Etymology to Reveal the Basis of Mythologies of Britain is Prompted by the Surprising Predominance of (Scottish) Gaelic Place-Name Derivation Across the ‘Dark Peak’, as Illustrated Here by Stocksbridge area Place Names
Steve Moxon, Creative Commons copyright August 2018. email@example.com
Derivation of the following micro-placenames are explained in full detail:
Hunshelf, Waldershelf, Unsliven Bridge, Midhope(dale), Hallam(shire), Hole House, Bate Green, Honey Hole, Segg Hole, Half Hall, Bramall Lane, Barracks, Avice Royd, Alice Lathe, Horsley, Mucky Lane, Carr Head, Crimbles, Briary Busk, White Row, Croft, Miry Bottom, Don Hill, Edge Cliff, Pea Royd Hill, Berton-Under-Edge, Cote House, Chud Ford Lane, Hen Holmes, Red & Black Rocher, Wood Willows, Hawke Green, Hawthorn Brook, Smithy Hill, Nanny Hill, Bocking Hill, Knoll Top, Watson House, Ingfield House, Broomfield Road, Bracken Moor, Wragg Field, Low Lane, Common Piece, Ling Bank, Shay House, Water Lane, Johnson Street, Gibson Lane, Button Row, Farmers Terrace, Horner House, Pearson Street, Bower Row, Pot House, Clough, Greave House, New Hall, Whitwell, Lee House, Allen Croft, Cross, Spink Hall, Hollin Busk, Coal Pit Lane, Cockshot Hill, Stone Moor, Bolsterstone, Ewden … and Stocksbridge.
Comprehensive Survey Reveals Ubiquitous Gaelic Derivation in a Complete Integrated Pattern, in Keeping with ‘Dark Peak’ Place-Names Generically; and Including Stocksbridge Itself
This is the first ever thoroughgoing survey of Stocksbridge area place-names providing full details of derivation of each and every one, together with the evidence and reasoning why alternative possibilities are non-viable and/or implausible. It culminates in an examination of the origin of the Stocksbridge name itself, which is here explained as not being from either a John Stocks or discarded fulling stocks, as have been suggested, and nor even of or from a bridge – as might be anticipated in consideration of there being several places in Britain named Stockbridge which do not and never have featured a bridge (and this total is merely from searching Streetmap.co.uk; there may well be several more). In all these instances the -bridge suffix is not what it appears. It’s a rationalisation to -bridge of a place-name element, the meaning of which has been completely lost, and consequently -bridge has been substituted as the best guess for what in terms of sound is not a million miles away. It follows that this must apply also to the first element.
This is a standard pattern in place-name evolution, that, as is here shown, applies to every Stocksbridge area micro-placename. The rationalisation in Anglicisation of a place-name element from a former language no longer spoken in the area, in effect becomes a latter-day subsidiary root. In other words, it is part of the derivation, but a much more recent, lesser part, clearly, than the main or tap root, as we might say. In some cases there can be more than one layer of this, so that the rationalisation cum Anglicisation would be not a secondary but a tertiary root. This key to understanding place-names is completely lost even on many of those who delve into them – and usually persistently so, even after it is pointed out. It is critical to grasp the process of the development of a moniker; identifying the function that each stage in the evolution played. Instead, many will dismiss any etymology in terms of layers of development as being somehow fanciful. Instead of using any existing ‘folk etymology’ to provide useful indirect clues to the actual former meaning, it’s regarded as if it were historical fact, to support literal and banal guesses of an origin, even when this entails an outlandish explanation, in a pretence that this is parsimonious and somehow the likely derivation.
No help is on hand re Stocksbridge nor regarding any of the micro-placenames in the area from the English Place Name Society, whose guide – A H Smith, The Place Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire. EPNS Volume 30 Part 1 for 1952-3, published 1962 — is more a simple (incomplete) list of place-names for the area, with few earlier recordings, and no attempt to derive any but a handful of them, and even then usually as lame surface stabs, and often in terms of not place-name elements but guesses at personal names – the seeming obsession by what is, after all, a Society that is part of The Institute for Name Studies. This, being within a university English department, is concerned with Old English and (we now know wrongly supposed) Anglo-Saxon origins: English (a Proto-English) is now thought to pre-date Anglo-Saxon invasion by several thousand years. The reason the EPNS researchers have to resort to hopeful, obscure personal-name derivation is because they cannot find place-name elements to fit. Not, that is, in the lexicons they use: Old/Middle English, Anglo-Saxon and Norse. Their response to this should have been to widen the language base of consideration. Norse anyway is a non-starter given the clear indication that it was not the basis of place-naming in the ‘Dark Peak’, in the complete absence of any occurrence of –thorpe or –thwaite in the area (the nearest to the east is Huthwaite in Thurgoland, and, to the south, Upperthorpe & Netherthorpe in Sheffield turn out to be recent monikers and not Norse at all).
After attempts ending in failure in trying to fathom in terms of Old/Middle English, it appeared that by elimination Welsh/Cumbric would be the key, given the occurrence of Pen Nook (and Penistone). But the second element here is clearly Gaelic cnoc, making either an unlikely albeit not unheard-of Britonnic-Goidelic hybrid, or — more likely — that the first element is a slight ‘mis-read’ of Gaelic ben (bheinn) instead of its actually being Welsh pen – a usual mix-up between initial b and p. It has now become very apparent that virtually all the place-naming in this area, as across the whole of the ‘Dark Peak’, is derived from a still more ancient ‘Celtic’ language: (Scottish) Gaelic – as I first outlined re even core-central Sheffield street names: https://stevemoxon.co.uk/dark-peak-place-names-are-gaelic/. The present research confirms that this applies specifically to all – every one (bar the sole exception of the self-evidently recent, completely English Springfield) — of the micro-placenames within the area encompassed by modern Stocksbridge town and beyond. That is, everything on the 1855 OS map, plus further detail on the subsequent 1893 larger-scale edition. This even may apply to the very earliest ‘new’ street names, though here in a couple of cases the name of an owner may be considered the primary derivation, with a Gaelic naming acting as a precursor to prompt it (as I will explain). I’ve extended out in a circle to include much of the facing Hunshelf hillside and some more of Waldershelf — all of those monikers listed above — and to the Stocksbridge name itself. Sure enough, instead of being rooted in a John Stocks or fulling stocks, this is instead a compound-word ancient naming Anglicised and rationalised to Stocksbridge.
So why Gaelic? If any ‘Celtic’ language, given what is known of prehistory in the wider region, it would be assumed to be Welsh (or the closely related Cumbric, as it would have been in the north of England)? Sense can be made by looking at the wider picture and seeing how the ‘Dark Peak’ fits in. Recent fine-scale genetics findings of a profound dividing line down the centre of Britain separating east from west, reflect the prehistory going back even to the paleolithic of migration from northern Europe into the east of Britain (bringing or subsequently producing a Proto-English), and from the Iberian peninsular to the west (bringing or subsequently producing a Proto-Celtic). The eastern edge of the ‘Dark Peak’ is right on this dividing line, which being long-standing and profound would have made for a ‘hard’ border. Proto-Celtic first gave rise to Goidelic tongues (Gaelic: in the British mainland, what is now termed Scottish Gaelic – because of the place to which it has long been marginalised), only later to Britonnic tongues (Welsh, Cornish & Cumbric). With or without conquest (and even conquest usually does not entail population displacement), in general in the west Gaelic in most or at least some areas would have been usurped by Welsh, which in turn would have been supplanted by English. So it is that we still see Welsh if not Cornish very evident in large areas not far from the centre of Britain, whereas Gaelic persists only in the far north-western corner of Scotland. It does not mean, though, that within this overall pattern there can’t have been lacunae in England of persisting Welsh or even Gaelic until near-historical times (up to possibly as recent as within a thousand years ago), but this would require special conditions. Just such exist in the ‘Dark Peak’. As well as the aforesaid ‘hard’ border on the east, aided by the hills, there are veritable mountains making for borders to the east and north; with, to the south, the Don valley and commanding heights above it. This made the whole of the ‘Dark Peak’ extremely remote and inaccessible, even to arrive at its borders; once inside the region there were thickly wooded steep-sided valleys with floors of treacherous marsh with which to contend, facilitating defence and rendering attack very costly. In any case, what land was available for farming was of infertile and hard-to-work thin clay soils. Until recent times, then, the area would have been both a daunting and non-prized target of invasion or peaceful settlement, enabling early settlers and/or early language sweeps to remain undisturbed until as late as relatively recent prehistory. Thus, the earlier ‘Celtic’ language of Gaelic was not superseded by the later Cumbric, or was so not long before eventual displacement by English. In this scenario, with place-naming having long been laid down over millennia and cemented under just one language, or only briefly under an intermediate supplanting one; then the Gaelic would have stuck firm. English then would have served to only modify place-names by rationalising them into near-sounding English words, albeit often implausible as names befitting the lie of the land. Bear in mind that if this ‘survival’ seems surprising, it’s not as surprising as the persistence of Gaelic-speaking today in Scotland. And there is gathering evidence that the ‘Dark Peak’ hardly is unique in England: there appear to be other areas of Gaelic ‘survival’ into near-historic times. Having done a lot of comparative place-name research, it is striking how often Gaelic place-name elements crop up not just in some but even most places in England, and not even confined to the west. There is going to have to be a major transformation in research into place-names in England.
To fully confirm the Gaelic context in considering Stocksbridge, here at the outset is each and every micro-placename derivation in the area, with full explanation. All are Scottish Gaelic, confirming that it is highly likely – albeit, in the way of etymology, not absolutely certain – that the Stocksbridge name itself has a Gaelic origin; that it would be an anomaly otherwise. The derivations are in no strict geographical order, being in some cases grouped according to related significance in meaning and/or place-name element. After Hunshelf and its related monikers, and the only two appellations on the earliest map (Hole House and Bate Green) and continuing with a foray into other hole appellations associated riverside appellations in the western end, I then start at the top end on the Hunshelf side of the valley at Bramall Lane to proceed eastwards as far as Henholmes, and then cross the river to move westwards along the Waldershelf side, moving up and down the hillside somewhat, covering the larger number of the more familiar namings within the area encompassed by Stocksbridge town today.
The names are all those to be found on the earliest OS map edition and the subsequent larger scale edition (plus Chud Ford / Chud Ford Lane). The Gaelic place-name elements are standard; many as found on the Ordnance Survey glossary of such, others in Scottish Gaelic dictionaries – not least historical ones, so as to capture more archaic forms, as would be expected in a place where Gaelic speaking is neither current nor recent but prehistoric. All have been compared across multiple sources so as to weed out the possibility of error or anomaly. As Gaelic elements are almost all topographical (and are so, at least in part, when mythological), then derivations are chosen to befit the lie of the land in the precise spot to which they’re attached, and are thus concretely checkable. Every one of them has been surveyed ‘on the ground’, at the very spot and across from vantage points, as well as from a variety of maps. Note that quite a few are mythological, as is to be expected with the prehistoric mindset: it is only with the early-modern mindset that there arose the separation of religiosity as a separate domain from the rest of life. The occurrence of mythological place-names is not, therefore, a reason to cast doubt on derivation as fanciful. On the contrary, such suspicion should be engaged when the proffered etymology is banal. Regarding pronunciation, where there is not included a rendition of the Gaelic, or if any of these seem doubtful, actual audios of the word elements usually can be found on-line, and there are anyway usually layman’s written representations showing emphasis and more phonetic rendition, as well as the widespread use of the formal International Phonetic Alphabet [IPA].
* Hunshelf & H Bottom / Water; Waldershelf, Salt(er) monikers. Hunshelf is likely both (as co-roots) an sceilt, ‘the divide’ (the definite article an being pronounced ‘hen’), and bun-(an-)sceilt, ‘end or bottom of the divide’: from bun, ‘base, basis, bottom, origin, root, stub, end’. In the latter case, the minor evolution of the initial letter is paralleled elsewhere in place-names, specifically of a transition bun > hun. Gaelic b is often softened, and as such denoted bh, indicating a tendency to aspiration, facilitating a change from the initial b to h. An (‘hen’) and bun would influence each other to produce a composite hun. [Note that there are alternate forms, sceilt and scoilt, and though I always cite sceilt it should be taken to be either.]
The ‘divide’ here is of course the border of Hallam(shire) – see below for its derivation. The Anglicisation of the suffix to -shelf is likely through Middle English schiften, Old English sciftan, ‘to divide, separate into shares’. This is a continuation in meaning, though with no sense to be made of what would thereby be the stem, then this indeed is a secondary and not the primary derivation, as is shown by the original recording of Waldershelf (see below) as Sceult – clearly from sceilt – and the multiple co-occurrence of sceilt in other, related monikers.
Sceilt both locally and further afield commonly has been Anglicised and rationalised to salt – as in Salter Hill & SH Lane / Plantation atop the Hunshelf ridge, and Salter Hills & Salt Springs Farm / Cottage / Beck atop the opposite Waldershelf ridge. These monikers are not, as has been supposed, from ‘salt trails’, as have been dubbed packhorse routes: there was no packhorse route along the Waldershelf ridge; only along Hunshelf. There is a proliferation of the salt appellation on ridges and also at river crossings, as would be expected from the sceilt derivation in that both are natural boundaries. It should be obvious that place-namings ostensibly in terms of a commodity carried on major pack-horse routes are not as they seem, in that this would be a useless way of distinguishing between places; especially from the perspective of the long-distance traveller unfamiliar with the locale, for whom place-naming would have been particularly important. There would have been little utility in identifying a particular spot as merely being on the ‘salt route’, as it were – as a traveller, you’re already on it, and it’s clear where it goes; whereas what would have been crucial was locating where on the route. So it is that Salter’s Brook has nothing to do with salt being carried from Cheshire. After all, packhorse trails were for transporting all types of goods, with salt, albeit important, being just one and conveyed in only one direction. Instead Salter’s Brook usefully labels the county boundary (sceilt) of Cheshire with Yorkshire, providing the often vital information to the traveller of how much further he has to travel and, therefore, how much longer he’s likely to take to get to his destination. The rendering as salt is merely a mnemonic secondary derivation. The very notion of a ‘salt trail’ most likely came not from the fact that indeed salt was transported from Cheshire, but from the coincidence of the profusion of sceilt appellations Anglicised / rationalised to salt, with many of them occurring on major packhorse routes as they either traverse or run along boundaries (especially as they tend to be ridge-ways to stay out of the mire of formerly undrained valley floors).
Sceilt (to reiterate) clearly is the basis of Sceuelt, the Domesday recording of Waldershelf. It’s Hunshelf shorn of either a qualification (bun) or the definite article (an). It is subsequently recorded as Waldershelf from 1290 onwards. Smith in the EPNS local volume, in contradicting all other authorities on this, suggests that Sceuelt instead may have been an early recording of Sheffield, but this is unsupported conjecture, belied by the earliest recording of Sheffield being Escafeld, with subsequent (mis-)interpretation along the lines of ‘sheaf-field’: all forms featuring the -feld suffix are entirely absent in Sceuelt. This conjecture by Smith rather is part-and-parcel of the EPNS being clueless as to the actual basis of derivations in this area, and trying to force them into their established template of Old or Middle English.
If the Domesday record is an anomaly, so that not sceuelt but waldershelf is the Anglicisation / rationalisation of the original construction, then the walder- qualifier (prosthetic element) is either uilt – to make uilt-an-(t-)sceilt, ‘the brook of the divide’; this being significant as more specifically the border than is the whole valley (the Little Don previously being Hunshelf Water) – or it’s uachdar, ‘top, summit’; the opposite of bun, ‘bottom’. Uachdar is Anglicised in Scotland typically to ’auchter’ but in some instances rationalised as well, to ‘water’; so it’s more than merely feasible that it could give rise to ‘walder’. A third though less likely possibility is a specific naming in terms of the barrow atop the ridge, which may well have been a new feature subsequent to the Gaelic-speaking era, so possibly could have been in Welsh: wyddfa, pronounced ‘withva’, ‘tumulus’. The problem with it is the dearth of Welsh naming hereabouts and the sound shifts required. Either uachar or uilt-an- (less so wydffa) would easily Anglicise and rationalise to waldeof, an Old English compound word from w(e)all(h), ‘foreigner, Welshman’ and theof, ‘thief’; or the near-identical personal name Waltheof, in recognition of the ownership of Waldershelf in the eleventh century by Earl Waltheof, the last of the English barons, and hero of two revolts against the Normans, who had finally been executed by William the Conqueror, after which the land indeed was held by the ‘foreign thief’: the Conqueror’s, niece, Judith de Lens, Earl Waltheof’s widow. [Judith appears to have framed in betraying her husband by informing on an approach to him regarding a planned third revolt, that actually Waltheof had not agreed to take part in. When she subsequently refused the suit of a noble that the Conqueror had lined up for her, she fled, forfeiting her estates to the man widely regarded as having conspired with Judith against Waltheof: Roger de Busli.]
If, however, the Sceuelt Domesday recording instead actually is the original form, then, rather than a rationalisation, the walder element (whether from waldeof or Waltheof) would be a latter-day prosthetic. This would explain Walder’s Low. With Earl Waltheof becoming a popular saint at the time and for a long time afterwards, then the barrow on Waldershelf may have been appropriated to commemorate him, and thereby latterly taken his name; Waltheof’s hlaew; an English moniker, obviously.
The overall picture here seems to be that the whole promontory on which sits Bolsterstone was named Sceuelt, ‘divide’, with Bun-sceuelt, ‘bottom of the divide’, being applied to the brook in the bottom, which more specifically was the border: hence the oldest recorded name of the Little Don being Hunshelf Water. If there was the construction uachdar-sceuelt, then this would denote the ‘top of the divide’; that is, the Bolsterstone ridge summit. None of this naming originally applied to the ridge on which sits Greenmoor, nor the hillside from there down to the river. Subsequently, with language change and consequent loss of meaning, then (however they came to be spelt) Sceuelt and Bun-sceuelt (or Walder-sceuelt and Bun-sceuelt) were usefully contrasting appellations now available to apply respectively to the two valley sides. With the south-facing side of the valley so abruptly rising from the river, then it took the name of the river (bun-sceuelt), leaving the other form (sceuelt or walder-sceuelt) to denote the north-facing hillside. As the Anglicisation / rationalisation that had led to the secondary derivation of Old English sciften continued to modern English –shelf, the two appellations then would be seen to denote not so much opposing hillsides as opposing ridges.
