Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

left here, for example, is Haye; that is to valley of the Char into two parts, is say, the hedged enclosure — a common known as Wotton or Wootton Hill. termination throughout Devonshire, as in Wootton is a common corruption of WoodNorthernhay, near Exeter. Its various town, the village among the trees; and fields are known as Bustart, Middle-mill, two such villages are actually to be Black-Dog Mead, and Four-acre. So, descried on its summit, half-hidden in the too, this Colway Lane, which was once foliage — Wootton Abbots, a dependency part of a great Roman road, still pre- of Ford Abbey; and Wootton Fitzpaine, serves the last relics of its original title; so called from the Norman family who for the first half is a fragment of the Latin owned the manor. It is interesting to colonia, as in Lincoln and Colchester; note that some such place gave origin to while the second half is the common En the two common surnames of Wootton glish word way: It runs straight up the and Wotton. Moreover, as the local steep hillside with true Roman directness, west-country pronunciation is always disclaiming to twist and zigzag weakly, Hooton, I am inclined to suppose that like the modern road. By it we can soon we get our Huttons also from the same cross the mouldering cliff known as Black source ; just as our Hoods are probably Venn, from its dark lias escarpment, and mere Dorsetshire and Devonshire variédescend into the valley of the Char at ties of our Woods. Charmouth.

Looking northward, three or four larger The word Charmouth is transparency hills block the view inland. To the right, itself; and yet there are some wild phil. Pillesdon and Lewesdon, the two highest ologists who wish to derive it from the points in Dorsetshire, nearly one thouname of Cerdic, the first king of Wessex, sand feet above sea-level, stand out boldly descendant of Woden, and ancestor of against the sky. Sailors, who know the Queen Victoria. For my own part, when twin hills well as a landmark, or rather a I see Wearmouth on the Wear, and Wey- sea.mark, call them the Cow and Calf. I mouth on the Wey, and Plymouth on the don't think I can make much of their Plym, I cannot hesitate to decide that names, and so I may as well make a clear Charmouth is so called simply from its breast of it. The last part of course position at the mouth of the Char, a little means hill, and it is possible that Pillesriver with a good, old, undeciphered name, don is equivalent to Beacon Hill; but of almost as certainly Keltic as any in the this interpretation cautious etymologists land. The view from Black Venn, look- cannot feel certain. It is still surmounted, ing down upon Charmouth and the bills however, by an ancient earth work, one of beyond, is one of the finest you will see a great ring which girdles the left bank in Dorsetshire. Besides the sea and the of the Axe, and is answered by another river valley, you have a splendid prospect ring on the principal heights of the right over a great green ridge, locally known side. These earth works mark the bounas Hatton Hill, but more correctly called dary line between the Durotriges, the Hardown, up which the Bridport road Keltic inhabitants of Dorsetshire, and the winds its way in a long white line, which Damnonii, or men of Devon. Both tribes seem to hang upon its sloping sides. The have left a memory of their names in first group of houses on its Aank is Stan- those of the modern shires. Such early, barow, that is to to say, the Stone-barrow, fortifications still bear locally the title of so called from some ancient tumulus cov. castles. These two nearer heights, for ering the body of an old Euskarian chief, example, between Wootton Hilland Pillesand spared for ages by Kelt, Roman, and don, are known as Lambert's Castle and West-Saxon, but long since swept away Coney Castle. An old prehistoric earthby the ruthless hand of a modern British work still crowns either summit, and once squire. The other village near the top formed a place of refuge and defence for bears the quaint name of Morco!blake. the inhabitants of the lowlands in time of This word used for a long time to puzzle raids, when the men of Devon came on me; Morcomb, I knew, means the sea- the war-trail against the homes and the ward gap or valley; but where was the cattle of the Dorset folk. The first of lake? At last I learnt from laboring men these two bills is known to all the country that lake in the Dorsetshire dialect means people as Lammas Castle, and I have no a small stream, and that such a stream doubt this is really the correct name, actually flows through the village; while while the purely hypothetical recognized another little rivulet in the Isle of Pur. form has probably been invented by overbeck bears the name of Luckford Lake. fine speakers, who thought the common The nearer ridge to the left, dividing the I pronunciation too vulgar for their refined lips, and so evolved an imaginary Lam- | Monktonwyld. Doubtless the low-lying bert out of their own consciousness. plain was then a marshy and ill-drained Fairs have long been held on this summit bottom, with a wide central expanse of during the summer; and though since the boggy land; and the scattered farms of days of Queen Anne they have taken Grubhay, Champernhay, and Thricehay, place on June 15, or thereabouts, there is upon its outskirts, seem to indicate by reason to believe that in earlier times their common termination that they were they fell upon the first of August, or originally mere isolated “clearings » in Lammas Day, like the many well-known the bush, each one girt round with its own Lammas fairs throughout England gen- hedge or stockade, and not unlike the erally. An exactly analogous case occurs modern clearings of American or Austraat Whit Down, near Chard, so called from lian backwoodsmen. They almost carry an annual fair on Whit-Monday. As to us back in memory to the days when Ida, the second hill, Coney Castle, its name first king of Northumbria, settling down goes still further back in antiquity, for it in the wild Yorkshire wolds (the word is is derived from the early English word the same as weald and the German cyning, or king, and so signifies the Royal Wald), in the naïve language of the EnČamp. The forin Conig Castle is still in glish Chronicle, “timbered Bamborough occasional use. In 833, when the north- and betyned it with a hedge." Uphay ern pirates first began their attacks, the and Netherhay, two common names of English Chronicle tells us that King Dorsetshire farms, thus mean the higher Ecgberht “fought against the men of and lower clearing or enclosure respecthirty-five ships at Charmouth, and there tively. was mickle slaughter done, and the Danes The valley which girds round the furtook the day.” Perhaps, as has been ther and more important branch of the plausibly conjectured, the name of this Char is known as the Vale of Marshwood, lonely down still bears record to the and now contains some of the finest agri“royal visit” of the ninth century: cultural grazing land in Dorsetshire.

