Home    Topics    Memorials    Miscellany    Transcripts    References    Family History    Glossary    Latest    Beeston Blog    About us          Site Search   

Anglo-Saxon BeestonNames A to DNames E to MNames N to WGlossaryBibliography
Beeston Place & Field Names

Roads, Tracks, etcPre-EnclosureField Positions
Maps & Tables

Ivan Morrell's great interest in ancient history and the Anglo-Saxon period in particular led him to look at Beeston in ancient times. After meticulous research, he has now produced an account of the origins of Beeston place names, field names and street names which derive from these ancient times. We are very grateful that he has agreed to allow us to publish it here.
Some of these names have been lost from modern day Beeston, some have become heavily modified in modern usage while others are easily recognised - but perhaps not their origins. Ivan's work is sure to give us a new insight into the names we see and those we come across in research.

Ivan opens with an insight into what is known about Beeston and the region in the earliest times; on the other pages, he explains the meaning and origin of the place names, field names and ancient street names of Beeston.


The Parish of Beeston over the last hundred and fifty years has changed from being basically a rural community whose old field system was still largely intact, to being, almost entirely, a parish built up of concrete, tarmac, bricks and mortar. Only the lands between the canal and the Trent remain largely untouched, with their 200 year old field boundaries still largely intact. Little now remains though of the names our ancestors gave to the lands of this parish many of which must have lasted for a thousand years, but a few are remembered in local place and street names. Many though are now lost to the bulk of Beeston's populace. It is true Beeston has to keep modernising and changing, but we always lose more about ourselves in these situations than we ever gain. As Beeston becomes an ever more multi-cultural society there has been a tendency to either forget or ignore our English roots. Many people it is sad to say are now completely ignorant of their local and national heritage. Little if anything is taught of our local history in schools to make us feel we belong, as slowly and surely we begin to lose sight of who we were and our communities become ever more fragmented. This paper then hopes to redress some of this imbalance, by revealing from Beeston's documents held within the archives, the names our ancestors gave to these lands, to give where possible their location, meanings and origins, and reconnect the people with a small part of their heritage and past. - Ivan Morrell, 22 February 2009

Brief Historical Notes on the English Settlement and on Anglo-Saxon Beeston

The earliest recorded evidence of Beeston is in the Domesday Book of 1086, where the name is spelt Bestune which derives from Old English Beos + tun, meaning the farm or settlement [tun] where tall or bent grass grew [Beos]. The local placenames of either Hassocks Lane or the Rylands could be possible echoes of this original name of Beostun. The name has nothing at all to do with St. Bees or bees which are just later wild guesses or a heraldic pun.

Beeston's Old English origins go back to the middle of the 6th Century when it would have been settled via the early east bank Anglo-Saxon settlements of southeast Nottingamshire. Early 5th and 6th Century Anglo-Saxon cremation and inhumation cemetries are known from Newark, East Stoke, Starnhill Farm at Bingham, Holme Pierrepont, Cotgrave, Broughton Lodge, Kingston on Soar, Sutton Bonington and Rempstone. Although a few Saxons are known to have migrated into this area, the predominant peoples that migrated here, known from their fashion, type of jewelry and burial, were Anglian. These people called themselves Engle or Englisc, and originally came from an area which is still named after them, Angeln, near to Slesvig on the present Danish/German border.

The Anglo-Saxon settlement of the middle Trent valley in southeast Nottinghamshire, northwest Leicestershire and Kesteven shows, from connections in the similarity of their gravegoods, that settlement in these areas was made via the Wash and its tributaries. On the other hand Lindsey and northwest Nottinghamshire were settled via the Humber and Trent. This early English settlement of the East Midlands was centred on the territory of the Romano-British Corieltauvi tribe with their tribal centres at Lincoln[Lindum Colonia] and Leicester[Ratae]. While Lincoln's Romano-British name survived, Leicester's did not. It is suspected there was British survival in Lincoln. Some of the early English rulers of Lindsey had Romano-British names, suggesting early absorption, inter-marriage and a peaceful early takeover. Leicester's fate along with Nottinghamshire east of the Trent may have been that this whole area was vacated by the British very early on, possibly ceded to the Anglo-Saxons by the British as payment for military services against the Picts.

