Suffolk Place-Names Their Origins and Meanings

The place-names of Suffolk (the South Folk of the East Angles) are an important, colourful and distinctive part of its rich heritage. From Eye and Snape to Kettlebaston and Wetheringsett, they are as full of interesting diversity as its beautiful scenery and landscape, and even the most familiar places will often have an unexpected origin and meaning.

English: Kettlebaston village sign
This book sets out to provide all those who know Suffolk, whether fortunate enough to live in the county or only passing through, with information about the origin of some 700 of its place-names, their history, their underlying meaning and their significance.

Suffolk’s place-names are the earliest recorded expression of its language and dialect. Once their likely origins are explored and revealed, they yield important and fascinating glimpses into many aspects of Suffolk’s past: its Romano-British legacy, its widespread colonisation from the 5th century onwards by Germanic tribes (mainly Angles), its later Danish Viking settlements, its agricultural economy and its social history.

This new book explores and celebrates the place-names of Suffolk so as to reveal their underlying meaning and significance. Most people will have wondered at some time or other about the original meaning of a place-name, and it is certainly the case that many of Suffolk’s towns and villages have delightful, interesting and indeed curious names. Who can fail to be intrigued by names like Bricett, Cattawade, Copdock, Snape and Shimpling? Why Bildeston and Boulge, Eye and Iken, Rattlesden and Rishangles? How did Knodishall, Nedging Tye and Walberswick get their names? What on earth does Wetheringsett or Kettlebaston mean?

English: Snape Maltings, near to Snape, Suffol...
In fact all these Suffolk names, like most of the names listed in this book, have original meanings that are not at all apparent from their modern forms. It is only by tracing each name back to its earliest spellings in the records that its original meaning can be discovered and its original significance appreciated. Each entry in the Alphabetical List of some 700 names provides some basic information about the history and origin of the name, as far as it is known: (a) its modern form; (b) some representative early spellings, with dates, to show how the name has developed; (c) the probable original meaning of the name; (d) the elements or personal names from which the name is derived; (e) other comments on points of linguistic, geographical or historical interest.

English: Detail of Thames Sailing barge at Sna...
The main Alphabetical list is preceded by a full Introduction which explores the different types of name, their structure, their chronology, and their historical significance. The names reveal fascinating information about the language and dialect of Suffolk in early times, about the settlement of Germanic tribes (the Angles) among the Romano-Britons, about the presence of the Danish Vikings, about the early landscape, and about the agricultural and social history of the county. At the end of the book is a Glossary of the words found in the names, and a Select Bibliography for Further Reading. The book is an A5 paperback and has 120 pages.

Some typical entries from the Alphabetical List:

Aldeburgh Aldeburc 1086 (Domesday Book), Aldeburga 1198. ‘The old or disused stronghold’, from Old English (e)ald and burh (dative case byrig). The name refers to a pre-English fortification (a Roman site here lies under the sea). The river name Alde is a so-called back-formation from the place-name. The local pronunciation is ‘ol-bruh’ or ‘awl-bruh’
Alpheton Alfledetun 1186-91, Alflede(s)ton 1204, Alfeton 1254. ‘The farmstead or estate of a woman called Ælfflǣd’, from an Old English personal name and tūn. This is one of the four Suffolk places named from an Anglo-Saxon female landowner (in this case possibly to be associated with a known historical figure, the lady called Elflet or Alflet mentioned in Domesday Book as holding estates in this area in 1066). The local pronunciation is ‘al-fee-t’n’ (with the stress on the second syllable).

Barking Berchinges
1042-66 (in a 12th century copy of an Anglo-Saxon charter), Berchingas 1086 (Domesday Book). ‘(The settlement of) the family or followers of a man called *Berica’, from an Old English personal name and -ingas. Barking Tye (marked thus on Hodskinson’s map of 1783) contains dialect tye (from Old English tēag) ‘a large common pasture’. Barking in Greater London is identical in origin and meaning.

Crofelda 1086 (Domesday Book), Croffeld c.1230. Probably ‘the open land by the nook or corner’, from Old English *crōh and feld. Spellings with Crowe- (where the rare first element has been influenced by the common word crow) first appear in the 15th century.

Fram(e)lingaham 1086 (Domesday Book), Framillingeham 1175. ‘The homestead of the family or followers of a man called *Framela’, from an Old English personal name with -inga- (genitive case of -ingas ‘people of’) and hām.

Icanho late 9th century (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the annal for 654), Ykene 1212, Ikano 1254. ‘The heel or spur of land of a man called *Ica’, from Old English hōh and an Old English personal name (genitive case -an). The Chronicle entry for 654 records the establishment of a model monastery here by St Botolph (it was destroyed by Viking invaders in the winter of 869-70). The local pronunciation is ‘ike’n’.

For a copy of the book please contact

David Mills

01449 744918

David Mills, a resident of Monks Eleigh, is Emeritus Reader in Medieval English, University of London, and a member of the Council of the English Place-Name Society and of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland. He has made a life-long study of the origins and meanings of English place-names, and his books include A Dictionary of British Place-Names and A Dictionary of London Place-Names (Oxford University Press), The Place-Names of the Isle of Wight (Shaun Tyas), and The Place-Names of Dorset (English Place-Name Society).

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