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Old Books - Kent
Essentials for Local Historians, Genealogists & Family Historians


Place Names In Kent

AUTHOR: Canon J W Horsley

CD-ROM £10.00

This edition adapted from the original first published in 1921.

83 page book supplied as a PDF document on CD-ROM.

Chapter titles:
Place Names of Celtic Origin
Roman Names in Kent
Teutonic (Jutish) Names in Kent
Saxon or Jutish Suffixes
Some Common Saxon Elements in Place Names
The Northmen of Kent
The Islands of Kent
Variations in Spelling of Place Names
Ecclesiastical Place-names
Place-names from Persons
Absurdities in Derivation
Our "Tons" and "Stones"
Our "Hams"
Our "Soles," "Burys" and "Hithes"
Our "Cold Harbours"
Land Divisions of Kent.



THE Romans who had conquered, ruled, and exploited our land for four centuries, departed in A.D. 411, owing to the dire necessity of defending their own land against the Goths from Northern Europe. Already here they had been attacked and pressed southwards by the Picts of the Highlands, aided by the Scots of Ireland. To avoid Pictish conquest the Britons offered land and pay to the English, who up to then had been aiding the Picts.

Who were these English? A long peninsula runs northwards (as few do) from Denmark, and separates the North Sea from the Baltic. Herein, our real home or cradle, dwelt three tribes of the Low German stock, Angles, Jutes, and Saxons, and as to Kent it was the Jutes from Jutland who, under Hengist and Horsa, in A.D. 449, landed at Ebbsfleet in Thanet, as did others in the Isle of Wight, the Islands in both cases forming a great naval and military station, from which the hinterlands of Kent and Hants could be overrun. The later, and larger, seizures of the Saxons were all the southern counties, Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and Wessex, while the sphere of the Angles spread upwards from what we still call East Anglia. Quarrels with these mercenaries arose as to pay, and the Britons of Kent resolved to fight. Hrofesceastre was too strong, and so southward turned Hengist along the Celtic country by Kits Coty House, and then swooped down on Aylesford and won a battle which meant the winning of England. Horsa fell in the moment of victory, and the flint heap of Horsted preserves his name, and has been held to mark his grave. Kentish landowners fled to France; the British labourers to the vast forest; churches gave no sanctuary, for the heathen Jutes raged most against the clergy.

And so for two centuries the war of dispossession and slaughter went on, until Britain was a land, not of Britons, but of Englishmen (Angles, or Anglo-Saxons, as they are also called), while even of their language, as we have seen, few words lingered. Six years later the shore-castles of Dover, Richborough, and Lympne succumbed. Then, in A.D. 447, another tribe, the Saxons, came for a share in the goodly spoil, overran Anderida, the fortress of the great forest, and "slew all that were herein, nor was there afterwards one Briton left," at any rate, in Kent. This Saxon, or strictly speaking, Jutish, invasion has given us most of our blood, and the greater part of our tongue, our territorial divisions, most names of places, and those of the days of the week.

Following the conquerors came colonists, and in the Saxon districts of England (and Kent is the most Saxon of all) we find the names, not of individual immigrants, but of families or clans. These family settlements are denoted by the termination ing, which was the usual Anglo-Saxon patronymic, corresponding to our later "son" in Johnson, etc. So the sons of Charles Brown, who died in Detling, would in earlier days be called the Brownings - as the progeny of a duck are ducklings, and of a goose goslings. It has been held that when the suffix ham or ton is added it denotes a filial colony or offshoot from the original settlement of the clan. There are between two and three thousand places in England which contain the root "ing," although some (mainly in the north) come from a Norse and substantive "eng" or "ing" which means meadow. Kemble makes 22 original settlements in Kent, and 29 filial offshoots, whereas the western or northern counties have no original, although, between them, 169 filial settlements.