After rebellion and warfare broke out between the native British and the immigrant English in the latter 5th Century, the Trent at the beginning of the 6th Century possibly became a frontier. The victorious British under Arthur had held the English expansion in check, culminating with their decisive victory at Mount Badon in about 500AD. For just over half a century an uneasy peace held the English in their east bank enclaves. Finally about the middle of the 6th Century, archaeological evidence shows the English moving from their settlements in what is now southeast Nottinghamshire and northwest Leicestershire, and beginning to migrate both across and up the Trent Valley into what would become the heart of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

As the English increased and the British moved to areas where they were still dominant, this started to trigger a marked change in the placenames. The British names for woods, streams and settlements and local features were either Anglised or given new English names of the people who now owned them, the use it was put to, or of its physical description. The names of some of the main Romano-British towns and geographical features such as rivers were retained, because they had been learnt from the British by the early English settlers, so their names passed into the English Language. While it is easy to change a local name, it is more difficult to change a name known to many over a large area. Of course if the indigenous British had not moved away the reverse would have happened. For example Wales, Scotland and Ireland were later absorbed into the English State and these countries now speak English, yet there are few English placenames, except in areas like Lowland Scotland that was subject to English settlement. The extent to which words from one language enter another during periods of migration and settlement is a good indication as to whether these different populations become mixed or remain separate. Other than major place and river names, less than a dozen British words have entered the English Language. The flow in the other direction from English to Welsh is also very small. This suggests that there was very little cultural or other interchange between the English and British both in this early migration period and in later Anglo-Saxon England.

Mercia, O.E. Mierce pronounced Mi-er-cha, means the border people, the English people whose territory bordered with that of the British. The British called their English foes Lleogrwys, a name synonymous with that of the Mercians meaning "men of the borders", and a name which is still echoed in the modern Welsh name for England, Lleogr. The Trent seperated the Kingdom of the North Mercians with its probable capital at North Worthy which is the Old English name for Derby, from that of the South Mercians with their capital at Tamworth. The whole of Nottinghamshire though was believed to have been in North Mercia. In the 9th Century this part of the country was conquered and settled by the Danes, becoming part of the Danelaw. Later in the 10th Century upon reconquest by the English Kings of Wessex our area became known as the Land of the Five Boroughs that incorporated Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford that was first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 942, see below.

When the Danes settled in this area they interacted with the English, and this had an effect and influence upon the English Language we speak today. The Danes were closely related to the English both genetically and linguistically, Old Scandinavian was similar in many ways to Old English but there were also many differences. So as well as introducing new words into our vocabulary many words of Old English origin were either modified or influenced by Scandinavian speech. For example Scandinavian Kirk was in some areas sustituted for English Cirice, church, Scandinavian Dyke for English Dīc, ditch, Scandinavian Birki for English Birce birch, Scandinavian Akr for English Æcer acre, and Scandinavian Bekkr for English Brōc, brook.

The early settlement of Beeston was sited well above the floodplain of the Trent on a gravel or sandy terrace on ground slighty higher and just to the north of one of its main water courses, the Pasture Dyke. The inhabitants houses would have clustered around the church compound, framed by Church Street, Nether Street and the High Road, and stretched along Middle Street from the Westend to The City. As was usual in the Anglo-Saxon system of agriculture, the lands of Beeston were divided into three great arable fields, the West Field, the East Field and the Nether Field as well as areas of meadow and pasture. The arable fields were each sub-divided into strips or seliones, which would then have been farmed or rented out to the landowners peasants and tenants. As the fertility of the soil would vary throughout the parish, this system in theory would have enabled each tenant to have a fair portion of good and poor quality land. A system which in most cases would also have suited the landlords, who could then charge each of the tenants a uniform rent or tithe payment.

