Bulletin 374

September, 2013

Place Names in the Landscape

This was the theme of the Local History Day School in Hereford, with an initial contribution from a speaker – John Freeman – of the English Place Name Society, who is revising Herefordshire’s Place Name origins, followed by contributions from Local Societies, on their special areas.

The Hundred of Elsdon, later Huntington, occupies a unique position in Herefordshire, indeed in England, as it is part of an English (previously Mercian) County, bordering a fragmented but strongly Celtic group of peoples, whose language presumably previously was applied to the whole of the area, prior to any Anglo-Saxon incursion, and whose place names still survive – often unrecognized, or tidied up into ‘English’ sounding words, but sometimes seeming to persist when a Saxon title has been subtly altered over the years to appear ‘Celtic’ or Welsh.  To make matters more difficult, words from both origins are frequently joined, and a particular trait of Old English (pre Conquest) – vowels and consonants are interchanged, – this being a particular problem with the letter R and U.

Place names are therefore a reflection of history, and with regard to English, West Midland Mercian gave place to West Saxon English of King Alfred, a problem highlighted by David Crystal, who reminds us that North West Herefordshire retained the use of Old English longer than anywhere else in England.

From a Welsh viewpoint, we must remember that ‘Irish’ missionaries played a large part in the ‘British’ attempts to re-evangelize the Midlands in the post Roman era, with Irish favourite Saints’ names cropping up.

There is no real remnant of the Roman occupation in place names hereabouts, but ‘Gaer’ in Brilley is a distinct possibility – from caer – a camp. Likewise, the only obvious post Conquest place name nearby is Painscastle – from the Norman Knight – Fitzpaine.

Geographically, the Hundred spreads from the Lugg in the North (Combe – Cwm – Valley), across the Arrow Valley, and over the Wye beyond Winforton to include Middlewood, between Bredwardine and Hay, which seems anomalous, as the Wye would seem to have been a natural boundary.  The landscape was densely wooded, with some clearings, presumably used for pasture or meadow, as although the Anglo Saxons were agrarian settlers, the Celtic tribes were mainly dispersed and mobile, and the place names reflect this, as all the settlements have ‘English’ names, and the landscape features – if they are ‘managed’, have English names – like Kingswood, but if original, have names like Hengoed – ‘old wood’.  Even settlements of mainly Celtic people have English names, such as Walton and Welson (for Welsh, i.e. foreigners!), and old landscape features that are altered later appear, like Burnt Hengoed, and one huge area of clearance is Brilley – Brun (burnt) leah (clearing), illustrating the letter swaps of Old English.    Review by John Rerrie

Pembridge Walk Report: Sunday 14th July 2013

It is not often in this country we can say the weather is too hot but seventeen Society members can vouch that during their walk around Pembridge the weather was very hot. As ever, Duncan James, our guide, managed the conditions really well whilst also imparting some very interesting facts about the development and construction techniques used in Pembridge. He informed us that back on 2002-4 he had been involved in a project, organised by Pembridge Amenity Trust, to date the timbers in many of the prominent buildings of Pembridge and it was around the results of those investigations that his walk was focused. The walk was a continuation of the talk Duncan had given in April and started at the remarkable church Bell Tower. The notorious Owain Glyn Dwr made an early appearance on the walk when he visited Pembridge in the early 1400s and left little of it standing. Only the four huge corner posts of the Bell Tower are considered to be pre-Glyn Dwr (1207-1223). We were shown some remarkably old buildings dating from the 15th and 16th century, which in some cases left you wondering how they were still standing, but were a testament to the materials and techniques used in their construction. It was also interesting to see how buildings had been modified and change to suit circumstances, a practice which continues to this day. The walk concluded at Ye Olde Steppes tearoom where we weary few were able to rest and take a lovely refreshing beverage and, of course, avail ourselves of other sweet treats on offer. Duncan’s subject knowledge and desire to impart information is undoubted and I’m sure I speak for all those present that despite the heat the afternoon was most enjoyable and informative and our wholehearted thanks must go to Duncan.

Knighton Charity Donation

Those members who went on the Knighton visit might be interested to hear that £60 was raised on the day for the Wales Air Ambulance, for which the charity is most grateful. The Society’s thanks go out to those who donated and I think £60 from just 18 attendees is an excellent result.


Dates for your Diary

Friday 20th September  Penny Platts, A talk at Kington Junior School, 7:30pm, entitled ‘The History of Cider’  (See earlier Bulletin)

Saturday 28th September  A visit to the Mayor’s Parlour in Hereford where we will possibly meet the Mayor and definitely see the glittering treasures of Herefordshire. Meet at Hereford Town Hall, St. Owen’s St. 2 p.m.


Jenny Harrison has sent this invitation  to members of the Society and their friends:

Monday Club. The Brilley Monday Club will be inviting members of the KHS to join us for a talk in Brilley Village Hall on Monday, September 16th at 7.30, ( non members of Monday Club £3.00)

Richard Rees will be talking on: ‘The Proposed Flooding of Breconshire in the Eighteen Hundreds – Water for London’. I gather Mr Rees came across this extraordinary suggestion when researching railways in Breconshire.

There will be coffee, and biscuits afterwards, The Secretary will be writing formally to invite KHS, but in the meantime I thought you might like advance notice for the Bulletin. Brilley Village Hall is on the ‘main’ road through Brilley, on the left hand side coming from Kington. Well beyond Brilley Mountain and before you reach the Church. It is signed, and there is plenty of parking.

More info: “Subject: Richard Rees: “Flooding Breconshire” An exposé of 19th century plans to create huge reservoirs in Breconshire and mid-Wales to supply London with 315 million gallons of water per day. In addition to his talk, Richard Rees will provide the audience with an opportunity to examine schedules of the farms and properties that would have been affected by the venture. Try not to miss this fascinating talk and slide show.”


The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Phillip Edwards, 632nd Mayor of the City of Hereford

Invites you to visit the Mayors Parlour on 28th September 2013. Meet at Hereford Town Hall at 2pm.

Come and meet the Mayor of Hereford who will give us a fascinating insight into the long and distinguished history of Hereford. He will show you the ancient charters which entitle Hereford to call itself a city and you will see many of the glittering artefacts presented to the city in its 800 year history. He will show you the Royal Seal of Edward 1, Royal Charters through the centuries and ceremonial swords and paraphernalia still used to the present day. You will hear all about the golden Mayoral Chain, why the Mayor wears it and how it came into being. The Mayor will then unlock the city vaults where you will see a truly glittering display of artefacts, charters and more Royal Seals. In addition, if the Council Chambers are not in use, we will be allowed to visit them and see where power in Herefordshire is administered. The tour will end back in the Mayors Parlour where refreshments will be served and you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the Mayor. There is no charge for this visit but each year the Mayor supports local charities. This year Councillor Edwards is raising funds for St Michael’s Hospice and The Hereford Society for Aiding the Industrious. An intriguing charity and one I’m sure the Mayor will be happy to enlighten us about. You are requested to make a donation when leaving the Mayors Parlour. The visit will last about two hours, plenty of time for shopping before and after, so come on make a day of it.


Yes, that moment has come round once more and we are asking you to renew your subs. Remember, it is £10 for single and £15 for family membership. It is sad that we have to charge, but circumstances leave us no option. The Papers cost a lot to print and the postal charges are staggering. Also, of course, our lecturers charge more, as they must. Their expenses have risen too, with cost of petrol, preparation, etc.

Please be kind so that we don’t have to send you numerous reminders, and send your subs. before October 1st. Our treasurer will be spreading his hands beneath his letterbox, waiting for the torrent of mail.