There are no alternative plausible, viable (primary) derivations for Hunshelf in English. Hunshelf Parish Council proffers ‘sunny ledge’ from “Old English dialect”, but no etymology is provided. There appears to be only obsolete Northern English lewe, which can’t conceivably work. More promising (and as, formerly, I had considered) is Old Welsh huan, ‘sunny’, but the pronunciation ‘hi-an’ rules this out. Trying to prize the moniker into a personal name + suffix format (‘Hun’s shelf’) has no historical or etymological basis. It would be just an EPNS-style lazy cop-out, as a name always can be found from the very long list available in any language; but there is never an answer to the simple question of how such a basis of naming could usefully locate a feature in the wider landscape context; the very function of place-naming.
What there is in English is a secondary root, through Anglicisation cum rationalisation from the Gaelic to Old English, producing hun, ‘earth’. This cannot be the root etymology, of course, with ‘earth’ being the one truly ubiquitous feature of land, and thereby entirely useless as a place-name; but a latter-day interpretation of the stem as ‘earth’ interestingly then can produce by extension hune, ‘creature of the earth’, that is, ‘a giant’. This appears to have been captured in the Domesday recording, Hunescelf, but more likely that’s a ham-fisted Norman attempt at recording what to a Norman would have been the wholly foreign nature of a Gaelic-rooted Anglicisation. The slightly later recording of the stem as hunde– suggests the Norman ‘understanding’ of the stem was ‘hun-de-’. Still, it seems that hune did become a secondary derivation, given the local playground folklore of warring giants, one atop Hunshelf and the other Waldershelf. There also arose the notion of two battling naively supposed ”Saxon chiefs” – ‘Walder’ and ‘Hun’, naturally. This vague local legend may well be rooted in ‘folk memory’ of the major border here, with what surely would have been the inter-tribal enmity it would entail. Alternatively or additionally, with Earl Waltheof there is an historical basis for one of the warring parties, who certainly was a ‘chief’, and whose huge legendary status in his popular sainthood made him a metaphorical giant, and therefore over time could be transmuted in popular imagination into an actual, that is, mythological one. It’s easy to see how the Waltheof story could have been elaborated into duelling ‘chiefs’ and/or giants.
* Unsliven Bridge. An sceilteann or bun-sceilteann (+ bridge) or bun-sceilt-na-bruaich, meaning, respectively, ‘the cleave’ or ‘the cleave at the bottom’ or ‘the brink of the river at the bottom of the divide’. All are essentially the same construction as the basis of hunshelf: an sceilt, ‘the divide’, and/or bun-sceilt, ‘the bottom / end of the divide’. A usual process in the evolution of place-names of further continuation of lenition (softening) of the initial h easily could lead to its being lost – hun and un in any case are almost the same sound.
Sceilteann is a grammatical modification of sceilt, which alters the meaning to ‘cleave’ – that is, the notion of division is turned on its head to bring two divided parts together; which, of course, is the function of a river crossing. Originally, if there was any crossing here it would have been a ford, so the bridge element is recent, as it appears (there is no trace of Gaelic drochaid); but then there is no reference to the former ford in the construction. It may be that this was superfluous. With the place-name incorporating the notion of the two sides cleaving to each other, as it were, then there is already the understanding of a crossing. Alternatively, the construction would be an / bun-sceilt-na-bruaich, ‘the brink of the river at the (bottom of the) divide’; bruaich being a common last element in riverside appellations.
As with the Anglicisation of the -shelf suffix in Hunshelf and Waldershelf, there would seem to be a subsequent influence of Middle English schiften, Old English sciftan, ‘to divide, separate into shares’. This is influence and not main derivation, of course, given the context of a cluster of closely related Gaelic-rooted place-names; and, furthermore, there being no explanation for the first syllable as English – there’s no such construction as un-schiften. The medial v might also be prehistoric confusion (that is, in Gaelic-speaking times) with Gaelic sleamhainn, pronounced ‘sleevan’, meaning ‘slippery, smooth’; but with nothing suggesting itself as to what this could qualify (a stem) to make any sort of plausible place-name, then again this can’t be more than a subsidiary contribution.
An outlandish bid to explain the moniker was made by a ‘local historian’, Wallace Charlesworth, writing in the 19th century: unshriven, ‘to die with sins not forgiven’. An impossible basis of place-naming in any case, it entails the forced notion of locals being obliged to cross the bridge in order (for no discernible reason) to be baptised in the river and specifically on its other side. It’s a usual sort of lazy, literal piece of straw-clutching.
* Midhope, M Dale / Brook, Midhopestones. Maid-cop, ‘the border summit / ridge / hill’; and/or maidan-cop, ‘the hill of the plain’ (with any necessary conjunctive). From maid (a modification of meadhon, ‘middle’), ‘border, boundary’; maidan, pronounced ‘MAID-on’, ‘plain’ or ‘grassy plain’; and cop, ‘hill’ or ‘summit’ or ‘ridge’.
Relative to the surrounding landscape there is something of a plain just below Midhope (Upper Midhope) and above Midhopestones, part of which on maps is Low Moor. Upper Midhope is at one end of and just beyond this, on a little conical eminence befitting the designation cop, ‘hill’; which naming, just as in the case of Hope, Derbyshire, and as in the several hope place-names in Scotland, would have been aspirated to produce chop were it not for the c in ch being silent, leaving hop. This modification to maidan-hop, subsequently naturally losing the middle syllable (plus any conjunctive) over millennia, would account for a latter-day misread of mid-hop, ‘middle of the valley’ or ’between two valleys’, being the nearest sense that subsequently English-speaking locals could make of it, even though topographically there is no fit – the situation, in uplands, is neither between two valleys nor within one. As an exact parallel, Midhopelaw Pike in Northumberland is a small eminence on what relative to surrounding landscape is a plain. That mid-hop indeed is a distortion (through rationalisation / Anglicisation) is evident in that it doesn’t work pronunciation-wise: the emphasis can’t be on mid(dle) if that were what it is, as this is the qualifier, not the main element; and it can’t be the Gaelic for ‘middle’ (meadhon) as this is pronounced ‘mooaun’. The original Midhope, then, was what became Over (Upper) Midhope when the need arose for this and another village growing nearby on the river to be mutually distinguished; the latter becoming Nether Midhope or Midhopestones.
On this reading, the latter-day attribution of the midhope appellation to the dale (Midhopedale) and the river (Midhope Brook) seems to be simply through the Midhopes together becoming the main population centre; but then there were Bolsterstone, Green and Deepcar villages. In any case, why would the midhope appellation usurp sceult to denote the valley and its river? This is explained by the rest of the etymological story: there are instances of meadhon morphing to maid, and here the sense of ‘middle’ shifts to ‘between’ and thence ‘divide’, so meaning can change to ‘boundary, border’. This takes care of both the above-mentioned issue re emphasis within the moniker as well as removing the pronunciation problem with meadhon. The upshot is that Midhope either originally or subsequently could come to denote the border as formerly it was by sceilt, after the latter assumed the contrasting forms of hunshelf and waldershelf to label the opposing hillsides, leaving a vacancy in naming the valley as a whole, which midhope then could supply. In this case, the second element would not refer to the small hill on which stands Upper Midhope, but to another feature.
Cop can denote a pronounced knoll (a small conical hill), as at Upper Midhope, but also a ridge; especially one with a crest-like summit. Indeed, the latter is the more common usage. This stems from the root meaning of cop being ‘top or summit’. Usually taken to be an ancient English word with the proviso “of uncertain origin”, actually cop comes from Gaelic cob, ‘plenty, abundance’. The evolution to cop is in the sense of ‘a lot of hill’. This explains the applicability to conical hills, in that a cop is also a word for a conical roll of thread wound on a spindle – ‘a lot of thread’; so a conical hill was imagined as having been built up as if it were a mass of windings. This etymology shows up locally above / beside the Wharncliffe plateau in Cob Castles (an expression denoting ‘large over-topping houses’). In the case of the derivation of Midhope with maid as the stem, the ‘summit’ of the ‘a lot of hill’ would be the ridge atop Waldershelf – a marked crest at the top of its Ewden face. With this being the notable feature at the border, it could then become the basis of a moniker for the whole valley to the north: Midhopedale.
Notwithstanding that the area is not one of Norse derivation of place-names, the late local historian David Hey suggested hop, ‘valley’, given the location of Midhopestones mid-valley. But this is based on the false assumption, presumably from the presence of the old courthouse there, that Midhopestones is the original settlement, when all toponymic context shows not medieval but ancient origin. Hey ignored that the moniker evidently is derivative in requiring the qualification –stones, so it can’t be the founding appellation: it can’t be the place originally denoted Midhope. [Stones is naively assumed to be from the stepping stones there. An inherently unlikely basis; more likely it’s an Anglicisation and rationalisation of sruthan, pronounced ‘struan’, ‘tributary stream’, indicating that this settlement is distinguished from its parent appellation in being actually on the river (which, to make sure you know you’re talking about the right valley, is itself here identified, in sruthan, as the junior of the main river in the area, the Don). The parent – as discussed above – would be either Midhope village proper (subsequently labelled Upper Midhope) or the ridge summit of Waldershelf.]
* Hallam(shire). Halainn, ‘beautiful, lovely’, with a standard relatively recently added English suffix. Alternatively, there is hallan, an old dialectical word in Scotland, Ireland & Northern England, meaning ‘the passage or space between the outer and inner door (of a cottage)’, which conceivably could denote a buffer zone of land, as Hallam might have been considered, being the last sub-division of ancient Northumbria before its overall border to the south with Mercia; which in turn surely reflects still more ancient tribal boundaries. Although it seems unlikely for naming an area as large as a province or tribal homeland, for it to be ‘no-man’s land’, it’s conceivable, at least, that it may indicate a strategic non-allegiance with both of two warring parties, each of which has a border with Hallam, one to the north, the other to the south.
The late local historian David Hey suggested along not too dissimilar lines, if far more recently, some modification and extension of meaning of OE halgh, to come to denote an area of land by a border; but apart from the issue of how this could apply to a whole, itself completely bordered area, halgh denotes ‘a nook or corner’, or ‘low lying land by a river’, and there appears to be no primary source for the putative extension of meaning. Elsewhere, Hey states that although halgh denotes a nook of land, it sometimes refers to a territory detached from the main unit, but this would be odd for territory on this scale (whereas detached portions of manors are common, a detached portion of the size of a ‘shire’ would be unprecedented), and in any case, the term for such was berewick, and, later, barton.
The EPNS tried to prize the moniker into English in positing the complication of the “dative plural” of OE halh, ‘rock’, to make a construction with the strange meaning of “at the rocks”, that David Hey politely described as a “technical explanation” that as an attempt at derivation is seriously problematic. This forced derivation parallels trying to elaborate Gaelic àl or ail, ‘rock, stone’, to fit; though at least this is the right root to examine, given that it’s the likely root of OE halh. There is the diminutive ailín, ‘little rock’, but this would make no sense in the context. There is problem anyway in that rock doesn’t define the area. The whole ‘Dark Peak’ indeed is distinctive in its sandstone sometimes compressed into grit-stone, but Hallamshire is only a portion of this wider area, and the visible manifestation in grit-stone edges is much more a feature of the mountainous areas to the north and west of Hallam. Wharncliffe is beyond the border, and there are no other edges anything like as prominent. Loxley Edge and Rivelin Rocks are minor features, and there’s only a portion of Stanage, with even this arguably not within Hallamshire, as it’s right on the border. Grit-stone doesn’t really define the area, then; not Hallamshire specifically. What does define the area of Hallam is its remarkable green-ness, being hilly but almost wholly below the tree line (certainly so prehistorically, given an average temperature several degrees Celsius higher than it has been since those times), and the steepness of the hills in many places precluding clearing forest for agriculture. The combination of lush woodland and highly distinctive relief (pronounced high ridges), without the local bleakness of mountainous terrain, which instead provides a pleasing distant backdrop, indeed renders the whole area strikingly attractive, befitting halainn.
* Hole House & HH Brook / Lane; Holes. Oil(l)-an-eas, ‘the cascading stream of the steep bank’, from oil(l), ‘steep bank, precipice’, and eas, ‘cascading stream, waterfall’. This is the key place-name in the area, combining as it does two elements separately occurring in several appellations within the valley; and important in that Holes is the only place-name on Jeffreys’ map (the earliest to show even the slightest local detail) apart from Bate Green in the area of the current town, aside from Stocks Bridge itself.
The local pronunciation ‘oyle’, starkly different to the written form (or how it is spoken only when an attempt is being made to be ‘proper’), is pivotal here when it comes to meaning, and requires the spelling out of oyle as the alternative, nay preferred form. In other words, the spelling on maps essentially is mistaken. The initial h actually is prosthetic: a standard scribal device in recording, of placing an aspirate before an initial vowel, which was very common in Northern Middle English. An imposter, then. Only by reason of the long-established official recording was the name ever spoken hole.
Oil(l), ‘steep bank, precipice’, befits what is a steep-sided valley at several points, notably at Hole House. So the long mystery of why locally hole is pronounced ‘oyle’, and where such holes (oyles) may be located, is here solved: instead of looking for some sort of a pit or a small hollow – anything with something of a hole about it — it’s a steep bank (or two) we should have been looking for.
The house element here – as in several other instances within the area of Stocksbridge as it is today – is not the recent English tack-on it seems, but instead is a rationalisation of the element: eas, pronounced ‘ay-s’, ‘cascading stream’, which, with the conjunctive, as a suffix forms the construction -an-eas. Over time, as well as through Anglicisation and rationalisation, the multi-syllabic oil(l)-an-eas as usual would have lost the intermediate conjunctive, and a reading of ‘house’ was inevitable given local pronunciation more like ‘arse’!
* Bate Green & BG Farm. Bait-na-grianan / na gréine, ‘the border of (the district of) Green’. From bait, ‘belt, border’, and/or bolt / built (pronounced ‘bait’), ‘edging, margin, border’; and/or beit, ‘an addition’ / bate, ‘piece’; plus grianan, ‘sunny place, the abode of the sun’, or na gréine, ‘of the sun’. The conjunctive would have been lost over time, with its former presence leaving the sense of a word break. As the only other place-name on Jeffreys’ early map after Holes and Stocks Bridge that is within the current area of the town of Stocksbridge, Bate Green is an important moniker whose derivation needs to be established here near the outset of this survey.
The derivation fits the geography of what is known about the ancient local administration. Bate Green is right at the eastern edge of Green district, latterly a sub-division of Bolsterstone parish – its western part. Obviously, the district is far more ancient than the parish which later was mapped on top of the former demarcation of administration, such that Green was subsumed. And this was not neat: there is no corresponding district in the east of Bolsterstone parish. It’s a complete disjuncture between Green and any divisions of parish or manor. The district is so ancient that it is designated nebulously ‘district’ without a specific label to indicate its nature or origin. Nevertheless, it was so entrenched that even into the late 19th century it remained the administrative unit that included some of what has become the town of Stocksbridge. It is known that Green district extended far east enough to encompass the Horner House area, the eastern edge of which is almost precisely due north of Bate Green. All fits with Bate Green being on the border. The sense here – and encapsulated in the forms beit or bate – is not so much of the border per se as that this patch is part of the district of Green: that here you’re still within, not without Green, despite being on its edge.
The district of Green was centred on and named after what we now call Green hamlet, but which at one time was surely a village; the chief settlement in the lower reaches of the Little Don valley (Midhopedale). Being on relatively flat land opening out on an otherwise steep-sided north-facing hillside, it’s in a favoured position in receiving full sun: indeed a ‘sunny place’; that is, ‘the abode of the sun’ (grianan) or ‘of the sun’ (na gréine). All local places with a green element – Grenoside, Greenmoor, Hawke Green, Watson House Green, as well as Green hamlet – are from grianan or na gréine, or slight grammatical modifications thereof. The meaning in the usage of grianan is more specifically ‘high sunny place’. Greenmoor obviously sits in full sun atop the Hunshelf ridge, and Grenoside is named after Greno Knoll, that similarly in being atop Wharncliffe ridge likewise is in full sun.
* Honey Hole. Conaidh oil(l), ‘enchanted precipice, sacred steep bank’. The second element is as for Holes (Hole House), oil(l), ‘steep bank, precipice’. Conaidh frequently is Anglicised as honey in place-names, and means ‘enchanted’ or ‘sacred’. A parallel instance is Honey Well, Smithies (near Barnsley) – Smithies being named after the nearby knoll, Smithy Hill, from sìthean (pronounced with an initial sound not unlike ‘sh’), ‘fairy knoll’: an exact parallel with the Stocksbridge instance (see below). With the location of Honey Hole by the river – very likely at one time right on the river bank, the course of the river over time having since changed — the compound ‘sacred precipice’ looks like a naming associated with the oft-occurring various forms of ‘water spirit’. Again, this parallels Honey Well, Smithies.
* Segg Hole. Segais oil(l), ‘steep bank by the dwelling place of a supernatural being’, complementing the previous derivation (Honey Hole). The hole element again is oil(l), ‘precipice’, ‘steep bank’. A visit to the site reveals a near precipitous very high bank that strikingly befits the use of oil(l) – the bank remains, descending to where now is a steelworks yard, but where formerly ran the river; this having been diverted (partly, sometime before 1905; wholly at some juncture before 1931) so that it now runs well south of its original course. The precipice down to water would have connotations in ancient imagination of a portal to the ‘Otherworld’ (a ‘liminal entrance’). No surprise, then, that the first element appears to be mythological: likely related to the famous mythological Well of Segais, about which there is lengthy discussion by etymologists too detailed and technical to reproduce here (but which can be found on-line). Seagais originally may have been the name of a deity which became an epithet for other deities; from ‘Common Celtic’ sego-, ‘force, vigour, victory’. Together with a variant sedosti– from Indo-European / ‘Celtic’ sedos or sádas, ‘seat, place’, this suggests a meaning of ‘dwelling place of (a) supernatural being(s)’; the Well of Segais being imagined to be located in the ‘Otherworld’, which indeed is the place where supernatural beings were supposed to reside.
Interestingly, the recording on the first edition OS map is Sough Hole, which rather than being an error may be a vernacular alternative reading invoking saobhaidh, pronounced ‘seu-vee’, meaning a den or lair – invariably of a mythological being, as is clearly the case locally of Soughley / Soffley near Deepcar. If it was simply an error, it’s a stark coincidence of meaning. There may well be an etymological connection between saobhaidh and segais, their being similar-sounding words. It’s no distance in word evolution for the v in the pronunciation ‘seu-vee’ to become g. It’s possible indeed, therefore, that the derivation of segg is saobhaidh.
