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Guest Contribution: Analysis of Place Names in the Olchon Valley and the Vale of Ewyas

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Ewyas Lacy




This research paper, providing a unique insight into the derivation and interpretation of place names in the Olchon Valley and the Vale of Ewyas, has been written by Doctor Chris Hodges and is reproduced on our website with his kind permission. All content and photographs are copyright of the author.
Ewyas Lacy Study Group

Olchon Valley and the Vale of Ewyas - Some toponymic musings 

By Dr. Chris Hodges


Though many place names have a topographical basis they are not descriptions of places but a word or words used to identify a particular place. Toponomy is the study of place names and in many instances offers a potential source of information about the history of landscapes and places within them. The doyenne of place name studies was Margaret Gelling (1924-2009) whose basic approach was to connect names to geographical features in the landscape. She highlighted the generally complex nature of place names by warning potential researchers that place name study was a minefield which should be entered with great caution. 
This article attempts to follow her methodology and advice while looking at some place names in the eastern section of the Black Mountains.  Whilst mentioned in published literature, these names have undergone little analysis regarding their derivations and in some cases, their locations. Reasons for this situation may be their antiquity and the relative lack of contemporary documentary evidence; the latter is especially problematic because of the need to transcribe documents written in Medieval Latin and their custom of seldom offering location indicators of denoted land, other than names of adjoining landowners. This article discusses several place names in the eastern Black Mountains from a linguistic aspect allied to both contemporary landscapes and agricultural histories within the 12th and 13th centuries, whilst accepting earlier derivations may exist.
Geographically, the study area relates to places on the eastern escarpment of Hatterall Hill and within the Vale of Ewyas.



In summary, this article has attempted an analysis of various place names; some locations were known in the Olchon valley whilst others in the Vale of Ewyas that were possibly older were unknown. Though the element of doubt exists, some interpretations have been offered and how they arose been described but they likely remain simply interpretations; the extant problems awaiting future researchers have been highlighted. The Olchon Valley is an enigmatic and hidden corner of Herefordshire. Though research suggests that this small remote area has been continually inhabited since Neolithic times and even contributed to the evolution of a branch of Christianity, it still holds secrets which at some time may hopefully be unravelled.  However it may also simply remain part of a beautiful and unspoilt area visited by a lucky few.


Click this link to download the full article as a PDF file


Places referred to in this article include Llanthony Priory, Dore Abbey, Craswall Abbey, Abbey Farm, Turnant, Redcastle, Llwyn Celyn, Oldcastle, Cwmyoy, Bwlch Trewyn, Hatterall Hill, Nant Ddu, Cwm Coed y Cerrig, Tredunno, Stanton

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