Place-Names of Shropshire

Shropshire's Welsh Names


As part of a major AHRC-funded project to complete work on the English Place-Name Society’s survey of Shropshire’s place-names (click here for the main project page), we shall be preparing a study of the Welsh names of the county. We will devote a substantial volume to the two hundreds of Clun, in the south-west, and Oswestry, in the north-west, where the Welsh language has contributed extensively to local toponymy. Here there are dozens of Welsh-named villages and hamlets, such as Bettws-y-Crwyn, Llanvair Waterdine, Llanymynech, Trefarclawdd and Argoed; and there are many hundreds of houses and fields with names like Rhyd y Cwm, Pencraig, The Maes and Vron. The first aim of the volume will be to document historic spellings for all place-names in the area, from towns and villages to the least of enclosures, woods, streams and streets. Many of these will be English, many Welsh, and many will illustrate the interface, and sometimes interplay, between the languages. Our second aim is to explain the linguistic origins, the meaning, of the names, as far as possible.

To this point the work will be a ‘standard’ EPNS survey volume, save for the extent of the Welsh material. However, in two further respects it will be quite unusual. First, we shall compile a specifically Welsh element-index, listing not only the Welsh vocabulary and personal names from Clun and Oswestry, but also all the Welsh material found elsewhere in the county – for other parts of the west and north also had their Welsh-speakers, though perhaps not in quite such numbers. And second, we will offer an extensive analysis of all this material in an introductory chapter, examining the history of the Welsh language in Shropshire (and its neighbours) in the light of this copious evidence, much of which has not been seriously studied before.

The project-team at CAWCS comprises Helen Watt, experienced archival researcher, whose credits include Welsh Manors and their Records (2000) and, more recently, work on a digital edition of Edward Llwyd’s correspondence, and David Parsons, Deputy Director of the Survey of English Place-Names and former Director of Nottingham’s Institute for Name-Studies. PhD student Emily Pennifold will also be contributing to the project, and her thesis on ‘Post-medieval field-names on the Anglo-Welsh border’ will include a detailed case-study of much of Oswestry hundred. We will base our research on materials bequeathed to us by Margaret Gelling and her collaborator George Foxall, and on documents from the National Library of Wales and Shropshire Archives; the team will routinely consult the staff and collections of the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, also based at CAWCS.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we will be working in consultation with Richard Morgan, archivist at Glamorgan Archives, who has published extensively on place-names in east Wales, and whose Welsh Place-Names in Shropshire was first compiled in 1988. Our work will incorporate a revised version of this study, and Richard’s advice and experience will undoubtedly make a major contribution throughout the volume. It is anticipated that the book will be published by the end of 2016.