Another or complementary possibility is sgagait, sgagait, ‘a split, crack’, or sgaigte, ‘a part’ (as a result of a split). This would be a neat fit with the derivation of Hunshelf, adding to the cluster of inter-related appellation. In this case, a reading hole may be itself part of a rationalisation (of the second syllable of sgagait / sgaigte). Further alternatives for the stem are all likewise Gaelic: sead or seasg or seóg, with grammatical modification of the stem. Seóg, ‘swing to and fro’, befits the very big U-bend of the river in the mouth of which sits the farmstead, though this is of the river, so it would have to be related to the steep bank here – unless this part of the construction is what has been rendered hole, and there is no separate second element. Seasg, ‘barren unprolific, dry’, might well apply given the bands of clay in Hunshelf; and Sead, ‘a way, road’, would fit very well indeed, given what was formerly a ford at the top of the U-bend opposite, entailing an ancient track-way passing right by. Sead, in being pronounced ‘sod’, would seem not favourite, but one or both of seóg and seasg could be secondary roots providing the sound shift.
As with so many of the namings in the Stocksbridge area, rival derivations in other languages here either don’t suggest themselves at all, or would be banalities useless to distinguish between places, and, therefore, non-starters.
* Half Hall. Abhainn oil(l), ‘river precipice’; that is, ‘the very steep bank of the river’. The bh is pronounced somewhere between f and v in this context (abhainn is almost the same as the Britonnic word for river, which is rendered ‘avon’ in the river of that name), so is the source of the f in driving the rationalisation to half: the recording was as Hauve Hall in 1871. That half hall is a rationalisation not just of the first element but in its entirety is shown by the recording as How Fall in 1774: hall is a more recent guess. It’s actually oil(l), again (‘precipice’, ‘steep bank’), this time in disguise, as it were. The steep bank in question is the river bank at this point. Immediately adjacent to – precisely at – Half Hall is the river, which here is very deep cut: bounded by sheer banks, most especially in steepness on the south side, where was Half Hall; though far greater in height on the north side, which of course is in full close-up view from Half Hall. All in all, this is the overwhelming topographical feature at this point in the landscape, and inescapable as the basis of the place-naming. Given how deep the river has cut, its course would not have been significantly different prehistorically, so what is seen today is not far from what it would have been at the time of naming.
* Bramall & B Lane. Bràigh-mheadhain (+ hill) (or some near-identical grammatical form of this), ‘the mid-line of the uplands’. The construction occurs elsewhere; mheadhain appearing to be simply a variant spelling (possibly the genitive case) of meadhon, pronounced ‘mooaun’. It applies precisely to the topography here of Bramall Lane (and the farm, Bramall, past which it runs). The course of the lane more or less hugs a contour of the Hunshelf hillside at the top of the brutally steep initial slope of it, a which point the ground levels off into a veritable shelf. So there is here in effect a top, albeit it’s only part-way up the hillside overall. The degree of alliteration between the second and third syllables would lead to their elision, and the modified ending in l would be through the loss of the meaning of even what, Anglicised, would be brae, leading to the affixed hill. Alternatively, there could be a final element of meall, ‘lump’, reflecting the sudden levelling-off, resulting in effect in a lump along the hillside. Another possibility is an assumption in Anglicisation, through a familiarity to English speakers, of -all: that it’s a compounding with hall.
* Barracks..Bàrrach, ‘high topped’. This would undergo the obvious rationalisation, which necessarily supplies the pluralisation; there being no such English word as the singular barrack. With the farm positioned on Bramall Lane, then again the topography is just at the top of the especially steep initial gradient of Hunshelf hereabouts, making the notion of a position atop apposite notwithstanding that it’s not on the overall summit. However, it’s almost at the very end of the lane, where the shelf has almost disappeared, so the sense of being a mid-line of the hillside (the derivation of bramall) is less applicable, and hence, rather than using the bramall stem with a second-element modifier to distinguish from Bramall (the farm), a different appellation was appropriate. An alternative and likely secondary root is borrach, ‘rough hill grass’.
* Avice Royd, Alice Lathe / Cottage (Waldershelf). Aileadh, ‘rising, ascending’. That the derivation works pronunciation-wise is shown by it’s being the basis of the Scottish place-name Alyth. All three local instances are on notably rising ground. Up the steep Hunshelf hillside, Avice Royd is atop a bank, where it gives way to merely sloping rather than steep meadow, and Alice Lathe is on a steep section. Across on Waldershelf, Alice Cottage is up the very steep bank on which stands Belmont, though in the context (see below) here the derivation may be aillse, ‘fairy’. As for the royd and lathe elements: contrary to standard etymologies, Royd here and elsewhere locally (and across a much wider area) is likely not Old English rod, ‘clearing’, deriving from the Norse, but instead from roinn, ‘division, share, portion’. It may be, likewise, that lathe is not the latter-day English place-name element it appears to be, but instead llaith, ‘damp, moist’, or the similarly pronounced lìte, ‘wet’ – the derivation of the Scottish place, Leith. As a last rather than first element, this would fit Gaelic word order.
* Horsley & H Well. Òs (+ ley / leah), ‘mouth of a stream’ (in a clearing, as denoted by the later-added common English suffix). With the local pronunciation ‘oss’ for ‘horse’, then the rationalisation from the Gaelic into something recognisably English hardly could have been anything else. There would have been no prosthetic h: this arrived in recording through either map compilers rendering the vernacular ‘proper’, as it were, or the scribal device (as in the case above of Oyle > Hole). The ‘well’ actually (as is so often the case) is a spring, from which issues a substantial stream, as is apparent on the ground today; so this appears to be the primary naming rather than the eponymous close-by farm.
* Mucky Lane. Mulloch (+ lane), ‘summit, top, crown, crest’. Simple contraction over time would turn the word from two syllables into one, thereby losing the medial ls and ending up with muck; this sounding even closer to the English through rationalisation to this word as soon as it becomes evident that muck will be the likely settled destination of the word’s evolution. Naturally, in applying to such as a lane, muck is used in adjectival form: mucky. Latterly this would stick in the case of ancient green lanes that have never been metalled. The lane goes straight up the Hunshelf hillside perpendicular to the road along the ridge atop it (Hunshelf Lane) to join it there, having started already most of the way up, branching off Hunshelf Road at Horsley Well. An exact parallel due south across on Waldershelf is an old track likewise beginning already most of the way up the hillside, from the start of Long Lane, and similarly running perpendicular to and in the end joining Heads Lane (which, incidentally, is from ard, ‘high’); the ridge-way route atop Waldershelf.
The notion that the moniker somehow concerns pigs is actually also from a Gaelic word: muc. Self-evidently that would be no less a non-starter as a basis of place-naming than that the naming is nothing more than what it seems taking it at face value (dirty). However, it’s possible that the root is from the Yorkshire bogie, Muck Olla, which was conceived of as a monstrous boar (again, from Gaelic muc, ‘pig, boar’). This mythological figure long ago was invoked in Eire on ‘Mischief Night’; likewise here in Yorkshire. It has been suggested that it was at one time an important deity, in which case it may have been utilised in place-naming owing to the association between deities and summits, of course. For once there seems to be a Welsh (Cumbric) viable alternative here: moch, ‘fast flowing water’; except that there is no fast flow from Horsley Well at the foot of Mucky Lane, and no stream down the lane’s length.
Carr Head. Carrs àrd (with a conjunction), ‘high-up level fertile ground’, from carrs, ‘fertile level ground’, and àrd, ‘height’. The relatively (albeit not literally level) flat land here is quite striking compared to what lies both below (an exceptionally steep bank) and above. Furthermore, it’s quite an expanse, rather than just a narrow shelf. This all can be appreciated by visiting the site: it’s strangely not apparent from looking at the map contours. The farm sits right at the back, just as the hill recommences, so the meaning could more specifically concern the farm’s position as being just high of the flat ground, rather than a reference to the overall height of the mini-plain; but it’s surely the latter, being as it’s the combination of both the height and the flatness that makes the site so notable, and prehistorically a particularly hospitable piece of farmland in the local context. Alternatively, there is carr, ‘stony hill’, but with no grit-stone edge above, then unsurprisingly there are no boulders or any sort of stones in evidence. It doesn’t seem to be a site where ever there would have been a problem with stones. In any case, the site is not a hill, stony or not.
* Crimbles. Gleann-dail, ‘level fields in the valley’, or/and (as a secondary root) grian-dhealrach, literally ‘sun-bright’; with grian meaning specifically basking in or being exposed to sun. Gleann-dail is the derivation of the stem of Grindleford, and, it seems, of Crimble Dale in North Yorkshire. Grian-dhealrach appears to be the root in the case of Crimble near Rochdale, being most of the way up a south-facing spur. The Hunshelf site is a strikingly level one on what otherwise is a variously though always steep hillside. In Scottish Gaelic, a dale (to thus Anglicise it) is any flat field / meadow, and not necessarily that by a river. But the hillside also is almost exactly south-facing, so this spot, well up the hillside, basks in the sun; and at a point just east of where the hillside turns in to become a little of a coomb (where streams from the spring at Horsley and above it up Mucky Lane have cut into Hunshelf) and, therefore, changes so it is not fully facing the sun. The changes in consonants are slight, and usual in the evolution of place-names: ‘glindle’ / ‘grindle’ and crimble sound very alike; the change really being merely a softening in sound over time, as this renders the moniker easier to say. There is an actual English word crimble: defined as being to cringe and shrink into oneself in an attempt to sneak past someone unnoticed. It may be that this is apposite for this lofty out-of-the-way location, but more likely it’s simply a conceivable English-seeming naming that as such would have been its own mnemonic to replace what had become indecipherable. On initial consideration, the derivation would seem to be the Britonnic crimmel, ‘sharp ridge’; but there is no such topography even at the summit of Hunshelf, never mind here, only part-way up it.
* Briary Busk. Bràigh an aodainn, ‘upper reaches of the hill face’ + buisc, ‘round mass’ (with conjunctions). Occurring elsewhere, the construction making up the first element befits the location on the steep Hunshelf hillside only just below the abrupt Hunshelf ridge, and right by the end of its high portion, which curves round, first through 90 degrees and then fully coming back on itself; the ridge in all directions falling away from its summit of 311 metres, making indeed a rounded mass. The rationalisation ‘briary’ makes sense with the climate conditions in historic times (as opposed to the prehistoric era of naming) being ideal for gorse at this height; and there are no issues pronunciation-wise with the usual mouthful in what became a foreign language requiring truncation to be able to speak and memorise it. A possible secondary root is briosaid, ‘belt, girdle’, given that this also befits the lie of the land here, if the hill-face were conceived as encircling the high ridge.
The last element instead of being a rationalisation of buisc could be as it seems: a new addition of busk, ‘thicket’, in the wake of the rationalisation to briary. Busk, though taken to be from Danish or Norse, actually is likely from the Gaelic, in that English and other European languages have an almost identical word, all from a Proto-Indo-European progenitor. As the Stocksbridge area is not one of Norse place-name derivation, then a more direct route via ‘Celtic’ is likely (and in context this surely would be Scottish Gaelic); in which case busk could be part of the naming at its inception.
* White Row. Chuit (+ row). Chuit, ‘fold’ or chuitan, ‘small fold’, in Scotland standardly is Anglicised to white. More specifically (and in the light of the discussion here re Berton-Under-Edge – see below) the element might be chuid, ‘part, portion, share’. The second element may be as it seems – it was indeed a row of cottages – but instead could be from ruighe, ‘hill-slope’. A further alternative derivation stems from the local story (noted by my father) that White Row originally was built as a chapel, latterly converted into cottages, leaving steps to a pulpit in one of the houses). This could be a rationalisation of an ancient mythological association of this site. It’s a peculiar place to build a chapel. Dubbing places perceived to be formerly holy ‘white’ usually is considered to be from not a Goidelic but a Britonnic root: Welsh (g)wyn. This seems not right, however. It comes via Old English hwhit, by an Anglicisation and rationalisation of the Gaelic word meaning ‘bright fire’: what we now term Beltane, the ‘fire festival’ marking the start of the ‘Celtic ‘light year’, and a name of a deity. Gaelic Bealtuinn or Bhealtainn (several variants), ‘bright fire’ has a Scottish Gaelic common letter-transposed variant form, beatlainn, that through usual softening (lenition) over time of the initial b (denoted bh) would produce a change to initial w, and hence an Anglicisation to Late Old English hwita, ‘white’, through the rationalisation that whiteness was the spirit of the festival in the purifying effect of the ritual fire.
* Croft. Cruach, ‘pile, heap, bold hill’, and/or the anyway related corrach, ‘projecting part, end, corner, peak’; and/or crìoch (crìche), ‘boundary’ – all three of which could be mutually reinforcing co-roots. A boundary is the human geographical feature here, but topographically this site is at the top of what at this point is the near precipitous Hunshelf Bank, such that it is, in effect, a hill itself on the larger hill. Croft would have been the only, never mind obvious candidate as a rationalisation, so any dissimilarity in sound beyond the initial cr would not have been an obstacle – the change in sound would be simply forced through the strength of the need for a moniker that was merely not out of place, so that it was fit for purpose mnemonically.
* Miry Bottom. Míreann, ‘divisions’, or mór-roinn, ‘a great division’, ‘a province’; alternatively (or as a co- or secondary root) imir (+ bottom or bota), ‘the bottom of the ridge’, or ‘the river bank of the ridge’, from imir, ‘ridge of land’; bota, ‘river bank’. Both possibilities well befit Hunshelf, of course. Re imir, parallels exist in Miry Ellis in Lancashire and Miry Wood in South Gloucestershire: both are on ridges. The Gloucestershire instance is right by the county border supporting the míreann / mór-roinn derivation. The sense here would be the division itself and/or the very large portion of land thus produced, at what is a substantial border. A complication is that Moise Botham appears to be an early recording, which looks like a root in moirneas, ‘a great cascade of water’; which possibly could fit, in there being a well (spring) immediately above Miry Bottom – or might it denote the river? The second element may be from bota, ‘river bank’, though this would entail an about-turn in ‘Celtic’ word order (which actually is not uncommon).
The surface meaning here does not fit the topography, because the terrain is not boggy, and being not on the valley floor it probably wasn’t in the past either – the farmhouse survives as a ruin, and is well up the steep bank above the floodplain. The rationalisation only makes sense in that valley floors anciently, in the days long before systematic drainage, typically would be un-cleared quagmires; but as a primary derivation it’s a non-starter, because it would fail to distinguish from any other locus on this or any other valley floor. It would be pointless as place-naming. Therefore, miry surely isn’t from ‘boggy’ – other than as a latter-day secondary root, obviously.
* Don Hill (Height). Dùn (+ hill, + height), ‘hill-fort-like’. Dùn here appears not to denote a hill-fort per se. Hills looking similar to hill-forts, or if they appeared to be an ideal site for one, usually also were thus labelled. This is exactly paralleled in the more recent place-naming habit of dubbing entirely natural features ‘castle hill’ (as is the case just east of High Bradfield). However, it may be that through erosion ramparts have been lost (and in the
absence of any archaeological investigation we have no idea whether or not there are remaining traces), in which case the moniker may have denoted an actual fort. The appellation cannot be after the Don (the Little Don) because this naming is extremely recent.
* Edge Cliff. Eag (+ cliff). Eag, ‘narrow gap or notch’, referring to the col immediately above, being a dip in the Hunshelf ridge, within which in turn is a notch, carrying the road – this seeming to be part-natural, part hollow-way (created by traffic). The col is formed between the two summits of the ridge (at 311 and 303 metres). If, as is surely the case, as with Berton-under-Edge (see below), the moniker originally was the first element alone, then the derivation is still less likely the English word denoting the ridge, because this would not be specifically locational – it could pertain to anywhere along its entire length, thereby being fairly useless as a place-name.
* Pea Royd Hill. Peisgan (+ hill), ‘shelf of a hill’. Earlier recording is of pease rather than pea. Peasg, peisg, peisgan, ‘gash, notch, cranny, crevice’, denotes the most significant feature of the topography here: the respite from the inexorable notoriously steep climb up the Hunshelf hillside as it suddenly gives way to the shelf on which sits Berton-under-Edge. With the loss of understanding subsequent to language change, the appellation became applied to the hill that gave way to the shelf instead of to the shelf itself. As a result, the construction acquired the tautological addition hill, leaving the shelf requiring another naming: Berton (see the next place-name). Either the form peisgan or some grammatical complication of peasg / peisg(an) may well account for the whole construction to be Anglicised and rationalised to pea royd; though as with hill, royd instead may be a latter-day addition. Alternatively, royd could be roin, ‘portion, share, division’; though it’s hard to see how this would follow Gaelic word order rules. It should be obvious that a pea (the vegetable) had nothing to do with the naming. A pea crop, being highly ephemeral and anyway of no significance, would never have been of use in distinguishing the place for it to be considered the basis of what it was called; never mind that it hardly would be in terms of pea singular.
* Berton-Under-Edge. Bruthaichean (+ under) eag, ‘the steep banks below the gap’, from bruthaichean, ‘steep banks, ascents’, and eag, ‘gap, notch’. A contraction of brutaichean is surely the derivation of the name of the Scottish town, Brechin (being centred on the castle, built on very steep banks up from the river), which entails the sort of letter transposition usual in place-name evolution to berchin. This likely would be driven in the case here of Berton by a secondary or co-root, berna, ‘a gap’ (see the next para), and easily could be taken to be berking, the recording of Berton on two locally produced old maps of Hunshelf by Fairbanks (an 1810 road map, and an undated plan of the township: Berking-Under-the-Edge). Apparently confirming the derivation here, Windy Bank Hall, on the very top of the Hunshelf escarpment, properly is named Birken Head (‘the top of the steep banks’), according to one George Pears, who was born there (Kenworthy, p157 of his Co-op Jubilee book).
Early recording is simply as the last element, Egge, which has been assumed to be the ME word for ‘edge’, but this likely is a mis-read of Gaelic eag, ‘gap, notch’; Berton being just as directly beneath the coll and the notch in it as is Edge Cliffe (see above), but effectively much more so, given that the gap in the edge seems to have been created by a landslip, affording a considerably shallower gradient in the upper reaches of the hillside here than on either side of it, allowing easier access to the summit of the ridge from Berton than from elsewhere along the hillside. With the absence, in simply Egge, of the first element, then there is the possibility that the berton element is relatively recent, but more likely it is vernacular and ancient, and just unrecorded. It would reflect the afore-mentioned extraordinary topography of Hunshelf out of Hunshelf Bottom, where initial steepness gives rise successively to ever fiercer steepness, culminating in the notorious ascent famed in major bike riding events of Pea Royd Hill. With the meaning lost through language change to English, and the really steep part of the hillside denoted pea royd, then the general naming of the whole bank would be available to be used for the particular spot on the hillside (suitably qualified: under-edge) that through its unusual topography (a shelf) required naming, even though the shelf actually was indicated by peisgan. So there was a swap of naming between the hill and the shelf.
