08 October 2013


Published, edited, comments (in red) & images added by Kenneth S. Doig
(websource: us.archive.org)



If we had no contemporary information of the settlement, for instance, of the State of Massachusetts and nothing but traditions, more or less probable, concerning it until the middle of the nineteenth century, when an account of that settlement was first written, we should scarcely be warranted in regarding such a narrative as veritable history. Its traditionary value would be considerable, and there its value would end. 

This supposed case is parallel with that of the early account of the Anglo-Saxons and the settlement of England as it went on from the middle of the fifth to the middle  of the seventh century. That which Bede wrote concerning his own time must be accepted as contemporary history, and for this historical information would venerate his memory. 

But the early settlements in England were made six or eight generations before his day, and he had nothing but tradition to assist him in his narrative concerning them. We may feel quite sure that he wrote his best. 

Many of the old chroniclers who copied from him, and some of the historians who followed them, have, however, assigned a greater value to Bede's early narrative than he himself would probably have given to it. 

In this work it will be our aim to gather what supplementary information we can from all available sources, and among the more important subjects that will be dealt with are the evidence of ancient customs and the influence of family organization as shown by the survival of many ancient placenames. 
Anyone who departs from the beaten track, and attempts to obtain some new information from archaeological and other research bearing on the circumstances of the Anglo-Saxon settlement, will find many difficulties 
in his way, and that much time is required to make even small progress. 

Here and there, however, by the comparison of customs, old laws, the ancient names of places and other archaeological circumstances, with those of a similar kind in Scandinavia or Germany, some advance may be made. 

It is to tribal organization and tribal customs that we must look for explanation of much that would otherwise be difficult to understand in the Anglo-Saxon settlement and the origin of the Old English race. Many of the 
ancient place-names can be traced to tribal origins. 

Others, whose sources we cannot trace, probably had their origin in tribal or clan names that have been lost. Many of the old manorial and other customs, especially those of inheritance, that survive, or are known to have prevailed, and the variations they exhibited in different English localities, were probably tribal in their origin. 

The three national names, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, denoting the people by whom England was occupied, were not the names of nations, as nations are now understood, but convenient names for confederations of tribes. The dialects that were spoken by the English settlers were probably mutually-intelligible, but were not, until the lapse of centuries, one speech. 

Their variations have not yet wholly passed away, as the differences in grammar, vocabulary, intonation, and pronunciation of English dialects still show. 

It is to the ancient tribes of North-Germany and Scandinavia that we must look if we would understand who were the real ancestors of the Old-English people, and in comparison with the Germanic element, the Scandinavian has probably not received the attention to which it is entitled. 

The old place-names in England, except along the Welsh border and in Cornwall, are almost all of Teutonic origin, but we cannot say what they all mean. It is easy to guess, but not easy to guess rightly, for the Northumbrian and Mercian speech of the earliest periods have been almost lost, [1] and the early West-Saxon dialect during the later period was not what it was during the earlier.
[1] Skeat, W. W.,  Principles of English Etymology p. 490.

The names of places appear in perhaps the majority of cases to have been given them from topographical considerations. Some of these, derived from hills, fords, woods, and the like, may be of very early date, but most of them are probably later. 

The placenames derived from tribes or clans are, however, as old as the settlement, whether they arose from a kindred of people or from one man of a particular race. 

In considering this subject the earliest forms of local government must not be ignored. In the primitive settlements the customary law was administered by families or kindreds

It at first was tribal, and not territorial. The communities must have been known by names they gave themselves or those by which the neighbouring communities commonly called them. 

Probably in most cases the names which survived were those by which their neighbours designated them. As regards the disappearance of Anglo-Saxon names, nothing is more striking in one county of Wessex alone Hampshire, the original Wessex than the large number of boundary names and names of places mentioned in the Saxon charters that now are lost or are beyond identification. [1] 

There are, however, mixed with the Teutonic names of places all over England, others denoting natural features, which must be ascribed to an earlier period even than the Anglo-Saxon. In the work of reading the great palimpsest exhibited by the map of England the philologist claims to have the last word. 

He tells us of declensions and conjugations, of vowel changes and consonant shif tings, and much more that is valuable, assuming to give authoritative interpretations ; but, as Ripley says, [2]

Because a people early hit upon the knowledge of bronze, and learned how to tame horses and milk cows, it does not follow that they also invented the declensions of nouns or the conjugations of verbs.' 

As regards the names of places that were called after the names of their occupants or the descendants of some early settler, those in which the Anglo-Saxon patronymic termination -ing denoting son of, or descendants of occurs are the most important. 

This patronymical word -ing has been shown by Kemble [3] to have been used in placenames in several ways. In its simplest form at the end of a name it denotes the son or other descendant of the person who bore that name

[1]  Codex Diplomaticus ^Evi Saxonici, edited by Kemble, Index. 
[2] Ripley, W. Z., The Races of Europe,, p. 456. 
[3] Kemble, J. M., Philological Soc. Proc., iv. 
* ' Codex Dipl.,' No. 994. 6 Ibid., No. 1,163. 

Another use of it, as part of a plural termination, was to denote the persons who lived in a particular place or district, as Brytfordingas for the inhabitants of Brytford. It is also sometimes used in another form, as in Cystaningamearc, the mark or boundary of the Cystanings or people of Keston in Kent, 4 and in Besingahearh, the temple of the Besingas, probably in Sussex. 5 

The word ing in combination was also sometimes used as practically an equivalent of the genitive singular. Examples of this usage occur in such names as ^Ethel- wulfing-land and Swithræding-den, now Surrenden in Kent, which are equivalent in meaning to ^Ethelwulfes 
land and Swithrsedes den, or wood. [1] 

In the Anglo-Saxon charters, or copies of them which have been preserved, many names ending in the word -ingas, denoting people of a certain clan or ga, are mentioned. Of these, about twenty-four are in Kent, one in Sussex, five in Essex, seven in Berks, eight in Norfolk, four in Suffolk, twelve in Hants, and three in Middlesex. [2] 

Many more clans no doubt existed, whose names may probably be inferred from existing placenames. On this, however, I lay no stress. The termination -ingahem in place-names occurs in a large group in the Northeast of France, where an early Teutonic colony can be traced. 

Local names ending in -ingen are scattered over Germany, most numerously in South Baden, Wurtemberg, and along the north of the upper-course of the Danube, and it was to these parts of Germany that people closely allied to the Old-Saxons migrated. 

They moved southwest, while many who were kindred to them in race passed over into England, and hence the similarity in the endings of their placenames. Anglo-Saxon names of places are almost universally feminine nouns ending in -e, and forming the genitive case in -an. 

When connected with other words they generally appear as genitives, but sometimes combine with these words, and form simple compounds without inflection. [3] Of these many examples will appear. 

The Old English place-names of which the words men or man form part, and which do not appear to be names derived from inflected words, are somewhat numerous, and most of them may probably be regarded as the tribal names by which the settlers at these places were first known.

[1] Kemble, J. M., loc. cit. 
[2 ]Kemble, J. M.,  Saxons in England
[3 ]Guest, E.,  The English Conquest of the Severn Valley
Journal Arch. Institute, xix. 197 

(there is more to follow, I'll be posting subsequent chapters weekly)

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