The Domesday book informs us that three Anglo-Saxon thegns Aelfheah, Alwine, and Ulfketel each had his own manor or estate at Bestune. Aelfheah means high elf, elves were that revered in Old English folklore that many Anglo-Saxon forenames contained the O.E. element Aelf . Alwine can either derive from Aethelwine meaning noble friend or Aelfwine meaning elf friend. Ulfketel is an anglosized version of the Norse name Ulfkjeitl, Ulf means Wolf and Ketel here has the meaning of a helmet, making Ulfketel correspond to the Old English name of Wulfhelm. It is now suspected by some historians that some of the thegns shown in the Domesday Book were not the actual holders of the lands documented, but merely the tenants of some greater unmentioned English lords. There is a possibility then that Aelfheah, Alwine and Ulfketel may have been thegns either of the Earl or of the brothers Leofric and Leofnoth whose main Nottinghamshire manor lay just across the river at Barton in Fabis, especially as this manor held the majority of neighbouring Chilwell's lands as sokeland [sokeland - the land of one manor whose jurisdiction lies elsewhere with another person or manor]. The brothers Nottinghamshire holdings were concentrated down the Notts/Derbys border of Broxtowe and in south Rushcliffe, which is exactly where we find the majority of the other manors of Alfheah, Alwin and Ulfketel. Leofric and Leofnoth are believed to have been related to Wulfric Spot the founder of Burton Abbey and to the important local thegn Morcere son of Earngrim, who was murdered in 1015 by the Ealdorman Eadric Streona of Mercia. Many of the estates held by Leofric and Leofnoth had previously belonged to Wulfric and Morcere.

Of Ulfketel its possible to say a little more, a Notts Charter of 1086/1100 mentions an Ulfketel the brother of Aelfgar Cida. An Aelfgar held manors just across the river in Barton, Kingston, Costock and Rempstone. Interestingly other than Beeston, an Ulfketel held manors locally at Clifton, Kingston, Rempstone, Lamcote, Bramcote, Trowell, Strelley, Hucknall, Awsworth and Eastwood, these could well be the same men that were mentioned in the charter. Aelfgar's name means elf spear and his byname Cida means he had a rebuking or scolding manner, modern english chide.

The three manors of Aelfheah, Alwine and Ulfketel are thought to have been located in the areas [a] where the present Manor House stands on the corner Middle Street and Dovecote Lane [b] near to the Hallcroft at the Westend, and [c] possibly Frog Hall in The City [see locations in "the Origins of Place Names" on the following pages].

. .
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 942 
Hēr Ēadmund cyning, Engla þēoden,In this year king Edmund, Lord of the English
māga mundbora, Myrcena geēode,guardian of kinsmen, conquered Mercia,
dyre dædfruma swā Dor scadeþ,beloved instigator of deeds, bounded by the Dore.
Hwītanwylles geat, and Humbra ēathat broad oceanstream; The Five Boroughs, [he won]
brāda brimstrēam. Burga fīfe,Whitwell Gap, and Humber river
Ligoraceaster and Lincylene.Leicester and Lincoln
And Snotingahām, swylce StānfordAnd Nottingham, as well as Stamford.
eac Dēoraby. Dæne wæron ærand Derby too. Earlier the Danes were
under Norðmannum nyde gebēdeunder Northmen subjected by force
on hæþrena hæfteclommumin heathen's captive fetters
lange þraga, oþ hīe ālysde eftfor a long time until they were ransomed again
for his weorþscipe wiggendra hlēo,until finally liberated by the valour of Edward's son,
afera Ēadweardes Ēadmund cyningprotector of warriors, King Edmund


Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, - Ed. Michael Santon.

Domesday Book - Nottinghamshire, - Ed. John Morris.

Kings and Lords in Conquest England, - Robin Fleming.

The Age of Arthur, - John Morris.

The Beeston Story, - Margaret Cooper.

The English Elite of 1066, Gone but not forgotten - Donald Henson.

The Origins of Lleogr, - M. Gwyn Jenkins - Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies No.19.

The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, - Steven Basset.

Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannum, Vol 1, No.8, Ed. H.W.C. Davies.

Click to read the next page

or - Click here to go back to the top