THE PLACE-NAMES OF THE MUCKING AREA (2)


    by Dr. Margaret Gelling
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Most of the names which fall into the three categories listed above are relatively early. The pagan names were probably coined between A.D.600 and A.D 700; Dodgson (op. cit.) suggests that "the -ingas place-name seems to be the result of a social development contemporary with a colonizing process later than, but soon after, the immigration-settlement that is recorded in the early pagan burials"; and a king's thegn with an archaic personal name is more likely to be an estate owner of the 6th or 7th century than of the later Anglo-Saxon period. But there is no reason to believe that any of the place-names in these categories are the best guides to the process by which English-speaking settlers first made their homes in any area.

Apart from the failure to stand up to detailed examination of these assumptions about the 'earliest' English place-names, there was a fault in the attitude which picked out the exceptional names for this sort of attention. The main characteristic of English place-names in this country is their abundance, and if sound historical conclusions are to be drawn from them some of these conclusions should be based on patterns discernible in the mass of material. Such patterns have not always been systematically looked for. The reference in the Introduction to The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire (EPNS XV11 p. xiv) to "the neutral character of the local place-names" and my own statement in the Introduction to The Place-Names of Oxfordshire (EPNS XX111 p.xxii) that "The great majority of Oxfordshire place-names... are not in any way remarkable" show the blinkered approach which prevailed till quite recently.

In an attempt to discern significant patterns in the general mass of place-name material the main tool must be distribution maps. The subject of place-name distribution maps is under discussion at the moment. The maps supplied with Part 2 of The Place-Names of Berkshire (EPNS L) break some new ground, but it is probable that future surveys will improve on these. Perhaps the most important innovation attempted for Berkshire is the mapping of all settlement-names of topographical meaning. It has become customary to recognise two broad categories of settlement-names the habitative, which contain a word for a settlement such as ham, tun, wic, stoc, worth, cot, and the topographical, which describe the site of the settlement but contain no word for a building. There has been a general assumption that the habitative are likely to be 'earlier’ than the topographical types, and the latter have not been systematically mapped nor their distribution studied in relation to the general pattern of settlement. Some topographical place-name elements, such as feld and leah have been mapped as evidence for woodland, and others, e.g. sceat and ceart in Surrey, were mapped because of their peculiarly limited distribution; but some of the more important topographical terms which occur as the final element in settlement-names, such as ford, eg dun, were not shown on distribution maps nor were settlement-names derived from rivers. This has been a serious omission, as it is clear that in some areas settlement-names of topographical meaning have a better claim to be the primary English place-names than those which contain a word for a farm or village; this is especially so with names transferred to a settlement from a river. It has been possible in Berkshire to point to some topographical terms which are used in English names for land-units which were probably long established when the change to the English language occurred, and to others, particularly leah, feld, and hyrst, which are likely to refer to settlements in assarts made during the Anglo-Saxon period.

It is time to look at the region of Essex which is now known to have been the location of some of the earliest English settlements in the light of these changes of outlook among place-name specialists.

The Mucking site was little known until after the publication of John Dodgson's demonstration that names in -ingas did not denote the first English land-takings. The subsequent discoveries of abundant very early Saxon material there seemed ironic, as Mucking and the neighbouring Fobbing are given in the reference books as -ingas names meaning 'the followers of Mucca' and 'the followers of Fobba'. It seemed at first sight as if the new archaeological discoveries would have fitted better with the old place-name hypothesis. A fresh look at the evidence of the early spellings for Mucking and Fobbing suggests, however that they are by no means certain to belong in the -ingas category. There is a type of English place-name in which the suffix -ing is added to a significant term or a personal name, and these formations are a totally distinct phenomenon from the -ingas names though it is not always possible to tell them apart if there are only Middle English spellings available. The singular -ing is a place-name forming suffix whereas the plural -ingas is used to form the name of a group of people. The Essex place-name Clavering is good instance of the -ing type; it is recorded c.1050 in the form Claefring and is considered to mean 'place where clover grows’. Names of this kind are much less common then the -ingas type. Their distribution is patchy and it is generally considered that they are most numerous in Kent, South Hampshire and Berkshire. The Berkshire examples have recently been studied in detail in the Introduction to The Place-Names of Berkshire. In that County the examples constitute a group of seven names, all originally stream names, and all but one lying in the valley of the River Ock in North-west Berkshire adjacent to, and overlapping with, an area where Anglo-Saxon cemeteries were in use before the end of the 4th century. It is possible to make firm statements about the nature of the Berkshire -ing names because five of them are recorded in charter boundaries as the names of small streams. If the charter-bounds had not survived, the names would either have been lost or have been known only as referring to settlements, so that their original nature would have been more open to doubt. There is no comparable body of evidence for Essex, so the likelihood of -ing names there being stream- or creek-names depends on the known use of the type elsewhere.

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