An alternative derivation of the first element that formerly appeared promising stems from a document in Sheffield Archives revealing that Berton-Under-Edge is a detached portion of Waldershelf administratively, notwithstanding that geographically it is within Hunshelf. The possibility here is of parentage by the monastic holding at Bolsterstone of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. Such a ‘daughter settlement’ may be denoted burton, especially when it is a monastic holding. This is not, as usually assumed, from OE burh + tun, ‘fort’ + ‘settlement’ — and note that burton with this etymology could not apply here, because with the site being immediately below higher ground, it is indefensible, and, therefore, the last place for any fort. It is instead from the Scottish Gaelic bheart, ‘piece’, very closely related to Old Irish bert: ‘parcel or lot’. Therefore, it could come originally not necessarily from the word encapsulated in an English place-name but from a Gaelic one, which would indicate a ‘daughter holding’ far more ancient than one by the Hospitallers. All, however, is academic, because not only has no other evidence been found to establish the basis of the anomaly (any monastic connection or otherwise), but it’s hard to reconcile a derivation of burton with the recording berking.
A superficial reading in terms of birch trees would fall foul of the usual problem with such lazy derivation: a banal lack of locational significance, making the suggestion at best semi-useless in function as a place-name, and, consequently, it hardly would have arisen, let alone gone to fixation.
* Cote House. Cóis or coiseag (diminutive of cóis), ‘a (small) nook, a snug corner’. This well suits the cosy relatively level spot here, which, in being slightly to the west of, and on roughly the same contour as is Berton-under-Edge, appears very roughly to be a continuation of the same ledge. This appellation demonstrates the salience of the notion on Hunshelf of a ledge as a haven on an otherwise very steep bank, paralleling peisgan.
* Chud Ford & CF Lane. Seud (+ ford), ‘journey’ (the cross-border travel as it would have been), and/or the related saodaich, ‘driving flocks or cattle to pasture’, and/or shuas, ‘up (in position), upwards’ – reflecting the hugely steep ascent immediately after the ford, in the vertical route direct to the Hunshelf ridge that the original route (now the footpath) took. Further reinforcement is likely through secondary derivation of chuid, ‘portion, part, share’, and/or chud, ‘gravel’, and also Sceuelt, of course. Then there is siud, pronounced ‘shudd’, ‘swing’, in the sense of going back and forth, ‘rocking’, conceivably befitting the course of the river here, but more possibly the road to the ford, given that it switches back in a violent hairpin on the Hunshelf side in its final approach. This last is hard to see working grammatically (as it’s a descriptor, needing to be pinned down as to what it is that ‘swings’), but this objection disappears if it’s but a reinforcer, providing secondary derivation. Some or all of the possibilities could work together. A number of candidates in Gaelic are apparent, then, but none in other languages. Kenworthy lamely proffers an English word meaning ‘chewed-up’, neglecting to broach the problem that this can’t feasibly pertain to any topography.
* Hen Holmes. An tolm (the definite article an is always pronounced ‘hen’), literally ‘the water mounds’, with the meaning ‘mound in the water’; that is, ‘river island’. Initial usual assumptions are wrong: that it’s Norse holm, with Welsh, hen, ‘old’. No sense can be made of ‘old’ in the context, and if the second element were the Norse word, then hen would be left unexplained. With anyway no sign of Norse derivation anywhere locally – even the most obvious thorpe & thwaite elements occur nowhere west of Huthwaite (Thurgoland) – then it’s a non-starter.
* Red / Black / The Rocher. Bhagach-eochair, pronounced ‘wro-ohk-hir’, regularly occurs to denote ‘steep bank’. It is not, as lazily assumed, from French roche. Quite apart from there being no exposed rock at this or at any of the places sporting the rocher appellation (other than where there has been subsequent landslip, as near High Bradfield), this is a vernacular naming (not from on-high or recorded), for which ordinary locals would never have employed French in place-naming; French being a language nobody would understand, never mind be capable of speaking and to use to generate a place-name element. Still less would there be the general appreciation required for any word-description to gain currency sufficient for it to become fixed as a place-name. A French derivation is, therefore, a non-starter.
Red and black may well be original Gaelic in derivation given that there is not much difference between the Gaelic and English; in both cases there being a common Proto-Indo-European root from which the word in neither subsequent language much deviates. Red may denote clay-coloured soil there (the seam of fireclay, which has a red hue owing to the high iron oxide content; this spot being adjacent to where the Wharncliffe Fireclay Works and its mines were sited), with the nearby instance of black merely a latter-day qualifier to distinguish in the wake of the occurrence of red.
* Wood Willows. Hud bhaoghail, ‘enchanted dangerous drop’, Anglicised and rationalised to wood willow, which then was pluralised to make more sense, albeit still strange in its word order and obvious straining after meaning, giving away that it’s clearly not originally English. The very same construction elsewhere is applied to the very same topography in Anglicisation & rationalisation to woodwell. Woodwell House, just north of Durham, is immediately atop a frighteningly precipitous river bank; and Woodwell near Kinnaird in Perth & Kinross is directly above a very steep-sided ravine. The local moniker denotes indirectly a terraced row of what are the last houses of Deepcar on Manchester Road before Stocksbridge; this being immediately south of the spot originally with the tag: the near vertical long drop to the river over the wall bounding Manchester Road.
Hud rendered hood often is confused with wood, as to be expected, and an obvious basis for rationalisation. [As a local and very close-by example, Hood Royd is marked on the 1855 first edition OS map before becoming Wood Royd on the next, 1893 edition. And that it is Gaelic is shown by the terrace here being named (on the 1893 map) Rock Row (from rocher – see above — denoting the very steep bank here of the Clough), and alternatively being known as Bacon Row, from beagan, ‘a few, a small number’: it’s not, as has been suggested, from pigs, because that would be the naming, not a particular form of the animal’s meat; and in any case, with pig-keeping ubiquitous, it would not be a distinguishing feature.] Hud is Old Gaelic, variously translated as ‘splendid one’, ‘outshining of God’ or ‘progeny of God’; but more generically and (relatively speaking) most concretely appears in Old Irish legend, meaning ‘enchanted’. [A great part of Ireland was thought anciently to have been swallowed by the sea but with at times a portion of it rising back out of the sea as an enchanted island, Tir Hud (‘hud land’). This is the ancient understanding that a body of water is a liminal entrance to or portal between this and the ‘otherworld’. A precipice seems likewise to have been envisaged as sacred or magical in being land that seemingly has risen out of the ‘otherworld’.] Bhaoghail is a softened (lenited) form of baoghail, where as usual the initial bh sounds as w. The meaning is ‘unguarded condition, danger’, so rather than directly denoting a precipice, the word indicates the problem a precipice poses. In context, then, the meaning is ‘frightening drop’. This surely is the origin of the notion that a scary prospect “gives one the willies”; the earliest official recording of which is in 1896, New York, where the plethora of evocative slang familiar to us all from films came from the Gaelic of Irish immigrants.
* Hawke Green & Hawthorn Brook. Achadh Gréine, ‘field of the sun’, ‘sunny field’; a well-known construction in Gaelic place-naming. Achadh in a subsequent English-speaking context became auch, pronounced like ‘awk’, ‘meadow’. A local parallel is Hawthorn Brook, achadh-na-bruaich, ‘field of arable land on the brink of a river’, which also is from achadh, though with the addition of the conjunctive is Anglicised to auchen, which here has been Anglicised to hawthorn. The brook element is Anglicised and rationalised from bruaich, ‘bank (of a river), brink, brim, border, margin of land by water, edge’. The second element (of Hawke Green) is gréine, ‘sunny place’, which well describes Hawke Green, in that it is mostly relatively gently sloping ground, rising to become part of what is now Stocksbridge shopping centre from the river at the foot of the Waldershelf hillside, west of Smithy Hill. With this being both sunny and not flat enough to be a flood-plain, it would have made excellent farmland.
The same second element, gréine, is as already encountered in Bate Green. It’s unlikely that green is simply as it sounds: a relatively recent addition of the English word. Sure enough, it would produce a meaningful place-name notwithstanding the tautology (in this case, of ‘meadow-green’) because the first element would be in a forgotten language and, therefore, would be distinguishing. The point, though, is that at the time of the place-name’s inception, a qualifying element would be required if the main element denotes part of the environment as ubiquitous as a field.
The assumption that the moniker is from the local family, Hawke, is to try to have it backwards, so to speak. The other local instance of supposed surname > place-name is Bocking Hill, which certainly is a case of place-name > surname (see below). Surnames are but a few hundred years old, whereas place-names are often, and in these parts usually, thousands. It’s much more likely that the name of the place gave rise to the surname rather than the surname giving rise to the name of the place. This applies to micro-placenames within the area of a macro-placename. There would be no sense in naming someone from the wider area, because all locals could thus be named, defeating the point of naming as a device to identify individuals one from another. So it was that the surname Hampshire from ‘de Hallamshire’ arose for individuals who had moved away from Hallamshire; not those remaining within Hallamshire. That Hampshires are evident today in the Sheffield area is because most moved only just across the border, and given the size of Hallamshire as well as its proximity, then a good proportion of their descendants moved back. The reverse is the case re micro-placenames. For someone specifically from the farmstead of Hawke Green, it made sense to be named Hawke because this distinguished them from all other locals not of the same immediate family, given that no-one else (or very few others) was attached to this micro-placename. In the case of the Hawke family here, if it were the case that the surname and not the place is the where hawke first arose, then it begs two questions. First, how come there wasn’t already a place-name (or why was an existing one replaced) when place-names long pre-date surnames? Second, from where else would they have acquired their surname other than from some place likewise named from achadh; and so why not, then, from here, when otherwise their presence would be a strange coincidence? The upshot is that the presence of someone with the relatively recently emerging surname (here Hawke) at the eponymous previously, indeed anciently-named place (here Hawke Green) not only is not a case of surname > place-name, but neither is it coincidence; but due to the all-to-be-expected place-name > surname.
* Smithy Hill. Sìthean (+ hill). Sìthean (pronounced with an initial sound not unlike ‘sh’), ‘fairy knoll’, refers to the knoll nowadays indicated by Knoll Top. So the whole name as it is now, features a tautology in the meaning ’knoll hill’. The derivation of sìthean is supported by both comparative place-name research and by related adjacent appellation, so it’s conclusive. Sìthean is a generic place-name, always encompassing the ‘fairy’ association, occurring, for example, in what is now Athersley, to denote an isolated knoll in the countryside, in turn giving rise to the naming of the nearby village of Smithies. No blacksmith was ever on or by the hill. More locally, Smithy Moor by Unsliven Bridge similarly has always been open country and never could have been the site of a blacksmiths. This area is reputed (Sidney Oldall Addy, The Hall of Waltheof, 1893) to have ‘fairy’ associations in the machin monikers here — Machin Spout, Wood & Lane. [Addy had no etymological insight to back up his claim, but it’s from mailleachan, an inoffensive sprite, one of the brownies.] In any place so much as a hamlet, a blacksmith’s shop would have been present, so it is not even coincidence that there was a smithy on Smithy Hill, Stocksbridge; but that they were ubiquitous. A smithy would be a pointless basis of naming when, after all, place-naming is the attempt through the need to distinguish a place. With anyway the clear existence and viability of sìthean as being the recognised generic appellation here, then taking ‘smithy’ at face value can’t compete. The sìthean root is confirmed by the following pair of associated monikers.
* Nanny Hill. A reference to Nanny Button-Cap, a fairy figure similar to if not a brownie (brùinidh); a dwarf sprite specific to Yorkshire. Nanny is from T’ir na n’og, the place to which ‘the old fairy folk’ were supposed to retreat. There could be subsidiary or co-roots in either nonag, nighanag, ‘little girl’, and/or nunn, nonn, ‘to the other side, beyond’, in reference to the ‘otherworld’ on the other side of a ‘liminal entrance’. Across Britain, nanny place-names invariably are associated with steep, usually conical hills, such as is here (Knoll Top); these being anciently conceived of as ‘fairy mounds’ – Smithy Hill is the knoll here in question. As usual, a former significant mythological being latterly was relegated to children’s rhymes: ‘The moon shines bright, the stars give light; and little Nanny Button-cap will come tomorrow night.’ The context here is of decidedly mythological place-naming, with the derivations of not just Smithy Hill but also Bocking Hill (see below) being of this ilk. Note that with the meaning of nunn or nonn being ‘to the other side’, that the appellation alternatively or additionally may be in reference to the major border at Hunshelf Bottom, but this is unlikely as the road here is modern: the ancient route is the pathway on the other side of Knoll Top, directly above Smithy Hill. The naming instead is contiguous with the ‘fairy’ meaning of the latter.
Button-cap is descriptive of mushrooms, in reference to mushroom ‘fairy circles’ (wide-diameter rings formed in around whatever decay is being fed upon, when the fungal mycelia fan out underground, then surfacing in fruiting bodies, envisaged as fairies dancing). This is likely originally from beacan, ‘mushroom’; that is, button-cap is a rationalisation in Anglicisation – a notably neat, apposite one – of beacan.
A secondary root may be from neint, ‘the hill of the streams’ (cf Nanny’s Hill, Cumbria, with associated spring and stream), or directly from Proto-Celtic nanto, ‘stream’. This is more evident in Brittonic (Welsh, Cumbric) forms, but nent occurs in Scottish Gaelic; its plural neint being most apposite here, given the two substantial streams (if not three: there are three separate springs on the knoll) flowing down either side of the knoll. A common letter transposition of the i and the n as part of Anglicisation and rationalisation would yield nenti and thence nanny. Of course, the naming could be especially ancient, from something more like Proto-Celtic, in which case the evolution to nanny would be still simpler. On the other hand, it might be an unusually later appellation, from a time when Gaelic-speaking had been superseded, presumably by Cumbric (a close relative of Welsh). However, with the ‘t’ seemingly more readily lost in Gaelic, then a Gaelic or still earlier derivation is favourite. It’s ‘academic’, because where nanny or very similar occurs elsewhere, it is invariably a ‘Celtic’ derivation that is sought, there being nothing else viable. So the choice anyway is between only extremely closely related words with the same or near-identical meaning.
The immediate suggestion some might proffer is that the steep hill is named from ‘mountain goat’ – as in the local alternative vernacular for ‘the clipper’ Stocksbridge-Deepcar circular bus. But this would have it backwards: ‘mountain goat’ might be a latter-day reinforcer; nothing more. It’s not just that it would be out of context with the surrounding Gaelic mythological derivations. It would leave unexplained why the moniker did not contain the operative goat, and instead an oblique qualifier – why ‘nanny’ and not ‘billy’, and when anyway the sex is neither here nor there?! In the absence of what was qualified, then the meaning would be the stand-alone ‘granny’, as ‘nanny’ would not evoke ‘goat’. As usual, once you delve into the surface reading, no sense can be made of it as such.
* Bocking Hill & Wood. Baoghach, ‘fairy residence’, or baoghans, ‘hill of the fairies’, or bhocaidh, pronounced ‘bockie’, ‘spectre, goblin’ (+ hill). This is a mythological cum topographical derivation just as is that for both Smithy Hill and Nanny Hill, so there is here a cluster of inter-related place-names providing mutual confirmation (and there are several more related ancient monikers in the next few derivations to add to the cluster). This seriously undermines any notion that the local Bocking family gave their surname to this spot, rather than the other way round. To reiterate the discussion re Hawke Green: in any case, there would be no use served by labelling a spot with the name of the current tenant or owner, because this would provide no clue as to location within the landscape. Furthermore, surnames are a relatively recent phenomenon compared to the great bulk of place-names, so the chances are that they are not even within a relevant time-frame. In the Stocksbridge area, given ubiquitous Gaelic derivation, they are a near non-starter for other than recent housing (but even then, naming is not unlikely an ancient one from the immediate locale). Again, then, assumption here that the place-name derives from a personal name proves misguided.
* Knoll Top. Cnoc tobar, ‘the (small) conical hill of the well’, or, pluralised with respect to wells, cnoc-na-dtobar. The first element here is the clearest and easiest derivation in the Stocksbridge area. Cnoc > knoll is absolutely standard. Top would be a strange second element if it were as it seems: of such a small knoll you’re either quickly atop it or you’re not on it at all, and to so specify its summit would be superfluous. Furthermore, cnoc hardly would occur as a standalone element. There would have to be a Gaelic qualifying second element that top has replaced. Given the multiple gushing wells at or very close by the summit – one near Brook House, another right atop the knoll, and a third on Watson House Green – then top fairly obviously is a rationalisation of tobar. This is a combination that occurs in areas of recognised Gaelic place-name origin, and there is an instance exactly paralleling Knoll Top of a knoll atop of which are several wells: cnoc-na-dtobar. It translates as ‘mountain of the wells’ (cnoc can refer to a very large hill indeed if it is nonetheless roughly conical in shape) and is a pilgrim site considered sacred since prehistoric times, showing that mythological association in the Stocksbridge case is fully to be anticipated. Albeit, even by late prehistory, with no-one any longer recognising tobar, nor that it means ‘well’; nevertheless, there would have been long maintained local knowledge as to where the appellation applied – to the summit of the knoll, or near to it – and then naturally a shortening and rationalisation to top ensued.
* Watson House & WH Green. Bhaist-an-eas and Bhaist-an-eas Gréine, ‘the pond of the cascading stream’ and the same + ‘the sunny …’ – reversing the order of elements as reflecting Gaelic word order rules. Bhaist, pronounced ‘wast’ – Gaelic bh is pronounced ‘w’ – is the basis of the several west place-names in central Sheffield, most of which are associated with Broomhall Spring; ‘wast’ being the old pronunciation of west. This becomes wats through a common letter transposition, which would be driven by the expectation of the ear for the familiar. This is easily understandable if the construction appeared to be something like ‘waston ee-as’. To try to read this back would usually entail the mistake of assumption through prior familiarity that it is watson. The literal meaning of bhaist is ‘immersion’ in water, here denoting the spring on Watson House Green, which was so prolific that the stream emanating from it actually required a ford for the road hard by it (the start of Broomfield Road). [Both the spring and the ford are marked on the 1855 first edition OS map.]
As in the cases of Horner and Holes, Watson denotes an area, so again the house element is likely not the recent English tack-on it seems, but instead is a rationalisation of the element: eas, pronounced ‘ay-s’, ‘cascading stream’. Hence Watson House Green not Watson Green. The conjunctive required in the construction between bhaist and eas provides the second syllable of watson. Interestingly, bhaist is very closely related to a word meaning ‘beast’ (bhèist), usually utilised in respect of mythological forms. Presumably this is through the usual association anciently of a spring, seen as a liminal opening (a portal to the ‘otherworld’), with a spiritual being of some kind. This thereby explains the cluster of place-names in this immediate vicinity of bocaidh, sìthean and nunn/nonn. Note that there are no records of anyone with the surname Watson living here: only Bockings. There is no instance of the Watson surname in the valley recorded in early trade directories. So the surname > place-name argument never even arises.
