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 Place Names and Surnames of the Ancient Woodlands The Woodlands of England have been idealized by landscape artists and venerated in prose and poetry. Throughout England’s history they have been a source of immeasurable wealth. Woodlands have provided fuel and building materials for home and industry, masts for tall ships, and recreation for the rich and famous. Over the passage of time the areal extent of the Woodlands would be diminished and eventually the pressures of insatiable demand would necessitate that England look beyond its borders for its needs. The process of deforestation would be transformative. From the time of the early Britons, through the Anglo Saxon era and the age of the Normans, the landscape would be redefined and in most areas farming would become ascendant. In the 12th and 13th century as population expanded and as forests were cleared, the memory of these woodlands would be memorialised in the surnames of those who toiled the soil. The Regional Landscape To appreciate why, and most importantly where surnames of the Ancient Woodlands came into existence, we must examine England’s agricultural landscape and its regional character. To this end the analysis by Roberts and Wrarthmell in Region and Place, A study of English rural settlement can assist in explaining the process of woodland surname formation. Stretching in a band from the south west through the Midlands to the north east, the great central plain of England has long been described as a region of "Champion" farming. Being careful not to over generalize, Roberts and Wrarthmell’s Central Province is characterized as a region in which three field agriculture and nucleated settlements in the form of manors villages and towns were the dominant form of spatial organization. They further divided the landscape into a West and North Region, and an Eastern Region. In these two areas, flanking the Central Province, the landscape was dominated by closed fields, woodlands, isolated settlements, hamlets and farms. The character and extent of the Central Province had largely been cast prior to the time of Domesday and before the era of large scale surname formation. Extensive woodlands were largely, although not entirely absent from this region. The peasants and farmers of the region were associated with the manorial economy, and when they took locative surnames, they would reflect this reality. By contrast individuals residing outside the central plain had a much wider range of choices when describing their origins. The density of woods and clearings, and the frequency of independent settlements, farms and hamlets, provided individuals with a wide range of options by which to identify themselves or be identified by others. Surnames from the Woodlands To examine how closely the distribution of wood land surnames followed the regional scheme provided in Region and Place, The Surname Atlas was used to aggregate surnames with woodland suffixes. These distributions were mapped using Banwell Indexes with index values  greater than or equal to 1. In other words, where the distribution was higher than the national average. The distributions were then overlain on a base map which included the the boundary of the Central Province, the contemporary woodlands, and the place names relating to each suffix. The Central Province covers 33% of England’s land surface. If place names and woodland surnames were uniformly distributed we would expect roughly the same proportion to be found within the Central Province. The reality is far different. Surname suffixes The etymology of woodland place names reflects both dialect and function. The first element can take a variety of forms; personal names, animals, trees and descriptive elements. The following suffixes were used in the exercise that follows. ley a wood or clearing leigh a wood or clearing shaw from the Old English scaga, sceaga, a copse, grove or small wood holt from the OE holt or wood hurst, hirst, OE hyrst, hillock, knoll copse grove, graf, OE graf a grove or thicket, modern form grave green Wood Place names and surnames containing ley - Ley is one of the most common and widespread woodland place name suffixes. It is of Saxon origin meaning wood or clearing. The place name frequency in the Ordnance Survey is  5,675 and the surname frequency in the 1881 census was (775,172). Yet in spite of their high frequencies, neither the surname suffixes or the place names are uniformly distributed across the English landscape. In fact we find 75% of ley place names and 82.5% of ley suffixes are found outside the Central Province of England, The highest Banwell Indexes are found well outside the central plain where values of from 1.5 to 4 times the national average are found on the Lancashire Plain, Cheshire and the Pennine slopes. Place names and surnames containing leigh -  While the pattern with respect to surnames in leigh is broadly similar to it’s ley counterpart, there are subtle differences. While the proportion of leigh place names outside the central provinces is slightly lower at 77%, at the same time