But Memorials of these early warlike days the comparatively modern form of the are generally to be found on the hilltops. name in itself shows that this rich dale, The valleys remind us of more peaceful upon whose wide meadow-lands you cari times, and of the agricultural energy of look down in a splendid sweep from the the monastic orders. Standing here on top of Pillesdon, remained untilled and the old Charmouth road, and looking unoccupied till a very late date. Even in down at the smiling, cultivated dales be- the days of old Coker, the Dorsetshire neath, we can see them threaded in a historian, it still consisted of unbroken silver line by two branches or forks of the forest; for he speaks of “the Mersheriver Char, each possessing its own little wood” in the same way as we might now plain, and each recalling to our minds speak .of Glen-Tanar or Rothiemurchus. ibis useful work of the old clergy. On Nay, at the close of the last century, a this side of Lambert's Castle, the long local poet describes it as dank and pathrange which includes Coney Castle and less. But in the lower part of this damp Wootton Hill, and forms the dividing and wild level — for such we must picture ridge between the two forks with their it to have been — the monks again have respective basins, lies the village of Monk- left a lasting memorial of their presence. tonwyld, or Monktonweald, still largely 6 Wood and water' were the two great surrounded by woodland, but seated for needs of the clergy. Secure from the the most part in the midst of a fruitful | ruthless hands of invaders, they did not champaign country. Its name shows perch themselves, like the feudal barons, that comparatively late in the Middle on the top of defensible hills or steeply Ages the neighboring fields were still scarped crags, but placed their home in covered by a weald or forest, like the old the pleasant meadows and possible orWeald of Kent. Of this forest the mod-chard lands by the river-sides. While ern copses and pine groves are the last the castle always crowns the height, the surviving relics. Into the rich but unoc. abbey nestles snugly in the valley beneath. cupied woodland, a good body of monks at grey tower which you see near the came from the neighboring Ford Abbey, slope of Hardown is the belfry of Whitto make the first settlement in the desochurch Canonicorum. It was the seat of late vale. They built their little cell, and a religious community long before the the village which grew up around that Norman Conquest (though, of course, the nucleus naturally received and still retains existing building is of far later date), for the name of Monkton-in-the-Weald, or we find it entered as Witcerce in Domes.

