CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today click here

Interesting place names in Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 July 2017 | UPDATED: 13:53 31 July 2017

Famous places in the North York Moors by Janet Danks

Famous places in the North York Moors by Janet Danks

Archant

An A-Y of fascinating Yorkshire place names (it would have been an A-Z but the nearest – Zouch – is in Leicestershire)

The most famous street in York? Photo by Nancy BarrettThe most famous street in York? Photo by Nancy Barrett

Place names are invaluable, essential signposts to our history, telling us who owned the land, where a river was bridged, what’s under a hill and which flora and fauna flourish within our borders.

So says Paul Chrystal in his new book, The Place Names of Yorkshire, which takes in our cities, towns, villages, hills, rivers and dales. And, yes, before you ask, it also includes pubs (from the Admiral Hawke Hotel in Boston Spa all the way through to the Zetland Hotel in Saltburn).

It’s a detailed collection of facts, history, mystery and legend all hidden in plain sight in the nooks and crannies of Yorkshire place names. To celebrate Yorkshire Day (we can see you waving your white roses in the air from here), we’ve pulled together an A-Y for your amusement. (There isn’t a Z, so don’t go looking for one.)

Allerton Mauleverer, between York and Harrogate

This parish near Allerton Castle originally meant ‘Aelfweard’s farm’, a settlement held by the Mauleverer family in the 12th century. Claims by the Mauleverers that they came over with William the Conqueror were revealed as fraudulent. Naughty.

Barden Triangle, Lower Wharfedale

Cautley Sprout by Amanda GrisdaleCautley Sprout by Amanda Grisdale

This area around Appletreewick and Grassington covers supposedly mystical places with supernatural characteristics such as Troller’s Gill, Elbolton Hill (the ‘Hill of the Fairies’) and Dibble’s Bridge, which was allegedly built by the Devil (probably without planning permission).

Cautley Spout, near Sedbergh

England’s highest cascade waterfall above ground, Cautley Spout plunges 650ft (198m) down from a plateau called The Calf in the Howgill Fells.

Driffield

The first reference to Driffield comes in the Domesday Book and means ‘dirty, manured field’. Not exactly flattering. Another notable reference came in Monty Python’s Flying Circus when Yorkshire lad Michael Palin announces that ‘the Silly Party have taken Driffield’.

Driffield Canal by Jonathan ParkesDriffield Canal by Jonathan Parkes

Egypt (not that one)

There are actually two Egypts in Yorkshire, one in Gomersal and another in Thornton. North Africa, on the other hand, just has the one.

Foulness River, near Market Weighton

Not half as bad as it sounds, in this instance ‘Foulness’ is actually derived from the Old English ‘fulganaess’ which means ‘wild birds’ nest’. Some maintain, however, that it just means ‘dirty river’. Oh well, you can’t please them all.

Great Fryup Dale

The name itself is an amalgam of an Anglo-Saxon goddess and the Old Norse for ‘small valley’. All very ho-hum. But what is interesting is that there was once an old seer woman of Fryup who lived on Old Hell Road and kept a vigil from 11pm to 1am every April 24th to see the ghosts of people who would die in the following year.

Newbggin-by-the-Sea by Martyn WrightNewbggin-by-the-Sea by Martyn Wright

Hades

Who knew that Yorkshire was home to the ancient Greek Underworld? Well, it’s not. But we do have two Hades – in this case, a reference to a place out of sight behind a hill – in Marsden and Holmfirth.

Idle, Bradford

Home to the cult favourite ‘Idle Working Men’s Club’, which was established in 1928 for local sewage workers whose shifts meant they couldn’t go to the pub, this Idle actually derives from Ida, the Anglian leader in Northumberland.

Jingling Pot, Thornton in Lonsdale

Whitby Goth Weekend 'celebrations' at Arguments Yard by Janet DanksWhitby Goth Weekend 'celebrations' at Arguments Yard by Janet Danks

There’s nothing very mysterious about this one; it’s just North Country dialect for a pothole with a tinkling or rattling sound. We just like saying it – Jingling Pot.

Kippax, Leeds

This is a corruption of ‘Cyppa’s ash’ (literally an ash tree belonging to someone called Cyppa). It’s also a good example of a place that became a popular surname as people adopted it to identify themselves and their village when they travelled round the country for work.

Little Barugh, near Pickering

Anyone who doesn’t immediately sing ‘is it you’ (as in Metal Guru by T. Rex) after the merest mention of Little Barugh is no friend of ours. The name derives from a barrow-like hill.

Mickleby, near Scarborough

This derives from the Old English ‘mycel’ meaning farm or village (hence Micklegate in York and Mickleton in Teesdale). You might have heard the phrase ‘every mickle makes a muckle’, but this is actually a misquote of ‘many a little maks a muckle’. What either of them mean is beyond us.

Newbiggin, Yorkshire Dales

Was there ever an Oldbiggin, we hear you ask. Sadly, no, but there was the rather German-sounding Neubigging until 1228 (from the Old English for new outhouse). There’s also a second Newbiggin seven miles away near Askrigg, which seems needlessly confusing.

Oubrough, near Hull

This little village has a name that comes from the Old English for ‘owl-haunted fortress’, which sounds wonderfully Harry Potter-esque.

Purston Jaglin, Featherstone

Isn’t that just the most marvellous name? Purston is actually a corruption of Preston or ‘priest’s settlement’, and jaglin comes from Jakelin, thought to be a one-time owner of the land. Apropos of nothing, Robin Hood is rumoured to have enjoyed a pint at the local pub.