* Ingfield House. Ing (+ field + house), ‘bowl’, hollow’; or linn(e) (+ field + house), ‘waterfall’. A waterfall would make sense with the extremely steep topography at this point. That the stream from the spring on Watson House Green descends a very steep slope at this point is already registered in the eas element in Watson House. This would parallel Ling Bank by Common Piece (below), which is an Anglicisation and rationalisation to OE lang, ‘long’ or ling, ‘heather’. In the instance here, the rationalisation would be to ing, OE ‘meadow’ (losing the initial ‘l’), that in turn in itself losing its meaning with further language evolution, then receives the tautological addition field. Only after this would the house element also be added; this time house being as it seems. The rationalisation would be apposite given that ing has the more specific meaning of ‘water meadow’. Of course, this also would mean that the Old English is the derivation; though most likely of all is that indeed the naming is ing originally, but not from English but Gaelic; the word being very similar across European languages, with the etymology of ing common to all language routes back to a recognisably similar word origin in Proto-Indo-European, meaning ‘bowl, hollow, dell, glen’. With this meaning retained at least in part in old Gaelic, then it would be highly apposite for the terrain immediately below Ingfield House, which is a profound bowl; as can be experienced in travelling along Lee Avenue in the Stubbin estate towards Bocking Hill, where it dips violently before just as abruptly rising up to the road junction. This bowl is what the stream carved out, clearly. With this feature being so striking and the sense of a waterfall anyway conveyed already in the -eas suffix in Watson House, then Gaelic ing is favourite as the derivation.
* Broomfield Road / Lane. Beum (+ field), ‘stream, torrent’. This again refers to the gushing issues from the spring on Watson House Green, at which point Broomfield Road starts – as afore-mentioned, the stream has to be forded at this spot. Beum is not akin to any English word: it’s more like Inspector Clouseau’s highly affected pronunciation of ‘bomb’. This is the basis of Balm Green in central Sheffield – in reference to the issue from what latterly came to be known as Flint Well and Barkers Pool. Like balm, broom is about as near as any word gets, and hence rationalisation to this word. Whether or not there was any broom (gorse) at or near this spot or area would not be material, when at least it is intelligible, and, being rendered in an understandable English form, is readily reproducible and transmissible. With broom so inconsequential and ephemeral, it’s anyway itself hardly the basis of a place-name.
* Bracken Moor & BM Lane / Cottage. Bràigheachan, ‘upper lands, upland country’, which is apposite for the elevated relative plateau after the steep rise to Knoll Top. The singular bràigh Anglicises as the familiar braes, but here the Anglicisation is of the Gaelic pluralisation, Bràigheachan, which would require rationalisation to bracken. With the ‘misinterpretation’ bracken, then the moor element would have served simply to make an appropriate-seeming place-name instead of leaving bracken hanging as a qualifier without what it qualifies. Taking the naming at face value would be to ignore that this relatively flat land on a north-facing hillside likely was prime farming land even anciently, cleared as such several thousand years ago, and anyway an unlikely area for bracken to take hold as the dominant flora.
* Wragg Field, The Wragg (vernacular Miner’s Arms pub). Urradh / urrach / urrag: ‘power, ability’ / ‘capable, qualified, competent’ / ‘urchin, child’. This seems to have denoted the field at Bracken Moor where the annual Whitsuntide parades ended and boys’ competitive games were played: originally the ‘May Games’ to decide the ‘May King’ alongside the ‘May Queen’ (referred to in a 1966 Triple Jubilee booklet re the Congs Church as “old country games”). This location was of significance locally through being at or adjacent to Knoll Top, that in ancient perception had mythological significance (all of the ‘fairy’ associations outlined above), which then was Christianised into a sense of its ‘holiness’.
It seems that the field currently identified may be on the other side of Bracken Moor Lane from the Miner’s Arms pub (which, in the wake of the naming of the field, was itself colloquially dubbed ‘The Wragg’), where additional football pitches have been laid out for informal matches; in which case this may well have been displaced by the sports ground being built on the original site. The Whitsuntude processions certainly ended at the sports ground, but it’s not clear if this was one and the same ‘church field’, as it had been dubbed; or that the venue latterly had been switched to the manicured sports ground as being more suitable than the original field, which then would not have to be specially prepared. [Note that the Wragg surname is attributed by some to “pre-7th century” Old English regen, ‘power’, but this is code for “etymology unknown”, in other words it’s not the usual either Germanic or Norse precursor, so by elimination it’s ‘Celtic’, and after checking for obvious Welsh elements, then that leaves Gaelic, which, unless it’s one of a handful such as cnoc, nobody considers.]
To rival this derivation, or more likely in reinforcement (in secondary derivation), there is the ‘Wragg League’, named after Walter Wragg, the owner of an athletics outfitters in Attercliffe, whom, in 1903 or 1904, donated a cup to present to the champions of a South Yorkshire football league, that thereby was re-named after him. [See the discussion at https://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/topic/13367-lewis-football-cup-attercliffe/ trying to tease out the confusion over the details.] Stocksbridge Park Steels recently played in this league, but records as to when any team from Stocksbridge was first involved are hard to find. As it’s not known either when the Miner’s Arms was first dubbed ‘The Wragg’, then the viability of the ‘Wragg league’ alternative derivation can’t be assessed; but indications are that it had it’s ‘unofficial’ moniker from the outset, which would pre-date the inception of the league.
The usual sort of ‘folk etymology’ ignores the wragg spelling and has it that the pub sported a rag on the door for miners to wipe themselves clean before coming in for a pint, but this won’t wash. It would have to have been a magic cloth either of endless length or self-cleaning, if it were not to be a real source of disease cross-infection, not to mention very quickly becoming more soiled with clay and/or coal than any of the miners!
* Low Lane. Leothaid, pronounced ‘low-hay’, ‘gentle slope’, ‘side of a hill’. The lane marks the line of the top of the steep slope up from the valley floor, where it very quickly gives way to a slope relatively so shallow as by comparison a plateau. Obviously, the second syllable has been Anglicised and rationalised to lane to complement the first syllable being clearly heard as ‘low’. The former name for what is now Victoria Road is indeed a long gentle incline along the side of the hill. Leothaid additionally occurs locally in Low Lathe on Hunshelf near Deepcar (the medial l surely arising from a secondary root of the above-cited llaith, ‘damp, moist)’. The rationalisation of the Gaelic pronunciation might be thought to make sense given that there are very roughly parallel routes higher up the hillside, but there is a local widely held notion that it is the ‘low road’ burial route. The specific understanding is revealed in a recent on-line post by an elderly resident: “Victoria Road was also known as ‘The Low Road’ and was where the horse-drawn hearse had to go to get to Bolsterstone, as Shay House Lane was too steep”. The same notion was outlined in S&DHS’ Paragon 60. It’s cock & bull, of course: a far more direct route to Bolsterstone would be via the gentle incline of Pot House Lane – going along Low Lane would entail a detour out to Bracken Moor, obliging a doubling back along Broomfield Lane. In any case, sections of Hole house Lane are almost as steep as the initial section of Shay House Lane. The actual basis of this nonsense tale comes to light in discussion below of associated place-names, and the root of shay.
* Common Piece. Cabhán-an-eas, ‘the little hollow of the cascading stream’, or/and as a co-root, cum-an-eas, ‘the place of (where is contained) the cascading stream’ – there are parallel instances of the same construction. From older maps it’s clear this naming applied to an area, not (just) a road junction; if it ever took in the road (which currently is signed as part of Victoria Road). In the early 20th century this area was known as Hollow Fields or The Hollows, which is the very translation of the first element cabh, (‘hollow’ singular, that is), qualified by the –an suffix as a diminutive, to render the meaning ‘little hollow’. In Anglicisation, the bh in cabhán would soften from the pronunciation of ‘v’ in Gaelic to ‘f’, and then the influence of cum in the co-root of the construction would facilitate a rationalisation to common. Eas, ‘cascading stream’, in being pronounced ‘ay-s’ or ‘ess’; given the first element rationalised to common, in turn rationalises to piece. As usual, the article (an) would be lost through natural shortening to exclude a repetitive sound. The objection that the naming is simply as it appears falls because this was not common land, as the vernacular naming The Hollows or Hollow Fields rather than Hollows Common seems pointedly to indicate.
* Ling Bank. Linn(e) (+ bank), ‘waterfall’. This is adjacent to (just west of) or within Common Piece, referring to the bank over which was the waterfall, complementing Common Piece denoting the hollow in which the waterfall is sited. With the meaning lost, rationalisation was to either a variant of Old English lang, ‘long’, or the alternative word for ‘heather’. Cf Ing Field (above). The first edition OS map shows a very substantial stream, and given the gradient at this point, then it must have been a veritable cascade that either overall or at some particularly steep point could have been considered a waterfall.
* Shay House & SH Lane. Shea-an-eas, ‘the fairy palace of the cascading stream’, from shea, ‘fairy palace’. As with Watson House, the house element is eas, ‘waterfall’: Shay House Lane is extremely steep in its lower portion, ending at Common Piece, and by it is (was) the stream that is the main feature of Common Piece, as shown on the 1855 first edition OS map (the stream is now hidden through culverting). The alliteration of the conjunctive and the second syllable of the first element results in the effective elimination of the conjunctive.
‘Fairy palace’ makes sense in the wider picture of the imagined landscape of Knoll Top (Smithy Hill) – sìthean, ‘fairy knoll’ – and the road linking this to Common Piece, at the foot of Shay House Lane: Low Lane (Victoria Road). Now sense can be made of the local notion regarding Low Lane. As in the ‘low road’ in The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomand, this is the mythological supposed underground route taken by the ‘fairies’ / ‘little people’ reputed to transport the soul of a dead man who had died in a foreign land. A pronounced hollow containing a notable water feature (as was Common Piece) anciently would have been considered an ‘otherworld’ portal, and, therefore, in effect a graveyard of the soul. This accounts for the tall tale that Low Lane was a burial route. It’s a ‘folk memory’ of the original meaning imbued in the landscape; ‘folk memory’ being known to be astonishingly enduring.
Given this clear context, then shay – a Yorkshire variant of Middle English s(c)hawe, Old English sceaga, ‘small wood’ – would be merely an Anglicisation and rationalisation here: a secondary rather than the primary derivation. It would be unlikely to be the main derivation in any case, in that ‘wood house’ would be of little use identifying a particular locale. Such a banal construction is a giveaway that it’s a rationalisation of the original meaning.
* Water Lane (the vernacular for Gibson Lane). Uachdan / uachdar (+ lane), ‘raised bank, terrace, embankment, short but steep ascent’; from Old Gaelic úachtar, ‘top, surface’. This is exactly apposite for the topography here. Water Lane is an area rather than merely a lane per se, being a (now demolished) T-shaped housing development, where the cross of the T is immediately atop the near sheer drop to the Don (in its former course before diversion and culverting under the steel works). The area essentially (and certainly in comparison with the river bank) is flat-topped, contiguous with the top of Hawke Green, forming an embankment over and beside the river. Whether the meaning here is in terms of the terrace or the steep bank up to it – and it’s likely both, in that a terrace implies a bank — the appellation is apposite. In that the site is intimately connected with the water of the river, then the Anglicisation would have been even more inclined to ‘watter’ than it would be anyway – and note that of course this would be the local pronunciation, not ‘water’. The area presumably would have been known simply as (T’)’Watter until the lane was built (some time between 1855 and 1860) and named Gibson Lane (see below), thereby setting up a rival appellation and obliging the modification to Water Lane to communicate what you were talking about in cognisance of the housing development.
That Gibson Lane was never the official moniker is shown by the recording of the very first meeting of the Stocksbridge Band of Hope Co-operative Society in 1860 as being in a cottage on Gibson Lane. The assumption of a superseding naming comes from local historian Joseph Kenworthy (writing in his book on the Jubilee of the local Co-operative Society), who conjectured that the water moniker came from a well on the land, but no well is marked on the 1855 first edition OS map (when any public well was marked), just before the lane was built; nor subsequently. Kenworthy holes his own theory when he pointed out the well is on private land. This is as would be the case for a newly constructed housing development: solely for residents on this lane, not for the wider community. Neither would stand up a notion that the lane originally was named Water through locals using it as a route to the river (as claimed in the Stocksbridge & District History Society’s (S&DHS) Paragon magazine, issue 60, summer 2010). With streams cascading down the hillside providing more assuredly uncontaminated water, and with wells easily sunk, then there would be no need to access the often very muddy and potentially contaminated river; and in any case, access would be by walking down the bank at any point of the river’s course according to which is closest. Not only would no lane be required for the purpose of access, but for most people using this lane would require an unnecessary detour. Furthermore, why would the name of the lane be changed if it already had a well-established name? There would be no point in creating confusion.
[See below re Gibson Lane, but as this may relate to the derivation of Johnson Street, then the latter is interpolated.]
* Johnson Street. Ceann an t-sean sceilt, ‘the boundary of the old division’; ceann meaning literally ‘head’ or ‘end’, sean, ‘old’, and sceilt, ‘divide’. The sense, obviously, is ‘the extent of’. The construction ceann an t-sean- is a standard one found elsewhere. The proliferation of syllables and the limits of rationalisation will have produced a shortening of the original and morphing to a recognisable English name. No pronunciation obstacles present themselves: the initial sound of ceann is a mixture of k and j, and the similar ending of this element and the conjunctive would lead to their elision. An alternative would be that ‘street’ is an addition, and the last element has been lost from an original construction ceann an t-sean roinn (roinn, ‘division, share, portion) or ceann an t-sean baile, ‘the boundary of the old hamlet’. This last would make sense given the position of Johnson Street beyond Hawke Green just inside a clear boundary provided by the substantial stream coming down from Common Piece that marks the extent of the rear yards behind the Johnson Street terraced housing on its west side.
That the derivation is far from outlandish is shown by comparative place-name research. There are other occurrences of Johnson Street which appear to share the derivation, most notably in Norfolk, which is not actually a street, road or any thoroughfare, and instead is very clearly a boundary (between historically always cultivated land and former marsh that has had to be comprehensively drained). The instance by Mirfield runs right up to the major divide there that is the River Calder. More locally, Johnson Lane on the edge of Ecclesfield by the Blackburn Brook appears to be another parallel. Ditto Johnson Brook, Dukinfield.
No derivation for this place-name has been offered before (not even a cock-and-bull story). The name of a local owner or builder might be thought to likely give rise to the naming of a particular terrace rather than a whole street, but there is anyway neither any local worthy of old nor national famous figure with the surname Johnson after whom conceivably the local street could have been named – the surname seems to have been completely absent from Stocksbridge until after the time Johnson Street was built and there were much larger influxes of people. The subsequent streets in Stocksbridge centre were named in respect of someone or something of especial importance – Victoria and then Edward after successive incumbent monarchs; Hope surely from the Stocksbridge Band of Hope Industrial Co-operative Society – so no alternative to the ancient derivation presents itself for Johnson.
* Gibson Lane (the official name of vernacular Water Lane). Girtean, pronounced ‘go’rsht-yun’, ‘small patch of arable land’ or ‘enclosure’; alternatively, gilean, ‘water course’. This last would refer to the substantial stream descending from Common Piece that before culverting was immediately to the west of Gibson Lane. If the derivation instead is girtean, the break (marked by the apostrophe) would produce the shift in vowel sound to aid the Anglicisation / rationalisation to gibson. This either denotes the actual land on which the Gibson Lane housing was built as opposed to the root of its vernacular alternative, Water Lane, in uachdar denoting the very steep river bank at its edge; or uachdar does refer to the surface of the embankment, but girtean specifically alludes to that portion of it which is under cultivation or enclosed. This would then explain how Gibson Lane and Water Lane co-existed.
Another possibility stems from Gibson Lane being a near continuation of Johnson Street on the other side of Manchester Road. Gibson conceivably is another take on the same root as gave rise to Johnson (see above), given that the c in ceann is pronounced like a mix of k and j, and, therefore, can give rise to initial g. The land on which Johnson Street is built had been artificially separated from that on which was laid Water Lane in 1806 by the construction of the turnpike road, so they may have shared the same moniker; but in the wake of the road there was a basis subsequently for it to diverge to two closely related but different takes. These were liable to polarise as the contiguity of the two land areas fell from collective memory and the usual pressures to rationalise put the emphasis on meaning over faithfulness to what anyway would have been a strange sounding compound word. On this derivation, again the co-existence with Water Lane is explicable. Here, one moniker would denote a landscape feature encompassing an area of land, and the other refers to a symbolic aspect of geography – a border, which strictly applies to no area of land at all, and only in a non-specific and vague sense to an indeterminate land margin. If the naming in terms of a border was the more prominent, then this would be why the Gibson appellation was chosen for the lane rather than water.
As with Johnson, there is no-one named Gibson featuring in the early days of Fox’s steel works or the local Co-operative Society, nor anywhere in any local record. The original owner of at least some of the cottages is known, but his surname is Battye. Neither was there anyone sufficiently famous nationally at the time. So, again, it is not even possible to come up with thin conjecture along such lines. Of course, it could be that the builder was from afar and was named Gibson, but the question then would be begged of why would this be used to name the lane when it had absolutely no local significance.
* Button Row. Bun a rohonaidh, ‘the bottom or foot of the hill’, and/or after David Button, the owner. This naming appears self-evidently to be from David Button, listed as the owner of six adjacent properties in a valuation of 1870, that cross-checked with a Census return shows that this indeed is Button Row. That does not, however, altogether account for why the terrace should have this moniker, never mind the street – Button Row denotes both. No terraced housing in Stocksbridge excepting Bower Row (see below) can be shown to be named after any individual, and Button and Bower appear to be exactly parallel instances. Button Row sits at the back of the fairly level shelf – the embankment beside the river – that is the top of Hawke Green extending across to Farmers Terrace; at the very start of the notably steep hill that is Victoria Street. The contrast in terrain is noteworthy and likely anciently to have been denoted bun a rohonaidh. This would provide a prior foundation for Button then to be a shoe-in, given the similarity in sound. That the original moniker denoted land, then this would explain why the street as well as the terrace gained the moniker. This is likely paralleled in the case of Bower Row (see below). This too sits right at the foot of the hill that rises from the level ground where was Horner House Farm. So the likely Gaelic fore-runner again would have prompted naming given the similar-sounding surname of the owner.