If we may thus distinguish two classes of place names which survive in Kent, we have the Bobbings at Bobbing, the Hocings at Hucking, the Harlings at Harling, the Boerlings at Barling, the Berlings at Birling, the Bollings at Bowling, the Garlings at Garlinge, the Hallings at Halling, the Hircelings at Hecklinge, the Horings at Herringe, the Mollings at Malling, the Wealings at Welling, the Beltings at Beltring, the Cerrings at Charing, the Petlings at Pedling, the Wickings at Witchling, the Bermarings at Barming. In one case, however, an individual is commemorated in a place-name - Hemmings Bay, near Margate, is the scene of the landing of a Danish chieftain in 1009 A.D. There were many Saxons in Thanet under Roman rule (as interments have shown), but few place names are found there of the patronymic kind, the exceptions being Garlinge, Birchington, Halling Court, Osinghelle, Ellington, and Newington - of which some are doubtful. What about Detling? one of my readers may say. I inclined for some time to the meaning deep meadow (as Deptford is the deep fiord or bay), in allusion to its position between the vast forest above and the extensive marshes below; but Mr. McClure will not hear of "ing" a meadow, in the South of England, and one Oxford Professor of Anglo Saxon writes me as follows : "The evidence for ing ‘meadow,’ south of Lincolnshire is so scanty, or dubious that it would require pretty strong evidence to establish its recurrence in Kent place-names." In that case one must fall back upon a Saxon ancestor, and lately in Maidstone were found both Major D'Aeth and Mr. De'Ath, whose families would be Deathlings in early Saxon days.

Then, of offshoots, we have in Kent the AElingtons at Allington, the Ellings at Ellington, the Aldings at Aldington, the Eorpings at Orpington, the Bennings at Boddington, the Gillings at Gillingham, the Cennings at Kennington, the Cosings at Cossington, the Dodings at Doddington, the Doefings at Davington, the Leasings at Lossenham, the Poefings at Pevington, the Syfings at Sevington, the Wickings at Wickinghurst, the Lodings at Loddington, the Ellings at Ellington, the Bosings at Bossingden (and Bossenden), the Adings at Addington, the OEslings at Ashlingham, and possibly the Beecings at Birchington and Beckenham. As illustrating the westward migration of the Teutonic race we may note, to take one clan, that, starting from Germany, the Hemings name Hemingen in Germany, Hemminghausen in Westphalia, Hemingstadt in Holstein, Heming in Lorraine and in Alsace, Hemington in North-amptonshire and Somerset, and Hemingbrough in Yorks.

It may help some in their enquiry into the origin of place-names if I note that of old, and by Saxon lips, the vowel "e" was pronounced like our "a." So, in the case of Berfreystone, Berham, Bernefield, Chert, Chertham, Crey, Dertford, Esseherst, Essetlesford, Freningham, Herietsham, Herty, Hertleye, Hese, Mergate, Remmesgate, Reyersh, Smeredenne, and Werehorne - the vowel sound remaining although the vowel was changed when, for example, Hese became our Hayes. And another point is that in the Kentish dialect th (a separate character in Saxon) often becomes d, e.g., gardering for gathering, and dare and dem for there and them. This still survives in remote places and aged persons. So Beddersden for Bethersden.

I may here add some instances of what in some cases aids, and in other cases hinders, a knowledge of the origin and meaning of a place-name - that is the very various ways in which the name has been spelled. Generally, the earlier the form the better guide to the meaning. It will be found that spelling was often so vague that even a lawyer in writing an old record or will may spell a name differently in the same document, and in most cases in medieval times the sound of the word ruled its spelling. Some examples of multiform names in Kent I give here.

EDENBRIDGE. - Edeling-bridge 1225, Ethonbrigge 1457, Edonbregge 1473, Edinbregg and Edingbregg 1483, Etonbrigge 1499, Etonbreg 1528, Etonbridge 1534, Edulwestbridge 1539, with other forms of which I have not noted the dates, Edelmesbrigge, Pons Edelmi. The bridge element is clear throughout, but it would also seem that the old name of the river Eden was the Edel. Of this there may be evidence which I have not yet come across.

BETHERSDEN in its earliest form is Beatrichesdenne (1194), which, on the analogy of other places, would seem to point to the church being dedicated to a local S. Beatrice; but at the same date, and since, its patron saint was S. Margaret. Possibly an heiress Beatrice held the manor, as Patrixbourne is called, not from the saint of the Church, but from one who held the manor, which in Domesday was simply called Bourne. Later I find Beterisdenne 1389, Betrycheden 1468, Betresden......