Quite a mystery

Paul doesn’t cover Q in his book – maybe that’s for volume 2. With that in mind, we’d like to offer Quarmby in Kirklees and Queensbury in Bradford for starters.

Rise, near Hornsea

You might think this has something to do with the village being on a hill, but it isn’t. The name actually comes from the Old English ‘hris’ which means ‘among the brushwood’ and refers to an area where faggots of firewood were gathered.

Smearsett Scar, near Settle

Or ‘smears it far’ as we will forever think of it now that we know it’s from the Old Norse for ‘butter pasture’.

Thornton Le Beans, near Northallerton

Bill Bryson is the toast of the town after saying in his book Notes From A Small Island that he wants to be buried in Thornton Le Beans. It means (rather specifically) ‘a farm on a small hill with thorn bushes where beans were grown’.

Uncleby, near Pocklingon

Quite simply, this was once Hunkel’s farm. Yes, he really was the original man from Hunkel.

Very sorry

There’s no V in Paul’s book, so let’s say no more about it

Wham, near Giggleswick

We can’t pretend we weren’t tempted by Wetwang, but then Wham caught our eye. This little hamlet takes its name from the Old English ‘hwamm’ and Old Norse ‘hvammer’, meaning ‘marshy nook’.

X marks the spot

But, unfortunately’ there’s nothing underneath it.

Yockenthwaite, Craven

Could this name sound more Yorkshire if it tried? Like Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton, it sounds like the sort of place where Nora Batty buys her stockings, but is actually a former meadow (or thwaite) owned by an Irish invader called Eogan.

The Place Names of Yorkshire by Paul Chrystal is published by Stenlake, priced £15. For details, visit stenlake.co.uk

What’s in a name?

Places were given names to differentiate them from other places (obviously), but there are other reasons too.

Some were named to indicate ownership: Yockenthwaite is Yoghan’s or Eoghan’s clearing; while Embsay is Embe’s enclosure or hill.

Folklore and local custom played their part: Grimwith is named after a wood supposedly haunted by a ghost or goblin; while Worton echoes the herb or vegetable garden there.

Ancient British is dominant when it comes to natural phenomena like mountains, hills and rivers: Pen-y-ghent, Penhill and Pendle all make use of ‘penno’ or hill; Nidd means ‘brilliant’; Wharfe ‘winding’; and Ure ‘strong’.

The Romans made their mark: the suffix ‘caster’, as in Doncaster, indicates a fort or fortified town; anything with ‘street’, like Adwick le Street (near Doncaster), usually means there’s a Roman road nearby; and ‘wic’, as in East Keswick, Heckondwike and Eldwick, comes from ‘vicus’ or settlement.

We have the Anglo-Saxons to thank for all our ‘tun’ and ‘ton’ names – Allerton, Beeston, Clifton, Drighlington, Menston, Oulton and Normanton are just a few of the numerous examples.

And the Vikings’ influence means that in York ‘gates’ are streets and ‘bars’ are gates, as in Fossgate, Kirkgate, Monk Bar and Micklegate Bar (which is double confusing).

QUIZ - Can you name these famous landmarks in York?

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-What?

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate in York is just one of the weird but also slightly wonderful streets in our great county. The small walkway – hardly a street at all – sits on the corner of Pavement and Stonebow and has been variously translated as ‘What a street!’ and ‘Neither one thing nor the other’. Frankly, we don’t care because it’s just whip-ma-whop-ma-wonderful.

Among the other curiosities on Yorkshire’s street maps are The Land of Green Ginger in Hull and its less fragrant neighbour Rotten Herring Street; Ankirkirk in Richmond, which presumably has something to do with churches; Dumple Street in Scarborough which, sadly, probably has less to do with dimpled dumplings and more to do with the Old English for a hole in the river bed; and Lurk Lane in Beverley, which was once a less than salubrious part of town with more than its fair share of lurkers on the lookout for trouble (they genuinely were in the right place).

:: We’d love to hear about the weird and wonderful place names where you live. Join the conversation at yorkshirelife.co.uk, on Twitter @Yorkshire_Life or on Facebook @yorkshirelife

Related articles

More from Out & About

It might be a record-breaking Capital of Curry, but there’s so much more besides on Bradford’s multicultural menu.

Read more
Bradford
Sunday, October 15, 2017

Halloween is all about remembering the dead particularly saints and martyrs but for most especially youngsters, the night before All Saints Day is about trick and treating, costume parties, carving jack o’ lanterns from pumpkins, watching horror films and visiting haunted houses.

Read more
Things to do in Yorkshire Autumn
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Take in the beauty of the North York Moors as you walk along its pathways and wooded tracks

Read more
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A recent Office for National Statistics survey found that residents of the Craven District were the happiest in UK. We’ve picked some our favourite places that show why this rings true with the locals.

Read more
Yorkshire Dales
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

There is almost too much to do in a North Yorkshire town that doesn’t believe in standing still, says Martin Pilkington

Read more
Monday, October 9, 2017

Tony Greenway visits the North Yorkshire market town and takes his young daughter for a second opinion.

Read more
Thursday, October 5, 2017

A group of Yorkshire knitting and craft enthusiasts have turned an unlikely bi-product of wildlife conservation into a range of fundraising products

Read more
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cheers to charity

Read more
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

It is all too easy to forget the rich past that belongs to this South Yorkshire town, as Richard Darn reports

Read more
Doncaster
Monday, October 2, 2017

With a coppery-orange autumn backdrop, the stage is set this month for one of nature’s finest challenges – the annual deer rut. But there’s a lot more behind this spectacle of seasonal sparring, as Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Tom Marshall reports

Read more
Autumn
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory




Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Yorkshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Yorkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search