored to each venue, ensuring that every audience could enjoy the elucidation of a good number of local names.
Members of the research team have given lectures about the project to the following groups and societies:
- Aberystwyth Linguistics Forum, University of Aberystwyth
- Friends of Ludlow Museum
- Surrey Medieval Forum
- Shropshire Archives, Shrewsbury
- Kerry Local History Group
- Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Shrewsbury
- Bishop’s Castle Heritage Research Centre
Public lectures have been given at Fudan University, Shanghai (2014), and Renmin University, Beijing (2014).
On 29 December 2015, the project was featured in the Shropshire Star ahead of the exhibition's stint in Ludlow. Based on an interview with John Baker, the Shropshire Star article [PDF] focused on particularly interesting examples of local place-names.
On 12 February 2016, Jayne Carroll was interviewed about the project and the exhibition on BBC Radio Shropshire.
- The INS had a session at this year's International Medieval Congress, entitled 'Productive Ground: place-names and the landscapes of food provision'. It was chaired by Jayne Carroll and featured papers by Rebecca Gregory, Eleanor Rye and John Baker.
- John Baker spoke to an enthusiastic and welcoming meeting of Rotarians and their partners. Giving them an introduction to the work of the English Place-Name Society and a whistle-stop tour of Cambridgeshire place-names, emphasising their historical significance.
- Dr Jayne Carroll, Principal Investigator on the Place-Names of Shropshire project, was interviewed on BBC Radio Shropshire's Jim Hawkins morning programme.
- Dr John Baker was interviewed by Toby Neal (Features Editor, Shropshire Star) about the Place-Names of Shropshire project and travelling exhibition.
- Dr David Parsons gave a talk (in Welsh) to the Seminar Cyfraith Hywel, a group dedicated to the study of medieval Welsh law.
Open Educational Resources
When available, material associated with the Place-Names of Shropshire volumes VII–XII will be uploaded to this page.
For more related resources, visit our Resources page.
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- John Baker
Researcher, INS, University of Nottingham
- Sarah Beach
Research Assistant, CAWCS, University of Wales
- Jayne Carroll
Principal Investigator, INS, University of Nottingham
- Paul Cavill
Co-Investigator, INS, University of Nottingham
- David Parsons
Co-Investigator, CAWCS, University of Wales
- Emily Pennifold
Postgraduate Research Student, CAWCS, University of Wales
- Helen Watt
Researcher, CAWCS, University of Wales
Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS), University of Wales
English Place-Name Society
Further details of the Survey of English Place-Names, including a list of volumes already published on Shropshire and other counties.
Local history resources, including medieval charters, books, maps, and photographs, as well as information on volunteering opportunities.
Maps, images, and records relating to the county’s local history, archaeology, and natural environment.