The only previous attempt to explain this appellation is a flimsy one appearing in S&DHS’ Paragon 60: that it is after the “Button brothers” in recognition of their contribution to the new Co-op stores. This is based on a gleaning from Kenworthy’s book published in 1910 for the Jubilee History of the Stocksbridge Co-operative Society. Kenworthy mentions in passing that David & Anthony Button, newcomers, were brick-makers, and one of them, David, for just the short period of April to November 1862, took over brick-making for the new store. As mere labourers that would not have even the remotest chance of being considered a contribution that would have been worthy of any sort of recognition in the naming of the stores. Sure enough there was no such recognition it the naming of the new stores. With no connection of any kind between the new stores and Button Row, then the suggested derivation is ridiculous. The brothers could not have had any hand in the construction of this terrace, because it was entirely stone-built, just as was the later adjacent Hope Terrace. As photographs reveal, the houses were not merely stone-fronted and otherwise brick. Brick was used in Stocksbridge only in the wake of Samuel Fox building the ‘brick lump’ on Hunshelf Bank, which post-dated Button Row. Even so, a mystery though it is how David Button had the wherewithal to own the Row, own it he did. The interesting aspect of the likely derivation here is that although the putative Gaelic root would be the older, obviously; it might best be considered in effect the secondary one, because without the surname of the owner having a similar sound to bun a rohonaidh, it is likely that this terrace (as with Bower Row) would have had a different, unrelated name; that is, it would not have been named after its owner. Instead, some more ‘proper’, erudite appellation likely would have been chosen, as is evident re the subsequent adjacently built housing. The likely ‘hidden’ basis of naming in bun a rohonaidh then never would have come to light.
* Farmers Terrace. Fuath / fuathan ‘water spirit(s)’, and/or fuaran, ‘spring or well’ – and by association ‘a green spot’ (a lush open area around issuing water). Fuath is pronounced foo-ah, its plural foo-ah-an, which is also the pronunciation of fuaran: all would most easily Anglicise and rationalise to farmer. The several other instances of farmer(s) place-names in Britain are all associated with springs or other water, and each may or may not take a possessive s according to the need or not in the rationalisation. From fuath, meaning literally ‘hate’, fuathan designates the whole class of malevolent water spirits, which were considered to live in or near rivers and lakes (not the sea or seashore), and to come out only at night. The location adjacent to the river and close to Pearson Street (from bhuasan, ‘water serpent’:see below) and directly opposite Honey Hole (which has a clear mythological derivation: see above) must make this the likeliest derivation, reinforced by the secondary root of fuaran, not least by being in sound the very same word. This would be the word’s meaning in its widest sense, which would apply to the big stream falling from Common Piece in a channel immediately west of where were the yards at the rear of Johnson Street, to cross the main road between the Friendship Inn and the east end of Farmers Terrace. An alternative but still related derivation is famhair, pronounced ‘faa-haa’, ‘a giant’ (mythological being).
The naming clearly applies to an area rather than specifically to the row of cottages: an old photograph in the Stocksbridge & District History Society’s on-line archive has the caption “Farmers Terrace football field”, which is the field south of the main road, opposite the terraced row (that later contained the market place). The date-stone sports “JHG 1857”, so clearly it was built for the unprecedented influx of workers for the then brand new steel mills, not ‘farmers’ however construed; and rather than having been commissioned by some collective of agricultural entrepreneurs, presumably was the work of John Grayson of Spink Hall, who was a quarry owner, not a farmer. His sandstone quarry just to the south of his Hall meant he could obtain the construction material ‘at cost’. The farmers appellation makes no sense taken at face value. It must have been already existing. It’s a classic case of rationalisation of an appellation nobody any longer could fathom.
* Horner House & HH Farm. Ìochdaran, ‘the lower parts’, ‘lower lands’. The singular would be ìochdar or ìochdair, which pluralises to ìochdaran. The prosthetic h is through the above-cited scribal convention: the vernacular pronunciation is the h-less ‘orner’, which ought, then, to be the official recording. This befits the area below the Hole House namings, as viscerally felt when you travel along Manchester Road and descend the sharp dip just after the foot of Hole House Lane, down to a lower shelf of near level land on which sits the several old terraces built for steel workers and the old works’ club before another decent (The Rocher). Note that here, unlike for Hole House and most of the other local House appellations, there is no (an)-eas construction to account for the House element. It there were, it would refer to the fast-descending Hole House Brook adjacent to the Horner House area rather than on the land in question, but which it hardly can do owing to there already being the Hole House moniker. The last syllable in ìochdaran would likely be rationalised to house given the context of several other place-names of that pattern.
The name is inherently of an area, not a particular spot, but with the naming applied to a farm, then naturally it’s generally been falsely assumed that the naming of the farm in turn provided the name for the immediate wider area. The notion that the farm is named after someone named Horner is based on no evidence, and is contradicted by the naming having always applied to an area and not to the house per se: the time for this to have taken hold would mean the origin of the naming being well before local surviving records. Even if the house had been built by someone with the Horner surname, this would not be unexpected, as a whole area carrying the appellation is bound to have given rise to the surname. In any case, someone with the surname Horner being recorded as of Horner House does not mean that he lived at the farm, but simply that he lived in the area.
Initially, it seemed that the naming may be aoineadh, ‘steep brae with rocks’, or the closely related aonach, ‘steep height, plateau, hill’. But this is a description of the character of the land adjacent to the area which is named – the very steep south bank of Hole House Brook — rather than of that land itself. Given that the hilly topography is already encapsulated in the Hole namings, then the function of the Horner House appellation is to denote the lower-lying, flat ground.
* Pearson Street. Bhuasan (+ street), ‘water serpent’; the standard form from compounding bior, ‘water’, and bhuasach, ‘serpent: a parallel place-name and derivation with several instances across Britain (see below). And/or possibly bior-shruth, literally ‘water-flowed’, denoting such as an intermittently immersed floodplain or the former course of a river. Pronunciation-wise, bhuasan is an almost perfect fit, with initial b frequently morphing to p in place-names, simply because they are similar sounds; and there are parallel instances of this in bior often being rationalised as prior (for example, in central Sheffield). The appellation applies to what is the already low-lying land as you come over the bank of Hole House Brook, but as it nears the river, to which it gently slopes – or formerly did so, though this is now broken by the bank of a railway line, and the river anyway has been culverted out of sight. With the prehistoric mindset of readily imbuing landscape features with mythological meaning, it is no surprise that this patch of land was given an appellation in terms of the archetypal ‘green monster’ of water. The site is rich in water features: Hole House Brook and a stream from a spring just the other side of where Webb Terrace would be built; both watercourses forming a three-way confluence with the river. Pearson occurs in several places across Britain, and in each case is the site of several watercourses and ponds together with distinctively conical hills – which would have been conceived of as a coiled serpent (likely through the concentric lynchets made in ancient cultivation). For example, Pearson’s Rigg, North Yorkshire; Pearson’s Wood, Warwickshire; Pearson’s Green, Kent; and Pearsons, Lancashire. Right by Pearson Street is the rounded mound on which was built the Congregational Church – sometimes known as “Congs Hill” — supplying a semblance of the conical hill evident in parallel place-names.
Bior-shruth would befit the lowest portion of this area (nearer the river than is Pearson Street), where it becomes the floodplain and there is the aforesaid confluence of the river with both Hole House Brook and a stream from a spring. The construction is one occurring elsewhere. There are other, related possibilities (and likely co-roots), in that there is a spring (bior) on the site, and (as another major water feature) the substantial Hole House Brook. Note that peisgan, ‘gash, notch, cranny, crevice’ (as in the derivation of Pea Royd) surely can’t denote a floodplain, so isn’t a candidate here.
No rival non-Gaelic derivations are evident: there are neither local worthies nor national figures of the time (or builders, property owners) otherwise to account for this moniker. The only local at the time with the Pearson surname was Benjamin, recorded in the 1861 census as a screw maker. There were the Pearsons recorded as gaining land at Hollin Edge in the Bolsterstone Inclosure Award, but this was back in 1782, and they seem not to have been otherwise active in local developments. A Thomas Pearson owned land in Hunshelf Bottom, but records re this were way back in 1716, and there is no record of any subsequent family dynasty. In any case, all his holdings were in Hunshelf, mostly over at Snowden hill where he lived. He appears to have had no connection with this spot or anywhere else on Waldershelf.
* Bower Row. Bun a rohonaidh, ‘the bottom or foot of the hill’, and/or from John Bower, the owner. This would seem not to be, as might be suspected, from bior, denoting the adjacent spring (see above re Pearson Street), given that a John Bower is listed as the owner of a consecutive series of eleven properties at Horner House in an 1870 valuation. However, this moniker may have been facilitated by a long prior Gaelic-rooted naming: either, in the immediate vicinity, indeed from bior, denoting the spring; or, more likely, by the naming of the exact spot, from bun a rohonaidh, ‘the bottom or foot of the hill’ – the exact topography pertaining here. Without this facilitation it may be that the moniker would not have been the surname of the owner, but instead would have had some more usual locational or erudite basis. In effect, then, Bower may be an Anglicisation / rationalisation. See, similarly, re Button Row (see above). [By contrast, the adjacent Webb Terrace for once appears to be an entirely modern appellation. A John Webb ran the umbrella shop at Samuel Fox’s steel works, aided by his sons, having migrated before 1860 to Stocksbridge from Hathersage, near Fox’s birthplace, and where Fox had worked. He appears, then, to be a trusted very early significant associate of Fox, and given his position may have had the wherewithal to invest in a limited way in building housing for the influx of new workers. So here is a viable possible basis of naming from a local personage, and which can’t be discounted. Even so, there is no evidence to support any connection, and, therefore, this stands to be corrected should a plausible Gaelic place-name element emerge befitting the immediate locale.]
* Pot House & PH Lane / Wood. Pait-an-eas, ‘the cascading stream of the hump/lump on the hill’; from pait(e), ‘hump, lump, protuberance’, with the an-eas construction again: ‘cascading stream’. Confirming the derivation, the field names within Pot House Wood beside Bate Green are Pease Spring Field and Little Pease Spring Field: all too clearly, pease here is a contraction of pait-en-eas rationalised to the plural of pea. The protuberance in question can be better seen on OS maps pre-dating the refuse tip here, but even on recent maps as on the ground, the deformity in the course of the brook is evident from the jutting hillside on which are the pease spring fields, which is a precipitous slope too steep to climb, down which a stream has been culverted in a series of pipes and chambers, where before it must have been a waterfall. A visit to the site even today, with the control of water flows, reveals cascading water in the bottom of a precipitously steep-sided clough, confirming that the -an-eas construction is fully apposite for the whole of the wood generally.
At first consideration, for once naming appears to be recent, denoting the conversion of the Glass House at Bate Green into a pottery in 1788; but on closer inspection the building must have taken the moniker from its application to denote the area; not the other way round. Pot House applies to a significantly wide area encompassing the eponymous lane and wood, which would be surprising on a surface reading, because the Glass House had been in operation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, persisting almost into the nineteenth, yet this was never the basis of area naming; whereas the short-lived Pot House supposedly supplied the multiply manifesting monikers and in quick order. The core of the naming, and apparently the feature first to take the appellation is the wood, though from maps it’s unclear whether this is a part of or the whole of the wood filling the ravine that lower down is denoted hole house.
* Clough. Clais-ghu, pronounced, through contraction, ‘cloo’, and meaning ‘dark ravine’; a gloomy glen, as it were. This accurately describes the extremely narrow and steep-sided upper reaches of what only slightly downstream becomes the Hole House ravine. The naming here applies to a row of buildings perched immediately atop its west bank, opposite Springfield – the only place-name in the area that is clearly wholly recent. The pronunciation is just as is the old or vernacular naming of Fox Glen in Deepcar; similarly a ‘dark ravine’. It represents a contraction through loss of meaning and Anglicisation, that in a more recently Gaelic-speaking milieu may remain as a two-syllable construction, glasgow. The supposed Old English etymology from cloh is empty, in that it is given as being pre-seventh century, which is prior to Old English and could be from any language right back to Proto-Indo-European. It’s a usual expression of ‘don’t know’ when no etymological sense can be made, but this is merely through a failure to consider Gaelic.
* Greave House. Geodha-an-eas, ‘the cascading stream in the ravine’; from geodha, ‘gully, ravine’. This relates to the adjacent Clough. With the pronunciation of the dh having more than a hint of v, a rationalisation to greave would have suggested itself, and hence the medial r appeared. This would not be the English word denoting a wood but from a different Middle English greve, meaning a hole or a pit; so it has some relation in meaning to the Gaelic word it rationalised. Of course, this opens the possibility that for once the moniker could be relatively recent: originally English rather than Gaelic. However, ‘hole’ or ‘pit’ hardly befits the quite spectacular veritable ravine that the Gaelic appellation clearly denotes. Furthermore, Greve House is a little distance from the feature after which it takes its name; again pointing to some considerable distance between the origin of the appellation and its latter-day application.
An alternative etymology is posited by Kenworthy of Old English gerefa, ‘greave, reeve, steward’; but this local assistant to the bailiff was elected by ordinary people within the manor, so would be a temporary revolving position, and not one for which a residence was provided, never mind one as substantial as here. Yet again, something ephemeral posited as the basis of what became fixed as a permanent place-name should have been dismissed as non-viable from the outset, and Kenworthy should not have been so naive as to thus publish.
* New Hall. Nuala, diminutive of fionnuala (a compound of fionn, ‘white’ and guala, ‘shoulder’), that through a usual letter transposition is Anglicised to new hall. This is apposite to name the immediate surroundings of the spring, Whit Well, at the top of New Hall Wood – the notion of spring water being pure is encapsulated in considering it to be ‘white’. [Note this is Whit Well, not the different Whitwell above on Whitwell Moor.] Supporting this derivation, the many instances of new hall around the country are all associated with significant water features. A literal reading that the naming is banally to label a new building is belied by the wide area of land taking the appellation: new hall denotes everything of the little clough down from Whit Well to the Don – both the brook and all of the woodland. If New Hall were as it seemed, then it would be a standalone structure that would not in turn be used to name a large area of land with an already deeply cemented ancient naming, which, therefore, would have to be usurped by a banality; hardly likely. The original naming was very far from a banality until it was prized into thus being, for want of any better Anglicisation and rationalisation. Of course, a naming new hall would never arise de novo, because of its uselessness as a distinguishing place-name, never mind that it would be anodyne. It has come to be fixed only because it was not of the surface meaning originally.
* Whitwell & W Lane / Spring / Moor, Whit Well. Uilt uill or uilt (+ well): uilt, ‘stream, torrent’, uill, ‘well’. With the aspirated pronunciation being like an initial w, then naturally uilt has been Anglicised and rationalised to Old English hwit, ‘white’. That the stream warranted being considered a ‘torrent’ and to name by association a moor, lane and hamlet, is evident from Whitwell Spring on Whitwell Moor being so prolific as to be the municipal water supply to the whole of Stocksbridge until some time after the construction of major reservoirs. The area of the spring is walled off for some distance from the spring itself, where today there is water in a stone containment to a dangerous depth (the 1893 OS map denotes it ‘Stocksbridge Water Works’, and this is still the case even by the 1938-1948 edition).This is the basis of the naming of Whitwell Lane and the village. The same appellation is used to denote a spring at the very top of New Hall Wood (see above). In that case, the elements are separated as whit well instead of being fused as a compound. Confirming that there is no sense of wight, there is no evidence of any mythological attribution to either well; neither associated place-naming nor of having been considered a ‘holy well’.
* Lee House. Lighe, ‘overflow, flood’ (+ house, or –an-eas); lighe being pronounced ‘lee’. The dwelling is close by what at one time (on the first edition OS map) was a ford across Long Lane, necessitated by the strong flow of water from Whitwell Spring on Whitwell Moor, prior to its being properly contained (see above). Consequently, the land slightly sloping between the stream from the spring and Lee House would have been flooded for some or much of the time. It’s possible that again there might be the -an-eas construction here, denoting cascading water, in that from Lee House, Lee House Lane descends abruptly to Allen Croft, and formerly some of the Whitwell Spring water could have come down this slope.
* Allen Croft & AC Brook, Cross. Allt-an-(t’)curach, ‘small rivulet from the marsh’. This is the stream that arises at Allen Croft and runs through Whitwell village, Clough and Pot House Wood before in its lower reaches is named Hole House Brook. The loss of the t in allt is through simple lenition: the natural evolved softening over time to render the appellation easier to say. The land on which the stream arises even today is boggy, and marked as bog on the first edition OS map, and labelled Stank Pits (stank is in Old Scots and English dialects a word for semi-stagnant water; etymology unclear). Prehistorically, presumably it would have been deep bog. The final element, curach, is the derivation of the adjacent place named Cross.
* Spink Hall & SH Lane, Spink House. Sginn, ‘gush out’, and geal, ‘white, clear, bright’; though the specific grammatical construction is uncertain. Sginn in some forms takes an ending in g or c, that would be emphasised through a conjunctive (latterly lost as usual, but providing the sense of a word break), thus accounting for the k sound. Self-evidently this denotes either a spring or a gushing watercourse (and with sufficient contraction there could have been uill, ‘springwell’ / uillt, ‘stream’, also within the construction), and is the answer to the long-standing mystery of the several Spink Wells across Yorkshire: at Dewsbury, West Ardsley, Linthwaite and Bradford). The key is an early recording (a 1604 inquisition reproduced in Dransfield’s History of Penistone), Spinkegall, which confirms that the ‘hall’ element in fact is a rationalisation. It appears, then, that the lane would have been the first feature to take the moniker, only in the wake of which came the hall and the house. A likely secondary root is spunkie (‘a will-o’-the-wisp, aka spunkie-clootie’; ‘auld spunkie’: ‘the devil’) — it cannot be primary, being too recent, and not denoting a ‘water spirit’.
What on first consideration looks the likely derivation, spinc, ‘pointed hill’ (which does appear to be the derivation of Spink Bottom, down by the Don beneath Wharncliffe Crags), hardly can apply here, given that the nearest such, Walder’s Low, is at a distance, and nothing in the construction seems to indicate any relationship with other geographical features not at the actual spot taking the appellation. Of course, the lazy standard derivation here would be ‘chaffinch’ (a Middle English folk name for the bird, likely imitative of its call), as if this would even begin to be of the remotest use as a place-name, given that nesting spots of chaffinches are ephemeral and the bird is common. Yet there are plenty who would persist with such foolishness, as if wilfully refusing to learn the first thing about toponymy.
