There’s over 170 towns and villages in the North Bucks area, and each one has its own name. But what do these names all mean?
Nearly every one started off as a brief but clear description of a certain place, usually in the words of Old English, the ancient Anglo-Saxon language that was in use from the 5th Century until about about 1250 A.D.
There’s a dozen with ‘ford’ in their name, (this is an easy one to guess) but there’s 19 with ‘den’ or ‘don’, (both mean ‘hill’) and a massive 36 with ‘ton’ in the name. ‘Ton’ means a settlement or a farm, perhaps a village or an estate; a place with buildings.
Often somebody’s name would be part of the description; so Haddenham is Haeda’s village or homestead. ’Ham’ means nearly the same as ‘ton’.
Of all the places with ‘ford’ in their name, the ones with ‘Stratford’ in the name mean a ford where a Roman road or street crossed a river or brook. Fenny Stratford was a muddy or marshy crossing; Stony Stratford was a gravelly one.
Twyford was a place with two fords. But Aston Sandford was named for the man who held it, John de Sandford. His name came from another place elsewhere, named for a sandy or smooth ford.
Up at the top of the county, Clifton Reynes has a steep hill slope, (‘clif’ in Old English) and was a farm or settlement, ‘ton’. Reynes comes from Ralph de Reynes, who held it in 1302. Just down the road is Newton Blossomville; a new farm or settlement, that gets the second part of its name from a Jordan de Blossoville.
Another one is Milton Keynes, now covering far more land with many more buildings than Hugo de Cahagnes (Say his name out loud; you'll get it) could have possibly imagined in 1166, when he held the middle settlement or farm Middle-tun.
This building in East Claydon was once The Swan, a coaching house until the turnpike was rerouted to run through Winslow. It's been over eleven months since the scaffolding went up, and much work has been done. I think it's nearly finished.
‘Don’ means hill, and the Claydons are on higher ground, a clayey hill. Botolph Claydon is nothing to do with St. Botolph, but was once known as Botyl Claydon, which is what we all called it when I was growing up in Winslow in the 1960s and 70s.
Botyl means house, or dwelling place. Even now, Botolph Claydon is just a hamlet. Of course Steeple Claydon has a church with a steeple, East Claydon is furthest in that compass direction, Middle Claydon is in the middle. But all are on the clayey hill.
We can’t go through every place name in just one blog post, but here’s a few more:
Lillingstone Dayrell was held by the Dayrell family. Lillingstone means ‘Stone of Lytel’s people’,and it might have been a stone that once marked the county boundary. Lillingstone Lovell adjoins it, but was held instead by the Lovell family.
Bletchley was Blecci’s/Blecca’s wood clearing. The Old English ‘lēah’ means a wood, a clearing, or a glade.
Whitchurch is named for the white limestone Saxon church that once stood on the hill above the village, in the same spot as the present one.
Not so Old English
Most of these place names are ancient, but there are a few that are not very old at all. Buffler’s Holt is where the Duke of Buckingham once kept buffalo. Verney Junction is named after Sir Harry Verney, who was on the board of the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway.
Sir Harry had taken the name Verney when he inherited his late cousin’s estates in 1827. His original surname had been Calvert, and when the new station was built near Charndon, it was named after him.
Woburn Sands was known as Hogsty End until about 1818, and it was changed at least in part because of Joseph Daniels, who felt that the name Hogsty Academy was not encouraging parents to send their children to his school, so he changed it to Woburn Sands Academy. I can see his point.
If you want to know more about English place names, there are quite a few books about the subject on Amazon.
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