the proportion of surnames found outside the Central Province  is dramatically higher at 90%. The distribution also appears to be bifurcated, with cores in both the Lancashire Lowlands and in Devon and Cornwall. Leigh place names, are more heavily concentrated in Devon and Cornwall, while the surnames appear to have ramified more heavily on the Lancashire Plain. Place names and surnames containing shaw -  Scaga, sceaga, a copse, reference a grove or small wood. Gelling suggests it was a wood of limited extent. She further notes between 16th to the 19th centuries shaw is recorded in the sense of a strip of wood or under-wood forming the bounds of a field. She believed this meaning was established by the 9th century. Both the place names and Surnames are highly localizes in the North of England and upland areas of the Scottish Lowlands. 13% of place names in shaw and 15% of  surnames in shaw are found within the Central Province. The surname Shaw dominates those containing a prefix, with 43% being in the simplex form. The distribution of the Shaw surname parallels the surnames in shaw so closely one has to suspect that Shaw is an orphan form of the surnames bearing a suffix. Place names and surnames containing holt - Gelling interpreted this as a single species wood or alternatively a small wood, with 32.9% of holt place names are found within the Central Province. The relatively high percent might be explained by the etymology of the term holt. It may be that as a “small wood” it might commonly be found within and without the Central Province. Despite its higher frequency it does not appear to have been the source of many surnames, with only 9.9% of individuals bearing the holt surnames found in the Central Province. The vast majority of surnames are found in the Lancashire Lowlands. Place names and surnames containing hurst - Only 9.3% of place names and 7.6% of surname suffixes in hurst are found within the  Central Province. The concentration of place names is most notable in the county of Sussex, blanketing the area of the Sussex Weald. The distribution of related surnames is bifurcated between the Lancashire Plain and the south east counties of Sussex, Surrey and Kent.  Place names and surnames containing grove -  Grove place names are well represented within the Central Province(32.5%), particularly in south central England. The surname suffixes appear along the outer margins of the Central Province, notably in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.  Place names and surnames containing green - the place name element green can reflect an origin as a clearing from a wood, or as a village green. The distribution of places containing the green element provides an excellent  demarcation of the Central Province with only 15% of green places found within it’s borders. Those place names that are found within the Central Province are spatially associated with woodlands. Similarly green surnames suffixes are heavily concentrated outside the Central Plain, particularly in the Lancashire Lowland and West Midlands. Fully 83% of green surnames are found outside the Central Province. Place names and surnames containing wood -  From the OE wudu, later wood, it is an extremely common place name element. It is often used as a qualifier, (Woodhall, Woodhouse, Woodkirk), as a descriptive term, Blackwood, Brookwood, and in a possessive form, for example Archers Wood.  As a consequence of it’s widespread use and function, the wood element is found both within and without the Central Province with 30.7% found within it’s boundary.  As would be expected, surnames associated with the term wood are common, (262 having a frequency of =>50), while their distribution is still heavily weighted outside the Central Province where the frequency reaches 83%. Analysis and Conclusion   While both place names and surname suffixes are under-represented in the Central Province, the imbalance is most evident with the distribution of surname suffixes. Place name frequencies within the Central Province range from 9.3% to 34.2% with an overall average of 25.2%. By way of contrast woodland based suffixes average only 16.7% within the Central Province and outside the region the average is above 80%. In every instance in this exercise the major suffix cores developed outside the Central Province. Over time as surnames ramify the core will generally intensify while at the same time the distribution will spread or diffuse within a region reflecting population movement. Two factors may be at play. First the timing of the adoption of surnames was clearly important. As population expanded in the 12th and 13th centuries surnames would reflect their local environment. As noted earlier areas outside the Central Province had a larger range of place names to select from. Many of these places, farms, hamlets and independent settlements, reflect woodland origins. Secondly as population expanded in the post Domesday period, more marginal land would come under cultivation at the expense of woodlands, again providing a source for new woodland names.
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