[ocr errors]

day Book. The patroness of the village | keep a lookout in your own town or sumis 'a certain Saint Hwit or St. Candida, mer quarters you will find abundant inwhose holy well still exists on a neighbor- stances of the same sort, throwing light ing hillside. In Plantagenet times the on surnames which at a first glance seem name was Latinized into Album Monas- wholly inexplicable. terium; and a white church it must in- The places we have hitherto considered deed have been when its freestone came lie almost all in the county of Dorset. fresh from the hands of the mason. As But Lyme stands close to the Devonshire to the suffix Canonicorum, we owe that border, so that Uplyme itself, which is title to its dependence on the canons of practically a suburb of the old borough, Wells and Salisbury.

belongs administratively to a different Ecclesiastical names are, indeed, very shire. A short excursion in this direccommon in Dorsetshire and the neigh- tion will reveal to us facts of equal interboring bit of Devon. To mention only est. The main road to the usual railway the larger towns or villages, we have Ax- station conducts us to Axminster, more minster, Sturminster, Beaminster, Wim famed for the memory of its extinct carborne Minster, Lytchet Minster, and pet factories than for any modern reality. Yetminster; Cerne Abbas, Milton Ab- It stands, of course, on the river Axe, bas, Stoke Abbot, and Abbotsbury; Ford whose name is also Keltic, and reappears Abbey, and Sherborne Abbey; beside a in the Esk, Usk, Exe, and many like whole host of more or less obvious cases, streams. The word, I need hardly say, such as Whitchurch Canonicorum, Hawk is old Welsh for water, as Avon is for church, Holt Chapel, Toller Fratrum, and river. As to the minster, it is an early Stanton St. Gabriel, not to mention the English foundation, dating from before well-known instance of St. Alban's — or, the Conquest, and mention is made of as it ought to be, St. Aldhelm's Head. the town under its present name in the The minsters, of course, date from very Chronicle under the year 784, when Cyneearly times: the churches often from the hard the Atheling was buried here. The Plantagenet period. And while we are existing church actually contains fragtalking of matters ecclesiastical, just let ments of architecture which may possibly me call your attention to the fact that the go back to the reign of Edward the Conlittle village right beyond Whitchurch is fessor. In local pronunciation the town called Ryle, and most probably gave is always Axmister; and Leland, in the origin to the ancestors of the Bishop of time of Henry VIII., so spells it. Such Liverpool. You will find, if you inquire a contraction is very common in the west into it, that an immense proportion of country. Thus Beaminster - originally, our surnames come originally from local as we know from charters, Bega-minster, names, and, for the most part, from those that is to say, the church of St. Bega or of the smaller towns or villages. The St. Bee — has become shortened in the ancestors of our great epic poet migrated Dorset mouth to Bemmister. Hence to London from some one of the many we may conclude that the neighboring Miltons — sometimes Mill - towns and village of Misterton is really the Minstersometimes Middle-towns — which are town. So, too, the old English Exanscattered all over England. People who ceaster, the castrum, or for fied town, on keep a lookout upon the signboards over the Exe, has been clipped into Exeter by shops soon learn that in every town many western lips, while similar forms retain families bear the names of neighboring their hard sound elsewhere. Indeed, as villages. Very often even the most un- we go southward and westward we find a likely cases turn up if you wait long constant deterioration in the speiling and enough for them. I was once talking pronunciation of these words, from Lanover this very subject at Ford Abbey, caster in the north, through Manchester, near Chard, with a friend, and I pointed Leicester, Worcester, and Gloucester, out to him from inscriptions on the build- among the midlands, to Exeter in the ing that the last abbot of that house be extreme south-west. fore the dissolution of the monasteries A pleasant round may be taken from had been a certain Dr. Thomas Chard. Axminster by Seaton and the mouth of “ There is a surname,” said he," which the Axe home to Lyme. Soon after leave has not survived at any rate.” Only a ing the town, we reach the little river few weeks later, the news of Rorke's Yart, which we cross by Yarty Bridge. Drift arrived in England, and Major Like all the other river names, Yart is Chard's name became at once familiar in good Keltic; and in the upper part of its our ears as household words. If you will course stands a village with the doubly

