Institute for Name-Studies
  • Print

Postgraduate Research

Research undertaken at the INS covers a variety of topics, including Scandinavian place-names in England, minor and field-names in the Danelaw, trees in place-names, and place-names on the continent.

The thriving postgraduate community forms an integral part of the research culture of the INS. Our postgraduate students are often involved in conferences and other events: see our News and Events page for the most up-to-date information.

You can find out further details about some of our current and completed projects below. See also our People page.

Willow Holme
Postgraduate students often undertake fieldwork as part of their research. This photograph is of a field called Willow Holme in Rolleston, Nottinghamshire (from Old Norse holmr ‘wet meadow’), taken as part of Rebecca Gregory’s doctoral research.

Current Doctoral Research

Graham Collis, ‘The place-name evidence for the settlement of Angles and Saxons and Anglo-Saxons in the

My research focuses on evaluating the evidence for the movement and settlement of Anglo-Saxons (in their various manifestations) in the coastal areas of the Pas-de-Calais and adjacent territories (Nord, West Flanders, etc.). I am concentrating on the Early Medieval period, specifically that commencing in the latter days of the Roman Empire.

Place-name evidence is at the centre of my research but supplemented by attention to other disciplines, such as archaeology, history, philology, and genetics. I make full use of continental scholarship, some of which is not widely known in England. I also pay attention to geological and climatic factors in determining population settlement and movement.

I hope that my research will contribute to broadening the study of “English” place-names to areas on the Continent and throw some light onto the close North Sea/Channel inter-relationships of this early medieval period.

Joshua Neal, ‘Essex and the Danelaw: the place-name evidence in context’

This project investigates the status of Essex as part of the Danelaw and the extent of Scandinavian influence within the county, using place-names as historical evidence where traditional textual evidence is limited.

Essex is traditionally considered part of the Danelaw, following the treaty between Alfred, king of Wessex, and Guthrum, the Viking leader. Contemporary texts are Wessex-focused and sparse, but may suggest a less clearcut situation: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, for example, tells us that Edward the Elder expelled the Danes from Colchester in AD 917.

The county’s place-names, on the other hand, are ubiquitous and, although complex evidence, provide the opportunity to assess the level of Scandinavian influence. This project will not only analyse major place-names across the county, but also examine field- and minor names (before AD 1350) within case study areas.

Funded by an AHRC Midlands3Cities Doctoral Studentship.

Jessica Treacher, ‘The Arboreal Toponym: place-name evidence for the exploitation of trees in early medieval England’

My PhD project will explore the place-name evidence for the exploitation of tree species in Anglo-Saxon England. The importance of trees within the physical and ideological landscape as monuments and as resources, and their role in landscape management, has been increasingly recognised in recent years. However, no exhaustive survey of the toponymic evidence has yet been undertaken.

I shall adopt a comprehensive approach, in an attempt to broaden our understanding of Old English and Old Norse tree vocabulary and the semantic range of individual tree-names, as well as the application of these names within a landscape setting. This research also has the potential to throw light on the importance of particular tree species as resources, and how they were managed; and it will allow analysis of regional differences and an examination of the extent to which such differences are cultural as well as linguistic.

Funded by the INS Doctoral Studentship.


Completed Doctoral Research

Rebecca Gregory, ‘Minor and field names of Thurgarton Wapentake, Nottinghamshire’ (2017)

This project investigated the minor and field-names of twenty-two parishes in Thurgarton Wapentake, a historic division of Nottinghamshire. It investigated the agricultural history of the region, and explored the usage of Old English and Old Norse-derived place-name elements in the late medieval period.

The thesis presents a new collection of minor names for this area, collated from both unpublished and published documentary sources, supplementing the English Place-Name Society’s survey for Nottinghamshire. The collection is presented as a survey, and forms a significant part of the thesis.

The data collected are selectively analysed in two case studies of place-name elements, and in an examination of the names from a single parish. It is shown that place-name elements have precise technical meanings, and that loan words form a significant part of the onomasticon, selected for a particular semantic purpose. The development and longevity of microtoponyms is also explored, and it is shown that field-names in Nottinghamshire frequently survive across a number of centuries.

The thesis contributes significantly to the available corpus of English minor and field-names, and demonstrates the ability of this material to address questions of land use, language contact, and agricultural and economic change.

Eleanor Rye, ‘Dialect in the Viking-Age Scandinavian Diaspora: the evidence of medieval minor names’ (2016)

My research examines what minor names (the names of fields, streets and landscape features) can tell us about historical dialects in areas of Scandinavian settlement in England. To do this, I am analysing corpora of minor names recorded before 1500.

More specifically, I am investigating how levels of borrowing from Scandinavian in Middle English dialects can be quantified in different areas of Northwest England. This involves determining which words found in the minor names can be securely derived from Old English and Scandinavian, and then calculating ratios of Scandinavian-derived to English-derived vocabulary. I am also considering other linguistic features that may be ascribed to Scandinavian influence, for instance the survival of Scandinavian phonemes and inflexions.