* Hollin Busk. Dìollaid buisc, ‘the pommel (or cantle) of the saddle’, from dìollaid, ‘saddle’, and buisc, ‘ball, round mass’ (with conjunctives and/or grammatical modification); and/or from gualann, ‘shoulder’. One raised end of a saddle perfectly describes the lie of the land here: the hillock on which sits the hamlet of Hollin Busk as the land rises out of its dish shape – as can be appreciated in approaching along Hollin Busk Road. The rounded mass of the hillock is just as on a saddle, with one end becoming the raised rounded pommel and the other the corresponding cantle. The area is well above the Clough ravine and is traversed by two converging small streams slightly cutting through the gentle slope to create the little ‘saddle’. That the first element denotes a saddle is confirmed by its occurrence nearby: Hollin Edge at the end of the Waldershelf ridge is a similar lie of the land actually having the vernacular appellation, Saddle-back.
The second element alternatively may be merely as it appears: latter-day busk as locally understood to denote a thicket (which anyway is likely via the Gaelic from a Proto-Indo-European origin – see above re Briary Busk); but the topographical description added by buisc is a very neat fit. Of course, busk anyway is a secondary derivation in that this is how the element has been rationalised and Anglicised. The usual assumption that both Hollin Busk and Hollin Edge take their monikers simply from ‘holly’ falls foul of the usual problem of a banality hopeless for place-naming. Holly once was just too ubiquitous and inconsequential, being allowed to grow and husbanded because of its invaluable use as winter cattle fodder.
* Coal Pit Lane. Coill paite (+ lane), ‘(the lane by) the hump in the forest’. From coill, forest, and pait, ‘hump, lump’. This particular compound of place-name elements is known elsewhere, and the pronunciation is remarkably similar to ‘coal pit’. A rationalisation / Anglicisation fits with the immediate topography; the lane running for some length close to the knoll named Cockshot Hill – the ‘hump/lump’ in question — which is distinctive in that atop it is the tumulus, Walder’s Low. Thousands of years ago, the area of course would have been forest before it was cleared for farming.
A surface reading is not sustainable because the naming pre-dates any coal pit near the lane: none appear on the first edition OS map despite several being marked in the vicinity of Spink Hall. Furthermore, Spink Hall Lane and Broomfield Lane well serve all of the coal pits, and in particular the one appearing later by Coal Pit Lane itself (its being at the very end of Spink Hall Lane), whereas Coal Pit Lane would be of no use in this respect as it comes in from / goes out to Stone Moor, away from places of local habitation. In any case, it would be odd for a lengthy and substantial lane merely to serve a single coal pit amongst many; never mind for it to be called after such a common banal feature, and in no way so as to distinguish the particular pit from the others. It’s no matter that the lane itself apparently is relatively recent, being dead straight in its two halves, with an angle between them, indicating that it’s not part of an old network of lanes: the appellation will have come from the pre-existing moniker of the area through which it passes. The lane stays more or less in parallel with the ‘paite’ at issue, so that travelling along it entails its gradual passing whilst always being in close view. This simple extension of the moniker to the lane is apposite.
* Cockshot Hill. Coc-shròn (+ hill), meaning, in the context, ‘the hill of the barrow of the promontory’, from coc-shròn, literally ‘cocked (abruptly stuck-up) nose’. The meaning extends to ‘snout, promontory, point’, and is standardly used to denote a hill notable in its shape giving it prominence, albeit being short – eg, at Oughtibridge (where it is cockshutt). This and the given range of meanings all might well describe this hill in general, but it’s a lump on the Waldershelf ridge of little significance in itself: what really is notable is specifically its eminence in being topped by the Walder’s Low barrow (which is ancient, even though the upright stone and cairn – and likely the name – are not). It is this that appears to be denoted coc, whereas the sròn element would seem to apply much more widely: to the whole of the Waldershelf ridge, which is a promontory jutting out into the Don valley, and, therefore, clearly a ‘nose’. The overall meaning in the local context, then, seems to be ‘the hill of the barrow of the promontory’. Naturally, the construction would have become the English cockshot / cockshutt through rationalisation. With the meaning ‘cleared alley-way in a wood through which game is driven into nets’ not contradicting the topography, then it was sufficiently plausible easily to become fixed; whereas it’s an unlikely actual basis of the appellation given its transience and irrelevance. A whole wood might well have been worthy of naming, but hardly a temporary clearing within it.
* Stone Moor & SM Road. Sròn (+ moor), ‘nose’; sròn (not, as for Cockshot, the related, modified shròn) in Anglicised pronunciation being ‘strone’. This is clearly the derivation of the only other instance of Stone Moor on Streetmap: Stone Moor Cross in Devon relates to the huge ‘snout’ – promontory – that is Stone Barton. Locally, Stone Moor surely is named after the promontory that is the Waldershelf ridge in line with what is established re the derivation of Cockshot Hill. But this is indirect. Stone Moor Road starts/ends at Bolsterstone village, and with the village being the main settlement on the ridge, then surely it too is named after it – the likelihood is that the village moniker contains the element sròn. This would render Stone Moor as being ‘Bolsterstone Moor’, as it were, which makes perfect sense, being adjacent to the village on land with no signs of past settlement. It could be a latter-day take on Bolsterstone in the wake of that moniker having already been rationalised to bolster-stone, but either way it still leads back to sròn, however indirectly. With the land not on a significant slope down from a grit-stone edge, then it’s not stony, and, therefore, the obvious derivation is not on.
* Bolsterstone. Baile an t-sròn (+ sròn and/or ‘s -ton), ‘the settlement on the promontory’. Literally ‘the farmstead of the nose’; baile by extension even in the Gaelic-speaking era of naming came to denote any sort of settlement, and here (as afore-mentioned) sròn would be an epithet for the Waldershelf ridge as a whole, being a striking promontory jutting out into the Don valley, and, therefore, a veritable ‘nose’ – as can be very well appreciated approaching it from the south, even as far away as Walkley Bank in Sheffield. Its appearance is akin to an upturned boat. The construction would contract, Anglicise and rationalise to the most obvious conceivably applicable English word, which is ‘bolster’; just as it has done in the case both of Bolster Moor by Golcar – a settlement on an also highly distinctive promontory — and Bolster at St Agnes; a farmhouse on the lower slopes of what is again a remarkably distinguished prominent hill; an upside-down-boat-shaped steep-sided giant mound rising out of nowhere in the landscape (another piece of topography eminently describable as a nose). These exact parallels confirm the derivation.
At one time, then (still relatively recently), the place-name would have been Bolster, but this would co-exist as today with the everyday shortened vernacular form, sròn, pronounced ‘strone’, still pretty faithfully pronounced even today as Stone (‘stòn’), and interchangeably in local dialect as ‘stu-an’. Just as with the whole construction, then, the form shortened to use just the suffix has also been rationalised / Anglicised: to ’stone’. With the connection between the two progressively lost, and completely so as all meaning evaporated with language supersession, leaving in parallel bolster and stone; then naturally the two would come together to make a meaningful new full-length moniker, bolster-stone: ‘a bolster for another stone’. In other words, through the evolved alteration over time of the naming, the final element became additionally its own suffix in a duplication: baile an t-sròn + sròn. This would have been at least reinforced if not initially driven by the latter-day (English) expectation of the standard possessive s & -ton to denote a settlement. Of course, if this was indeed more driver than mere reinforcer, then properly this would be considered at least a secondary root of the suffix.
Alternative feasible derivations are hard to find, leaving baile an t-sròn the only game in town, so to speak. Checking for constructions that would convey the more specific detail of the hill being akin to an upside-down boat draws a blank. There is a suggestion re the St Agnes Bolster, but it can’t be fitted into a place-name format (and anyway is in Cornish). An alternative to baile of bealach, ‘pass’, can’t be considered because Bolsterstone is at a height which is maintained for a good length of the ridge: there is no ‘pass’ to speak of. The Norse contender, bolstadr, ‘farmhouse’ I long ago checked with the leading authority on this place-name element, and he was adamant that this could not be the root of Bolsterstone, and, in any case, there is no evidence of Norse toponymy west of Huthwaite.
What remains is ‘folk etymology’ and outlandish nonsense. The still current suggestion that the two stones in the churchyard are the basis of this moniker is a non-starter, even as some lesser contribution (secondary root), their being far too recent – early-modern in origin, well post-dating recordings of the appellation already very close to the current spelling. Together they are the piscina from the old chapel — the piscina proper (the upper stone functioning as such) and its plinth. This likely was original to the founding of a chantry chapel at Bolsterstone by Sir Robert Rockley in 1412, but may be from the still earlier building existing in the 12th century. [That the old chapel had a piscina was specifically noted by Pamela Crossland in her pamphlet, The Parish of St Mary, Bolsterstone, Then and Now.]
A piscina was used in all Catholic churches to ceremonially wash the vessels used in holy communion, and comprised a deep washing bowl alongside a very shallowly recessed draining area, featuring a little channel to allow water to run off. The large piece of stone out of which these features were carved in this instance has been raised to a usable height by the separate stone plinth – which, of course, could be taken to be the ‘bolster stone’, but self-evidently this would be a banal and bizarre basis of naming the village. At the Restoration in the sixteenth century, a piscina would have been regarded as one of the accoutrements of ‘the old religion’, and as such to be thrown out. But it appears that this was not practicable. John Wilson, quoted by the local historian Joseph Kenworthy (p50 in his Handbook number 15), wrote in the 18th century of a tumbled-down ancient small chapel at Bolsterstone, of which, he relates from an earlier report, “in the chapel wall is a hole, and in the hole a stone made like a basin for the holy water to be kept in”. So the piscina was built-in – presumably not least so that the draining water could be voided straight to the outside. Consequently, it couldn’t be removed until, because of danger to the congregation, the old chapel was demolished in 1791 ready for its replacement by the Reverend Bland’s indeed bland 18th century church. Originally dumped on the village green, the locals would have been taken aback by such sacrilegious treatment of objects they continued to regard as holy, so the stones were moved into the churchyard and re-erected as they would have been in the church as if ready to resume their function.
Latterly, in the absence of recognising what the stones are, it was suggested that they were a base for a ‘double cross’. This is plain daft. Even cursory examination of the top stone reveals that not only are the long rectangular basin and the square though barely recessed shape of the draining surface neither of them even conceivable as receptacles for the shafts of crosses, but nowhere are there such ‘double crosses’: a ‘double cross’ is one with two bars rather than one (known as a Patriarchal or Lorraine cross); not two separate immediately adjacent crosses sharing the same base. There is no such symbolism or depiction in Christianity: instead there is only the crucifixion tryptych of a large central cross flanked on ether side by two smaller crosses. As an attempt at derivation, the notion of two adjacent bases for crosses is a vivid case of clutching at straws driving out all reason.
* Ewden. Eudan(n) ‘(brow of the) frontier’. From eudan(n), literally ‘brow’ (forehead), ‘face’, ‘front’; eudannan / eudannain, ‘a frontlet, a frontispiece’; in this context surely having the sense of ‘frontier’ as in a major border (Sceuelt). There is an almost exact parallel in Euden Edge, the sole very steep face of the Bolster Moor promontory near Golcar; confirming the accuracy of the derivation, and more than doubly so, in here being comparable clusters of joint parallel naming.
The pronunciation locally 200 years ago was ‘owdin’ (as heard by Laman Blanchard, researching for his 1836 book, A Tour of the Don), the vernacular for Odin (‘the devil’), with which evidently locals identified the valley. This looks like a ‘folk memory’ of the frontier (being where were faced the reputably evil ‘foreigners’, and/or of an associated alien religion). It reinforces the u vowel to produce its strong flavour in the pronunciation today – though for some time this will have been as much assumption from the written form as from hearing it spoken.
The brow or face in question is the very steep south-facing side of the Waldershelf promontory, which has no counterpart, given that the end of the promontory is akin to the upturned bow of a ship, and instead of presenting a ‘face’ to the north, most of the ridge is a near plateau giving way gradually only to a relatively gentle slope (until nearer the valley floor). So in a real sense the ridge has only the one face per se, and as this is more or less south-facing, then it is highlighted in being sunny, making it still more notable. Most importantly though, is the fact that the ridge was the border. Specifically, it’s Hunshelf Water, but that would have been hidden in the near impassable depths of the valley bottom beyond. The ridge was to all intents and purposes the border, so that the Ewden hillside below Bolsterstone would have been it’s face; that is, all that could be seen of it to those approaching from the south either coming to defend it or to make an incursion into foreign land beyond it. The identification provided by the moniker makes good sense, then, in the function of place-naming to provide a guide to the landscape by a label befitting the lie of the land. Applying to the whole hillside south of Bolsterstone down to the brook in the valley floor, then naturally over time the appellation would come to denote additionally the brook (Ewden Beck) and thence near inevitably the entire valley.
That completes the derivations of all of the micro-placenames within (and just beyond) what is now the town of Stocksbridge, and with them all being Gaelic it should be abundantly clear that there is an overwhelming internal consistency of Scottish Gaelic derivation. As for any supposed lack of external validity, any charge would now collapse in the light of several converging lines of evidence (see the paper on ‘Dark Peak’, instancing core-central Sheffield place-names) that there was Gaelic speaking anciently in much or at least some of Western England, and good reason to strongly suspect that the highly remote and inaccessible nature of the ‘Dark Peak’ rendered this area a pocket of residual Gaelic-speaking. This still does not guarantee that Stocksbridge is not an exception in being non-Gaelic, and even of a very recent origin. It’s also right to be suspicious that the teasing out of its evolution is susceptible to ‘confirmation bias’ in seeing if as expected it conforms to a Gaelic derivation. Consequently, there follows a careful ‘reverse engineering’ of Stocksbridge to try to make sure derivation is accurate.
There is agreement that the very first, or very first still-existing record of Stocksbridge or Stocks Bridge is its first appearance on a map, in 1771 (Jeffreys): the earliest map on a scale able to show any sort of detail in the valley more than villages (Bolsterstone and Midhope). This is almost half a century before the bridge (1812): that is, the stone-built ‘carriage-way’ structure that was wide and sturdy enough to take any traffic, not just pedestrian. There was a bridge of sorts before then, but merely a wooden foot-bridge: apparently a series that were each swept away in floods. This (or one such) is shown on a 1793 map by Fairbanks titled ‘Land measured for Thomas Roebuck at Hunshelf’. The route over the bridge is shown as half the width of that by the ford, confirming that it was a footway, with the ford the only carriageway. Given the regularity of catastrophic damage to a flimsy wooden bridge by an uplands river in full spate; for much of the time, then, there would have been no bridge in place, and no imperative to quickly build a replacement. After all, there was the ford close by – Chud Ford. [The Stocksbridge local historian Joseph Kenworthy wrote in 1914, in his Handbook number 9, that Ford Lane was known by some of the older locals as Chud-Ford Lane, and that it was thus listed in the Hunshelf Enclosure Award.]
The foot-bridge would have been merely a convenience for those just on foot to save getting their feet wet and so as to short-circuit the very slight detour of the road as it swung over to the ford and then back again on the other side of the river; until a more direct road was built when the stone bridge was erected. Any bridge that may have been in situ before 1812 was, then, hardly something of significance to warrant naming; but in any case, if any bridge were to be named, surely it would have been called Chud Bridge: with the ford already having the name Chud, then the additional provision of a crossing in the form of a bridge would have followed suit, not just as a matter of logical consistency, but because only then would it immediately be located in people’s minds through their pre-existing knowledge of the location, Chud Ford. Unless, that is, the place already was known as Stocksbridge; not from the bridge but as a rationalisation of the original naming – as will be explained.
All namings on Jeffreys’ map, Stocks Bridge being no exception, necessarily are for significant places, given the map’s small scale, precluding any more detail within the area of modern-day Stocksbridge than just two other names: Bate Green and Holes. So the Stocks Bridge naming surely is in respect of either the hamlet around Smithy Hill (marked more symbolically as two buildings) and/or the area on the Waldershelf side of the river – the triangle of land bounded by a wide sweep of the river as it bends back and forth, and the foot of Smithy Hill – and/or a still wider area additionally taking in the buildings on the other (Hunshelf) side of the river; rather than any bridge: at least primarily.
That this seems indeed the case is revealed in an 1804 document Kenworthy cites, listing “A freehold estate at or near a place called Stocks Bridge in the parish of Penistone consisting of a cotton mill, a dwelling-house and about eight acres of land” (my italics). The naming is of a place, not of a bridge. If instead it were not of the place, then the listing more likely would be, simply, ‘by (the) Stocks Bridge’. This sense was well encapsulated by Joseph Sheldon writing in his book, The Founders and Fathers of Stocksbridge Works, in which he recalled the year 1848 whilst residing at Brownhill Row on Hunshelf just above the bridge, in which (on page 12) he refers to “Stocksbridge Bridge” – note not ‘the Stocks Bridge’.
Jeffreys’ apparent understanding of the moniker as denoting a place is despite his evident failure to understand that the ford was the main route, and that the bridge was insubstantial. His map is clearly wrong in physically representing the river crossing as not the ford (which he doesn’t mark at all) but a bridge (two lines over the river at the position of the footbridge). This mistake likely is occasioned by the road being not significant enough to show. If it had been, then it would have gone to/from the ford, leaving the bridge going nowhere either side and, therefore, an anomaly. That the route of the road to/from the ford back then was the trunk one is shown by its equal prominence on the ‘Old’ series OS map (1840-1844) with the then new road over the stone bridge. The compilers of the first edition OS map (1855) make clear the primacy of the area / hamlet in using large letters to denote this, and though they do also mark the bridge Stocks Bridge, it’s separately with small letters; which could have been either, again, on the mere assumption that the bridge was thus named, and/or that locals had by this time extended the applicability of the naming also to the bridge.
The derivation currently accepted is not any historical or vernacular understanding, but a suggestion of Kenworthy’s: that a certain John Stocks supposedly built the bridge — that is, a bridge. As Kenworthy himself points out, this is in contradiction of the local story (as it was then, very early last century, and had long been) that the moniker arose from two old ‘fulling stocks’ left on the river bank from a fulling mill. But for this last to have taken hold in popular imagination, there could not have been anything in Kenworthy’s derivation, otherwise history would have usurped his origination of the John Stocks theory: it would have been this that became cemented instead of the ‘fulling stocks’ yarn. There is no reason why it would be so quickly forgotten that an original bridge was built by John Stocks, so that instead of that clear, simple story, a novel, more complicated one needed to be created to fill the explanatory gap. After all, this would not then have been long ago, but instead recent history. John Stocks was recorded as a tenant in 1716.