[ocr errors]

This name,

Keltic name of Yarcombe, that is Yart | the soil, not as real working settlers and Valley; for combe is the Welsh word cultivators; so that in the Lyme district, cwm (an enclosed dell), familiar to all for ten miles or so in every direction, I Snowdon climbers, and reappearing again know of only two cases where English throughout England even among the clans have left their token on the local thoroughly Teutonic South Downs near nomenclature. The one is Cheddington, Brighton. But in the second part of the near Crewkerne, which keeps alive the word Yarty we have a real English root. memory of the Ceadings or

sons of Yarty means the island on the Yart. Now, Ceada; the other is this very spot, Kilalmost all the islands round the English mington, which bears witnesses to an coast end in y or ey, as, for example, early settlement of the Culmings. Local Sheppey, Walney, Anglesey, Lundy, and lips still preserve the true vocal pronunBardsey. In many inland places, not ciation in the common form Cullmiton. now insulated, but once cut off by rivers Gillingham and Osmington are the only or marshes, we meet with the same ter- two noteworthy villages of this Teutonic mination, as in Ely, Athelney, and Ose. clan type in all Dorsetshire. ney. Often it occurs in a corrupt form: Our next point must be Colyford, where thus the largest island in Poole Harbor the direct road from Lyme to Sidmouth is called Branksea (that is, Brank's isl-crosses the Coly, once, as the name tells and); while Chelsea and Battersea were us, by a ford, but now by a commodious once eyots in the Thames. Anglesey is bridge. This road is the old Roman one now commonly written Anglesea. In all from Dorchester to Exeter. It traverses these cases we have to deal with the old the Axe a little before reaching Colyford English word ig, an island, the latter term at a place called Axbridge. A little lower itself being a corruption of igland, and down lies the village of Axmouth, which, the false spelling being due to a confu- like the other river names, is too transparsion with the Norman French isle, a de- ent to need interpretation. Opposite it rivative of the Latin insula (Italian, stands our present goal, the modern isola ; old French, isle; modern French, watering-place of Seaton. île). So Yarty really bears witness to the again, tells its own tale too well to require former existence of a marshy island di- mucli comment, yet we may say a word or viding the stream at this spot, a circun- two about its form. There is a place stance which caused the place to be called Seatown at the foot of Golden Cap, adopted first for the ford and later on for which shows by its modern spelling that the more civilized bridge. Similarly, it only dates from the time when the word Ottery is the island on the Otter, and town had acquired its existing orthograderives its second title of St. Mary's from phy. But our present Seaton is a more the saint to whom its beautiful church is ancient place, and contains the older Endedicated.

glish (or so-called Anglo-Saxon) form of The next village which we meet is Kil-ton or tun, which signified a farmhouse or mington. This name belongs to a type enclosure, rather than a town in the modvery common throughout eastern and ern sense. Hence it is that single isothoroughly Teutonic England, but ex-lated homesteads in the country often tremely rare in the highly Keltic west-bear names ending in ton, like the wellWelsh counties. The early English known houses at Freshwater, East and colonists consisted of separate clans, each West Afton, familiar to most tourists in of which bore a patronymic derived from the Isle of Wight. Such a solitary farm a real or mythical ancestor. Thus the was doubtless the origin of our gay little sons of Aella would be Aelings, and set- Seaton, in days when Axmouth was a tled at Allington; those of Boc were respectable burgh on the opposite side of Bocings, and dwelt at Buckingham; those the little river. At present, Axmouth of Peada were Peadings, and they have has dwindled to an insignificant hamlet, left their mark at Paddington. Walling. while Seaton, thanks to the railway and ford, Wellington, Birmingham, Kensing- its fine cliffs of white chalk and red marl, ton, Basingstoke, and Wellingborough, has become a fashionable little summer are other well-known examples of resort of a quiet kind. forms. In purely English Kent and A short and pleasant walk over these Essex, where the conquering “Anglo- pretty red and white cliffs (whose conSaxons " settled in hordes, names of this trasts of color are sometimes almost type may be collected on a county map startling) will bring us to the tiny fishingby the dozen. But here in west Wales village of Beer. There are only three the Englislı only came as wealthy lords of points in Beer which could possibly interest the most curious mind. The first is minster is called Deneord ; that is to say,