In order to see whether we can discern localised factors that determined how linguistically influential Scandinavians were in the regions investigated, I am considering what non-linguistic evidence (such as documentary, archaeological and genetic evidence) can reveal about the Scandinavian settlements in these areas.

My research project is part of an interdisciplinary research programme at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham, The Impact of Diasporas on the Making of Britain.

Funded by a Leverhulme Postgraduate Scholarship.

Dr Rye’s thesis is available online


Jill Bourne, ‘The Place-Name Kingston and its Context’ (2011)

This thesis presents a corpus of Kingston-names and examines each Kingston-place within its historical and landscape context in an attempt to answer the question, 'What is a Kingston?'

It begins by reviewing all previous published work on this recurrent place-name, both scholarship with an etymological focus, and scholarship which sets these settlements within their contexts. The connections between names in Kingston and the cyninges-tūn and villæ regiæ of the documentary sources are explored. Background material on the concept and development of kingship, the laws of the earliest kings, the early kingdoms and emergence of the larger kingdoms, is presented and considered in an attempt to understanding what a Kingston might have been. Particular attention has been paid to the growth and development of Ancient Wessex, where more than half the corpus of Kingston names are found, and to the kingdoms of the Hwicce and Magonsæte, where a further quarter lie. More than sixty-four percent are found in the late Roman province of Britannia Prima: the possible significance of this is explored also. The fundamental querstion of the thesis is addressed in light of what is known about Anglo-Saxon royal power and its workings.

The core of the thesis is that names of the type cyninges tūn or cyning tūn derive not from independent coinage meaning 'manor/farm/enclosure of a king' in some general sense, nor in direct relation to the phrase cyninges tūn as it is sometimes used in the literature as an equivalent to villa regia, but that these names are examples of a compound appelative cyninges-tūn, used for places, often sited on major long-distance Roman roads, where some function(s) of Anglo-Saxon royal power was carried out.


Eleanor J. Forward, ‘Place-Names of the Whittlewood Area’ (2007)

The recent work of D. H. Green and others on the benefits of combining linguistic, archaeological and historical evidence has highlighted the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration to early medieval studies. In this context, the Whittlewood Project (WP) lays important foundations for future projects, both in the UK and elsewhere, which seek to understand local settings in greater depth that any single discipline could permit.

The WP is a multi-disciplinary project, encompassing not only the research and analysis in this thesis but also the surveys and findings conducted by Dr Richard Jones (archaeologist) and Dr Mark Page (historian), amongst other scholars. The Project focuses on twelve parishes which straddle the county boundary between Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. The general aim is to build a picture of its medieval setting, with particular interest in the chronology of medieval settlement formation and subsequent changes in the way that communities responded to and utilised the landscape.

Chapter 2 presents a catalogue of Whittlewood place-name material, of which all names recorded before 1600 are analysed. The major place-names of Whittlewood and the surrounding area are investigated in Chapter 3. The band of parishes around Whittlewood adds context to the work solely on Whittlewood parishes; patterns may be further exploited. Chapter 4 draws from the minor names in this catalogue, weaving together the findings from the archaeological and historical surveys with those of place-names. This thesis provides a framework that can be used to aid future onomastic research projects with a cross-disciplinary focus.

Dr Forward's thesis is available online


David Horovitz, ‘A Survey and Analysis of the Place-Names of Staffordshire’ (2003)

This main body of this work consists of a gazetteer of all of the main, and many of the minor, place-names of Staffordshire (meaning any places which are or were at any time known to have been in what was, or became, Staffordshire), with early spellings, and observations on the likely or possible derivation of those names, often in a rather more discursive form than standard works on place-names, particularly where uncertainty exists as to the derivation. Early place-name spellings have been collected from many sources, primarily the volumes of the Staffordshire Historical Collections, but also the volumes of archive indexes at Staffordshire Record Office, supplemented by Staffordshire place-names extracted from other sources, such as the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society and the printed Cartularies of Haughmond and Lilleshall Abbeys, both in Shropshire, and from the editorial notes produced during research by the Victoria County History of Staffordshire team. Those slips often contain early place-name spellings. The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia, a monumental compilation of material on the history and folk-lore of Staffordshire published in 2000, has provided a valuable key to material relating indirectly to place-name research, such as topographical and archaeological features. Other material has been extracted from early work on the place-names of Staffordshire and adjoining counties by W. H. Duignan and from other volumes on place-name research and the journals of The English Place-Name Society and The Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland.

The analysis considers the early history of the county of Stafford, and reviews the place-name evidence under various headings, including the relationship of particular elements to Roman roads, the ancient boundaries, the Hundred meeting-places, and discussions on Scandinavian and French names and those considered to provide evidence of pagan religion. The analysis incorporates a list of personal names found in Staffordshire place-names, and of topographical and other elements.

Dr Horovitz’s thesis is available online


Back to top


School of English

The University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5919
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 7526
email us