The reason it didn’t stick is fairly obvious: John Stocks didn’t build a bridge. His tenancy rather than ownership (the owner was a Thomas Pearson) means that at least in the normal sense of accreditation, Stocks could not have been viewed as the bridge-builder. It would be the land-owner footing the bill and at least giving permission for construction if not initiating, designing and supervising it. Even for John Stocks being a labourer, there is no record of any kind. It is mere conjecture by Kenworthy that he had anything to do with it. The basis of this leap of Kenworthy’s is that some of the land on the Hunshelf side of the river listed in local documentation as ‘the four holmes’ are much later listed as being alternatively ‘stocks holmes’. Kenworthy simply assumed this land must have been named after this particular one-time tenant, but the first record of ‘stocks holmes’ is in 1786, fully seventy years after the record of John Stocks’ tenancy, by which time there had been no less than three intervening tenants – as Kenworthy himself found: James Mitchell, William Newton and Jonathan Denton. There is no indication of anything special about John Stocks’ tenancy over all of the others, so although it’s conceivable if very unlikely that land could acquire a naming after a mere tenant as a hangover from the convention of listing land holdings in terms of the owner instead of by the field-name — this to aid recognition of the land area at issue – the question anyway then would be begged as to why this would settle on John Stocks rather than either a previous or a subsequent tenant; or, not be an ancient naming unrelated to any individual.
With the ‘four holmes’ being either adjacent to or within an area that by 1771 had been named Stocks Bridge, then a naming ‘stocks holmes’ much more likely would be either directly from the area, or in turn the bridge, or from some other feature with the stocks stem from which in turn the bridge also was named. And it is not just ‘stocks holmes’ that may thus have arrived at its name, but John Stocks himself: his surname. What few early records there are of the surname are specifically for Penistone parish (Hunshelf), and the Internet Surname Database gives the surname as toponymic (originating from a place-name): from Stocksbridge. The upshot is that dismissing Kenworthy’s derivation does not entail passing off the presence of a John Stocks as a coincidence. This is the basis of Kenworthy’s jumping to his conclusion. Without looking into other possibilities, he naturally saw coincidence as implausible. But it does entail putting back the date of the origin of Stocksbridge not half a century before the stone bridge, but at least several centuries before it. Note, though, that this does not mean that the form of the place-name was as it is today. Both the Stocks surname and the Stocksbridge place-name could have evolved from something different, and the origin of the surname could have been a mistaken take on the place-name.
Instead of being from John Stocks, the obvious source of stock(s) would be stoc, a word common across many languages (not just Old English), meaning literally ‘tree stump’ but denoting by association cleared land, and in English usage commonly referring to an outlying dependency of a monastery. The latter is also a common applied usage of burton, which at first seemed a promising derivation of Berton-under-Edge, high up on the Hunshelf hillside. With burton and stoc likely to co-occur, then stoc could be the basis of stocks holmes and/or the Stocks surname. But the conclusion in the outline of the derivation (above) is that it isn’t burton, and stoc is not, as might be expected, the basis of the naming of the connecting ford or lanes. Despite seeming at first promising, it’s unlikely, then, that stoc is the derivation of the stem of Stocksbridge. With this and Kenworthy’s suggested derivation found wanting, then we need to go back to the formerly generally accepted, vernacular take on Stocksbridge. If that too is wide of the mark, it might at least give some pointer to the actual name origin in the way it’s wide of the mark.
So what about the ‘fulling stocks’ local understanding Kenworthy contradicted? It’s particularly unconvincing. Kenworthy was right to take issue with it. Most people likely would not know what the machine remnants of a fulling mill were or what they looked like. Furthermore, fulling stocks were simply and obviously known as fulling hammers. Kenworthy cites an account of their appearance as being near the wooden bridge. “… on the south side of the river stood what the (even by then) long late Wade Hawley had described as two stone posts with grooves on the inside, which, whilst not unlike the stocks used for punishment, were really fulling-stocks and had been used in connexion with the fulling-mill on the opposite side of the river”. But these cannot have been fulling hammers, nor any part of fulling machinery, because invariably they and it are all-wood. In no photographs of original or replacement fulling machinery is there anything resembling Kenworthy’s description. Being made of wood, left outside they would have rotted away quickly: too ephemeral to have been the basis of place-naming. Neither would a pair of stone posts evoke punishment stocks in the absence of the wooden parts. And anyway, why would the focus be on the hammers / stocks rather than the actual process: fulling? The former landmark at this place was a fulling mill, so why wouldn’t the bridge be named Fulling Mill Bridge (of which there are actual instances)? As with ‘John Stocks’, this attempt at derivation appears to be a rationalisation of the actual basis of naming. Self-evidently, a rationalisation cannot pre-date itself, so the absence of any record of the name before 1771 is fully in keeping with both the fulling stocks and ‘John Stocks’ being rationalisation: itself evidence of rationalisation.
The more outlandish the rationalisation, the more clearly it is so. What’s more, it often provides a clue: ‘just so’ vernacular accounts may well have a core truth to them; concern with which allows the conceit to take hold notwithstanding internal contradictions. This might be the case with the ‘fulling stocks’ local story. Though the remnants were of stone, the rationalisation doesn’t make sense if they were not of wood. The very absence of wood is the telling aspect. Locals may have had wood in mind in some respect: some connotation of the absence of wood. Maybe the standard notion of stock(s) in place-names as the stumps of trees felled when clearing land or farming? But this already has been looked into and found to leave something of a quandary, and, therefore, to be not very promising. However, this may still be a contributory root to the naming, even if the naming is mainly of a wholly different main root; as indeed seems to be the case, as will emerge in due course.
Given problems with the first element, the key might be in the second. What was the former naming, even before there was any bridge? It still could have been in the form of a rationalisation as -bridge, simply for want of a better, simpler rationalisation. More likely, though, it would have been more faithful to an original, ancient naming. Either way, it seems not to have been recorded. Hardly surprising, being as it would be in reference to a non-noteworthy piece of land too small for the level of detail shown in maps before the OS series, and it would not have appeared in lists of land holdings for tax purposes because these were listed by owner and not by field- or place-name.
There is, however, what looks very much to be an inadvertent naming, that appears as a mistake on the OS (Old Series) map of 1840-1844, of Stocks Books [sic], which is located on the map as oddly as is the name: in New Hall Wood, near an also (if not quite so wildly) mis-located White [sic] Well. The second element, Books, presumably is a false take on busk. The siting looks likely to be a mis-placement by the early OS map-makers from the valley floor of what may have been an earlier rationalisation of the ancient name before settling on –bridge, that continued to exist in parallel; perhaps latterly applying to a slightly different area, or a different facet of the area whereby the patches they referred to overlapped. It does not appear on any subsequent map, but instead, near this mis-location but by the river, is Hawthorn Brook, which, strangely, does not denote a stream but a small area near the river. As will become clear (below), this oddity helps to unravel the Stocksbridge naming.
The mistake is one of a plethora on the ‘Old’ series OS map edition in this locale – as well as the afore-mentioned Whit Well mis-spelt White, Berton-under-Edge is Burlan, Bracken Moor is Bracking, the Stubbin is Stubl, Ellen Cliff is Elder, Hollin Busk is Bush, Pot House is Glass House, and Hole House bizarrely is Work House. It would seem the map-makers had problems with the Stocksbridge accent! You can imagine how the mistake of Stocks Books arose. The army map-makers, being new to this activity of domestic surveying in a remote, unknown place — this being the very first OS survey – when they are compiling the map after finishing all surveying work, they find the anomaly of having two namings for the same small piece of land: Stocks Bridge and Stocks Busk (which, as they can’t make sense of it, they write as they heard it. Books). The natural assumption would be that these are not two namings of the same location, but that they had in their recording got mixed up between two micro-placenames that albeit in the same neck-of-the-woods are distinct. With a bridge being concretely adjacent to this area, then naturally they would feel reasonably confident in placing the Stocks Bridge name on the adjacent land area, leaving the other name until they find a site where it could be inserted. Finding the nearest spot blank of any naming, and maybe, with an understanding gleaned from locals that busk (which they mis-wrote here as well as re Hollin Busk: the latter as bush, here as books) pertained to shrub-land or woodland, they see this spot itself features scrub or woodland; then to put the map to bed they insert Stocks Busk there as the best of a bad job. After all, at that time virtually nobody lived or travelled through here; and few of them would have either the need for or the wherewithal to afford a copy of the map!
Stocks Busk would be a conundrum if stocks refers to the tree stumps of land cleared for farming, in that busk would contradict this in denoting shrub-land or woodland, not farmland. The point, though, is not that the second element doesn’t make sense in terms of what may be suspected to be the root of the first, but that anyway it is particularly fishy in there being apparently two rationalisations in busk and bridge. These are useful clues. They tell us to look for a putative original second element that might readily be rationalised to either busk or bridge.
To get a handle on this, the next step is to try to determine how old might be the naming, in the light of the ubiquitous Scottish Gaelic derivation of all of the micro-placenames within the geographical area of present-day Stocksbridge town, as listed and explained at the outset. So the only way forward now with respect to Stocksbridge itself is to consider possibilities of a Gaelic origin of both (either) bridge and/or books [sic] / busk. An interesting comparison is the suffix of the nearby village of Oughtibridge, and the last element of the very close-by above-cited Hawthorn Brook; likewise the first element of Brick Lane and Bridgehouses, both of which are right down by the River Don in Sheffield. What is common to all is that they don’t make sense as ostensible namings – they are surely rationalisations – and are immediately adjacent to a river. Therefore, the search is for a Scottish Gaelic word used in place-names that is both associated with water and plausibly could be Anglicised and rationalised to bridge or brook or brick.
There is only one candidate: bruaich, ‘bank’ (of a river), ‘brink’, ‘brim’, ‘border’, ‘margin of land by water’, ‘edge’. This would be highly apposite for the tongue of land bounded by the sweeping long curving of the Don in Stocksbridge. It may even be that a dimly remembered sense of this drove (as a rationalisation) the local tradition re fulling stocks – this pertaining to the other element, of course, but within the place-name — in that the land here is tree-less meadow, and, therefore, clear of trees, as stoc denotes. It’s just possible that there is a kernel of truth in what is otherwise a daft vernacular pile of self-contradiction.
If bruaich is fairly clearly the suffix, the stem is not much less so. The search is for a candidate Scottish Gaelic place-name element Anglicisable and rationalisable to stock(s) as well as denoting a significant topographical feature, and in such a way that it would make sense paired up with the –bruaich suffix. There are actually three possibilities, though really just the one, in that they are nuanced facets of the same thing; which leaves a choice between two different features in the locale that they could denote.
Scottish Gaelic Stuaic / stuaichd, ‘a little hill, round promontory’, or stùc, stùchd, ‘little hill jutting out from a greater’ or ‘steep conical hill’, would neatly indicate the hill which remains in current place-naming as Knoll Top – knoll being Gaelic cnoc, of course – the route down from which descends into Smithy Hill, formerly to the ford. The knoll sticking out from the foot of the Waldershelf hillside as it gives way to the distinct tongue of land forcing the river into a loop, being as it is on a main route traversing the valley, would be a stand-out feature warranting naming.
The alternative is that rather than the knoll it is the exceedingly steep Hunshelf hillside at Hunshelf Bottom that is referred to. The slightly different word, the Scottish Gaelic stac, denotes ‘cliff’ or ‘precipice’. Such is particularly noticeable where the river swings into the Hunshelf hillside to cut out an even steeper incline – a cliff, indeed — than the anyway very steep hillside overall. Originally – that is, thousands of years ago, within the era of naming — the course of the river may well have been different, and even reversed, in that the tongue of land may have extended out not on the south side of the river but on its the north side; in which case the tongue of land would swing out from the cliff at Hunshelf bottom rather than from the knoll. Either way the derivation holds, but the course of the river impacts on whether the stem is stùc or stac.
Perhaps, though, the most likely combination here is that the ‘cliff’ and the ‘bank’ are one and the same: that the cliff is distinguished in being itself the bank in question. Such combination is a striking visual landscape feature, with practical implications re getting about and use of the land. It is indeed the most striking landscape feature of the area around what is now the bridge at Stocksbridge, and, therefore, the feature most calling out to be given a place-name. This would mean the stem being stac. However, given that the cliff could be considered as being a hill sticking out of the overall hillside, then it’s not unlikely that stùc as well as stac feature in the derivation – co-roots, or one primary and the other secondary. Note also that bruaich in its full range of meaning denotes ‘a bank; an edge, brim, brink, border; a short ascent, a steepness, a precipice’. So both elements could denote the cliff, but different aspects of it. Each would qualify the other: one in terms of the cliff per se, and the other in terms of its being the river bank.
Leaving this complication aside and looking at both the stem and suffix together: in combining the two elements the construction would not be simply stuaic-bruaich / stùc-bruaich / stac-bruaich: there would have to be, originally, a conjunctive middle element — stuaic-na-bruaich / stùc-na-bruaich / stac-na-bruaich. As usual with the evolution of multi-syllable place-name constructions, such an element would tend to be lost and, eventually, fully so over the long period since ‘Celtic’-speaking times. It would nevertheless leave the sense of both a word break and also that something should be there. The separation of stocks and busk (or bridge), but with the insertion of the possessive ‘s’, makes sense in this light.
The next step is to see if this construction looks likely replicated elsewhere: are there other places named Stockbridge / Stocksbridge set in the same combination of landscape features – right on the bank of a river close to a hill distinct in being either a knoll (even if small, as long as it is conical) or a very steep cliff? Indeed there are. Many. Even on Streetmap.co.uk there are fifteen entirely separate sites – either of individual occurence or a cluster of stockbridge namings – that are independent of each other. [Although all are named Stockbridge, in their associated eponymous names may be included one with a medial s (Stocksbridge): the two forms appear at least to an extent inter-changeable.]
Stockbridge near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire is on the bank of a river (Burn of Faichfield) in the shadow of a small highly conical knoll (Brownhill); Stockbridge just outside Dunblane is hard by The Hillock standing between two tributaries to Ardoch Burn; Stockbridge near Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders is right beside Heriot Water, under a fiercely steep ascent up Ewieside Hill; Stocksbridge near Lockerbie is in the immediate shadow of Burnswark Hill, a very pronounced hill-fort, on the brink of a tributary to Mein Water; Stockbridge near Tilford, Surrey, is adjacent to the knoll-like Yagden Hill on the bank of the River Wey.
At none of these is there a bridge at all. Then there is Stockbridge near Riddlesden (Keighley), on the Aire floodplain beneath the high and exceedingly steep hill named simply The Height; Stockbridge in Knowsley is by the River Alt, just by Ridings Hill (the pronounced knoll after which Knowlsey is named); Stockbridge near Longburton, Dorset is adjacent to a pyramidal eminence named Leweston, on the bank of a tributary of the River Yeo; and Stockbridge in Edinburgh is right on the floodplain of the Water of Leith next to the conical hill where are the botanical gardens. The only Stocksbridge of which anyone’s heard is the one in Hampshire, which is straight in front of Meon Hill over the River Test, and in the opposite direction is another distinct knoll in Stocksbridge Down, which instead may be the relevant hill feature.
As with the Hampshire instance, even those where there is a bridge, the bank and the hill feature may be in mutual relation without entailing a bridge crossing, and/or in other ways the bridge may be incidental. There is only one instance out of the last batch where the bridge has long been thought to be central — Edinburgh – but even this cemented folk etymology is at least being questioned. It has long been assumed that the bridge there, itself named Stock Bridge, was named from the wood of its construction; but the absence of any history to back this up has led people to realise that it’s nothing more than conjecture. Still, though, there is no mention of the inherent implausibility that the material out of which all bridges at the time would have been constructed could possibly be a basis of distinguishing by place-naming. Such is the hold that even obviously mistaken folk etymology has when to question it feels like not only going against your peers but also the ancestors. It’s forgotten that a bogus inane snatch at a derivation adopted in groupthink necessarily is entwined with the history of the place-name’s evolution, and that these can be disentangled.
Of five remaining instances, for two of them there is no apparent or at best an indeterminate basis of naming (one near Carwood; the other near Arksey, Doncaster), leaving three – in Romney Marsh, Kent; by Chichester, and near Ravenglass, Cumbria – where the naming appears to be the surface derivation: actually a bridge. The stem here is likely Old English stoc (cleared land or a daugher monastic holding). It’s surprising that these are very much the minority (three out of fifteen), given the potentially ubiquitous naming in terms of land clearance and subsidiary holdings.
There are, in addition to multiple occurrences of stockbridge, also two instances of stockbriggs: two related monikers in Lanarkshire. Stockbrigg sports steep banks, particularly on one side but on both sides of a river. Close-by, further upstream, is Over Stocksbriggs: a hamlet atop a highly convoluted very steep bank – effectively a series of steep banks (and there is but one bridge and a footbridge at that).
It’s pretty clear, then, in comparative place-name research throwing up very likely multiple replications of the exact same specific cluster of features and naming as at Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire, that it is most probably generic; thereby considerably bolstering the derivation stuaic-na-bruaich / stùc-na-bruaich / stac-na-bruaich. Of these, the most likely is the aforesaid combination in one of a steepness and a river bank: stac-na-bruaich, with the additional influence of stùc. The sound tension between the a and the u would yield the o in stocksbridge, whilst the cumbersome and no longer familiar construction would contract to lose the conjunctive but retain a sense of a word break, allowing in the possessive s as part of rationalisation in Anglicisation.
The evolution of the moniker now becomes clearer. In not originally denoting any of the floodplain on either side of the river, but instead applying to the cliff at Hunshelf Bottom, then the appellation has come to be applied also to land areas and/or hamlets on either side of the river. Stocks Holmes also makes better sense, now. With what originally preceeded the Anglicisation / rationalisation to stock having long denoted the cliff, then naturally it would come to denote the land immediately below it – and surely had done so for millennia. So the whole construction long will have been up for Anglicisation and rationalisation, but none of this would come to light in any record until the industrial revolution provided a significance to the locale requiring more specific naming for inclusion on maps, legal agreements, etc.
The logic together with the circumstantial evidence is strong for this putative Gaelic derivation, but, of course, as with all rooting around for the roots of place-names, there is no certainty that the evolution of the Stocksbridge place-name is here accurately teased out. There is no science in etymology, but the logic is inescapable, albeit a little convoluted. Furthermore, nothing can get round the ubiquity of Scottish Gaelic roots of all of the micro-placenames in the immediate locale. The subsequent re-interpretation and consequent additional (secondary – and tertiary …) roots supplied down through time to pre-existing place-names is standard. It’s what makes place-name research difficult and interesting. But whatever far later overlay there may have been, it is very unlikely that there has been de novo naming that would apply over a wider area than for a micro-placename. That is, for the name of the locale denoted Stocksbridge, even more than for more minor features, it is implausible that there would be any relatively recent initial naming, rather than its not already having long had a Scottish Gaelic moniker.