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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Looking Backwards: Nice Place You Have (2)

As I’ve said before here many places in England (and the rest of the UK) have odd, unusual and often funny names because of their individual histories. Because occupying groups changed over time as well as languages and language usage you might easily get a Celtic village which had its name Latinised later changed into Medieval English and then updated into what it is today. Such a long and often convoluted process can produce apparently bizarre place names but once you dig into their histories it can all become almost obvious and also reveal a LOT about what was going on back at the very edges of the historical record.

Following my ancestors records again I came across my 5th great-grandfather who lived and died in the village of Albrighton in Shropshire from 1773-1858. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Albricston(e) or the home/farm of Albric/Aethelbeorht, it received its charter in 1303, which was renewed in 1662 for rather unusual reasons. The charter declared that "because Albrighton (then) adjoined Staffordshire on the east, south and west sides, felons and other malefactors fled Staffordshire to escape prosecution because there was no resident justice of the peace in that part of Shropshire". [From Wiki] Interestingly Charles Dickens stayed there in the local Public House briefly whilst working on The Old Curiosity Shop.

My 6th great-grandfather lived in a little village called Wem (again in Shropshire) during the 18th century. For a place with such a small name it has a LONG history.  The name of the town is derived from the Old English wamm, meaning a marsh, as marshy land exists in the area of the town. Over time, this form evolved into "Wem".  The area now known as Wem is believed to have been settled prior to the Roman Conquest of Britain, by the Cornovii, Celtic Iron Age settlers: there is an Iron Age hillfort at nearby Bury Walls occupied over into the Roman period, and the Roman Road from Uriconium to Deva Victrix ran close by to the east at Soulton.  Weme was an Anglo-Saxon estate, which transitioned into a planned Norman castle-town established after the conquest, with motte-and-bailey castle, parish church and burgage plots. The town is recorded in the Domesday Book as consisting of four manors in the hundred of Hodnet. The Domesday Book records that Wem was held by William Pantulf. [From Wiki]

Another of my 6th great-grandfather’s lived during the mid-18th century in King’s Bromley in Staffordshire. The manor was anciently called Brom Legge, and derived its present name from the circumstances of its being the property of the Crown for nearly two centuries after the Norman Conquest, previous to which it had been distinguished as the residence of the Earls of Mercia. Leofric, the husband of the famous Lady Godiva, died here in 1057. Henry III granted the manor to the Corbetts, who sold it, in 1569, to Francis Agard, of Ireland. About 1670 it was sold by Charles Agard to John Newton, of the island of Barbados, and in 1794 it was bequeathed by Sarah Newton to her cousins, John & Thomas Lane. [From Wiki]

Lastly (for now) is the intriguingly named village called Tong in Shropshire, birthplace of my 6th great-grandmother in 1708. Presently Tong has a population of around 243. I have to wonder what the population was over 300 years ago! The name of the village derives from the Old English Tweonga, which means a pinched piece or spit of land. This stems from the fact that Tong sits between two tributaries of the infant River Worfe.  In "White-ladies," one of the "Boscobel Tracts" that describe the events of the escape of Charles II from England after the Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), there is a statement that Charles, while sheltering at Boscobel House about two miles away, "had the pleasure of a prospect from Tong to Breewood (sic), which satisfied the eyes, and of the famous bells at Tong, which entertained the ear." The bells he heard were the bells of St. Bartholomew's. During the escape Charles also spent the night of 4/5 September 1651 at Hobbal Grange in the parish of Tong as a guest of Richard Penderel.  The village is remarkable mainly for its church, St Bartholomews, outside of which is the supposed grave of Little Nell, a fictional character in Charles Dickens's book, The Old Curiosity Shop. It is thought that Dickens visited Tong church. His grandmother is supposed to have worked at Tong Castle many years before as a girl. The Castle (demolished in 1954) stood to the south; its site is now occupied by the M54 motorway.  The 'grave' is thought to have come about because Charles Dickens's novel was serialised and shipped over to America, and as a result, Americans began coming over to England to visit scenes featured in the book. The tourists recognised the references to Tong church from the book and came to view the supposed 'grave', which of course was not there. However, a verger and village postmaster, George H. Boden (16 August 1856 - May 1943) apparently asked local people to pay for a headstone, forged an entry in the church register of burials (apparently the giveaway was that he used post office ink to do this), and charged people to see the 'grave'. The marker has been moved from time to time to make way for genuine graves. [From Wiki]

Finally, in related news Ancestry.Com has just updated my genetic profile on their website. Originally I was 59% Irish, 36% Scottish (STILL a mystery to me!), 3% English/North European and 2% Swedish. The update has tweaked that a bit as their database grows and their algorithm improves. The new details are now 62% Irish, 32% Scottish (!), 3% English/North European and 3% Welsh – so I’ve lost my Swedish connection…. [sobs]. More to come… [grin]  


mudpuddle said...

peculiar that Sweden should vanish like that... it's still on the map, tho... (dumb, i know, lol...)

CyberKitten said...

Oh, I expect Sweden is just where I left it. Most things usually are.. [grin] I guess my DNA percentage fell below the margin of error on that one..