1 that they catch excellent lobsters; the Danes' land. second is, that till very lately Beer could From Beer and Seaton we may return boast of probably the meanest and most to Lyme by the high-road, over Axbridge insignificant parish church in Great Brit- and close to Combe Pyne the first half ain; and the third is, that its name is of which is our old friend combe, a valalmost certainly Scandinavian. This last ley, while the second half belongs to the fact is undeniably a strange and unex- ancient lords of the manor, the famous pected one. To be sure the Danish pi. Devonshire family of the Pynes. At a rates were in the habit of settling every still earlier date, Combe was the property where round the coast of Britain, on of the Coffins, another great Devonshire islands, peninsulas, and other like suita- house, and then bore the name of Combe ble spots; and the west Welsh often Coffin. Later on, the two families coaallied themselves with the marauders in lesced, and so gave origin to the ludicrous early times against their Wessex over- modern surname of Pyne-Coffin, borne by lords. But there are comparatively few the branch of the old stock now settled at Danish settlements on the south coast, Alwington House near Clovelly. Combe and I was long unwilling to believe that Pyne, as its name suggests, is a pleasant Beer was a genuine instance of a Scandi. little vale, where a tributary of the Axe navian colony. Many considerations, has cut through the layer of chalk and however, have at last decided me to reached the greensand below. Owing to accept the theory as true. Beer is just this fact, the course of the brook is borsuch an isolated seaward nook as the dered by a fringe of trees, rare in the Scandinavians loved a tiny valley or district between Axe and Lym, as they combe, surrounded by hills, and opening invariably are on chalk downs. You can upon a little cove of its own, shut in on always spot the places where the water every side by lofty cliffs. Local tradition has worn down the level to the greensand universally speaks of a great battle fought by observing the presence of trees. If between a host of Danes and the English we prefer it, indeed, we may make our fyri near Axminster; and many antiqua- way home through this bare, chalky counries have tried (though not quite success- try near the cliffs, instead of by the highfully) to identify the traditional encounter road; and in that case we shall pass the with the famous fight at Brunanburh, famous landslip at Bindon, the largest made familiar to us all by the grand old ever known to have occurred in England English battle-song. The traditions about at a single slip, and much finer than its this Danish invasion are so numerous, and tangled rival at Ventnor, in the Isle of relate to so many local names, such as Wight. Close by stands the headland Warlake (that is, the stream or brook of known as Culverhole Point - a name battle), Brunedown, and Musbury, that which reminds us of the Culver Cliffs on

can hardly doubt their substantial Sandown Bay: Culver is the old English correctness. Risdon says, as acknowl- name for a wood-pigeon, and in the honeyedged matter of fact, that the Danes combed face of such chalk cliffs the wild "landed in Seaton in 937;.'' and whether doves used long ago to make their nests. Axminster was Brunanburh or not, it was A little further on we pass the village of almost certainly the site of a great battle Rousdon, or Ralph's down, so called from with some invading northern host. Of an early lord of the manor. Next comes course it would be impossible to enter Whitlands, which obviously takes its into questions of detail here; but it is name from the selfsame chalk, and whose interesting to notice that many other ap- lands, turning up white under the plough, parently Danish names occur in the are the first of the sort which you meet neighborhood. Thus a little way up the on your way out from Lyme. Lastly, a Yart we find a down known as Danes' stroll through the beautiful cliffs of PinHill, at whose foot lies the village of Dal-ney – properly Pinbay — leads us home wood the wood in the dale while the again to our starting-point by one of the crossing over the little stream is called prettiest paths which you can find even Beckford Bridge, replacing the old ford in the lovely west country. And so ends over the beck, as the Scandinavians call a for the day our etymological excursion brook. Beckford, by the way, gives rise from Lyme. to another familiar surname, which all of A word or two, before I conclude, as to us know through the brilliant author of the general method which must be em"Vathek," and owner of Fonthill Abbey. ployed in hunting up the meaning of local In Domesday, a manor adjoining Ax- | pames. You will find every town and

we

« VorigeDoorgaan »