Local Place Names


I found this article in my archive; foolishly I only gave it a title, omitting to place with it the author. I am 95% certain, from its location, that the author is Leslie Frost. A local man who used to write in the local papers and the 1960s/1970s.

It is such a well researched article that it would be a shame not to publish it in the Oracle and I am sure that if Leslie were with us today he would be delighted that his work was not in vain.

The origins of the names of towns and villages form an interesting field of study for the local historian, for they indicate something of what early settlers thought of a particular place or, possibly, what they found there. They may even include the name of a leader who took part in the early settlement of a district.

But for names to be studied in this way it is necessary that we should get back to the earliest forms of them that can still be traced, since there have often been many changes in them in the course of the centuries.

Sometimes we are fortunate enough to be able to trace place names in Anglo-Saxon charters, as at Stourbridge, where a charter of just over a thousand years ago gives what were then detailed boundaries of the Old Swinford district together with a great deal of incidental but fascinating material about that district in the course of defining those boundaries.

For many places, however, it is to the Domesday Book or to medieval documents that we turn s to trace early forms of names, as in Birmingham, for example, where the Domesday Book was prepared in about 1086 the small settlement in what is now the Bull Ring district was described as Bermingeham.

In later records its name was spelt in a whole variety of ways of which Bremingeham, Burmingeham and Brimingeham are but a few. They do indicate, however, that what is now I believe Eng­land’s second city owes its origins to one Beornmund or Beorma an Anglo-Saxon who chose that Bull Ring area for his "ingham" or settlement.

Incidentally, there are in the church there the tombs of the

De-Berminghams who were the Lords of Birmingham in the Middle Ages, and until the early part of the last century there was still a moated manor house quite close to the old Bull Ring.

The name of Warley has also appeared in many forms in the course of its history. In 1086 it appeared as Werwelie but in the following 200 years it was given in official documents at Werueslea, Worveleg, Worveleye, and Weruele. In the official tax returns or Lay Subsidy Rolls as they are called for 1327, Warley Wigorn was des­cribed as Werneleye, and that same form had been used some years earlier, on May 2, 1283, when by Letters Patent dated at the Tower of London. Johanne Buttecourt gave her Manor of Werneleye to Hales Owen Abbey for the support of three Canons and for certain other religious and charit­able purposes.

In spite of those various forms, the name Warley tells us that when cur Anglo-Saxon forefathers came into the district, they found there good leys or meadows for their cattle, and the name of what is now our county borough originated from their description of what they considered good pasture land for their cattle.

Shortly after the Norman Conquest, the original district of Warley was divided into two then quite distinct portions, the major part being given by William the Conqueror to one of his leading supporters. Earl Roger who is reputed to have led the right wing of the Norman forces at the Battle of Hastings.

In recognition of the Earl's services King William I gave him considerable properties in this country including the Manor of Halas (Halesowen) and most of Warley. He also made Roger Earl of Shrewsbury, and for his own convenience the Earl then arranged for his Halesowen possessions, including Oldbury and his part of Warley, to be transferred into his own county of Shropshire.

So his part of Warley became known as Warley Salop and actually remained in Shropshire until 1841, whereas the remaining 16 parcels of land which had not been given to him remained in Worcestershire, and so became known from the Latin name for the county as Warley Wigorn.

In the course of the centuries, the boundaries of the two Warleys become extremely complicated, but for land transfer purposes it was essential to know which was which, while from 1730 onwards poor children in Warley Wigorn had the privilege of attending John Moore's School at Hill Top.

Cradley, which appeared as Cradeleie in the Domesday Book, is an interest­ing example of a place-name which has arisen from a personal name. It tells us, in fact, that the leader of an Anglo-Saxon group which settled in that district some 1300 or 1400 years ago was named Cradda and so settlers in neigh­bouring areas referred to his settle­ment as being that of Cradda.

Finally, it really wouldn’t be complete without mention of Quinton. In fact, this name presents us with a problem. Ekwall in his "Dictionary of English Place- names" suggests that Quinton means "The Queen's Manor" and that may well be


the case in con­nection with Quinton in Gloucester­shire but in the case of our Quin­ton that district formed part of the great manor of Halesowen until about 400 years ago and as far as I am aware, was never held by a Queen.

It is much more likely that in the early period of its history the ton or early village settlement, was dominated by a woman, or that there was an unusually high proportion of women in its population in those days.

Most of the references which I have seen to that area refer to Ridgacre which was always spelt as many of the older citizens even now pronounce it, namely as some form of Rugeaker. So on April 6, 1274. Roger Fokerham transferred some land which he held in Rugeaker to John and Alice de la Grene.

One of the most interesting entries in the Halesowen Manorial Court rolls refers to the transfer of the right to the services of a man who was simply described as Thomas Coutholf, a "nativus," which was a state bordering on what we should regard as slavery.

This on January 19, 1302, when Richard, son of Lord William Fokerham. Knight, granted to his brother, Reginald Fokerham for his free service, Thomas Coutholf of Rugacre, his nativus with all his goods and chattels and with the tenement which he holds in Rug-acre and Werneleye.

There is also in the Assize Court Rolls for 1221 a very interesting case of a man from Rugacre who was away from home fighting on a crusade, with a direction from the court that no legal proceedings could be continued against his property until he returned.

Historically, therefore, Ridceacre or Rugacre is very interesting, and so too is its place-name, for it seems to be an Anglo-Saxon reference to the field or fields (aecer) on the ridge (brycg).

A place-name which always fascinates newcomers to our area, especially when they see it as a direction sign on an omnibus, is "World's End." This had its origin in a small farm community in an isolated area on the outskirts of the Ridgeacre district. Another modern name that owes its origin to medieval farming connections is Perry Fields, for in 1306 there is a reference to Perry Hill as a pear tree growing district.

The first written reference to Lapal to which we still have access was in 1220, and in it the name is spelt as many of us still pronounce it as Lappol. Some 30 years later, in 1272, it gained an ‘h’ and was recorded as Laphole and in 1276 this was varied to Lappehol.


Ploughing the fields at Perry Hill Farm early 1900s


It is an interesting combination of the name of the leading Anglo- Saxon who colonised that district with an indication of the place which he chose for the settlement as being in a lower or "hollow" area of land.



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