MANY place names in the borough are more than 1,000 years old and generally they either relate to the local topography or landscape or perhaps describe the original settlement. Originally the names were descriptions by local people of the place where they lived, first passed on to others by word of mouth.
A number of settlement names relate to the great area of Leicester Forest which extended from Leicester well to the west and north. Leicester Forest East is a reminder of this feature of the landscape and it is worth noting that the new National Forest replaces something that dates back to the first millennium.
Leicestershire has names which are from a variety of sources. Some, like that of the city or High Cross, are Roman. Others, like that of Hinckley, are Anglo-Saxon. Elmesthorpe and Cadeby have Scandinavian or Norse origins while the first spelling of most local place names comes from the Domesday Book of 1086.
Hinckley, first recorded on the Domesday Book, is a name dating back to Anglo-Saxon times and has the meaning of Hynca's leah, meaning woodland clearing or glade. We know no more about the Saxon than his name.
Barwell, a name also linked to the great forest is first recorded in 1043. The name of Barwell had its origin in the stream or drinking place of wild boar which frequented the area. Burbage, which like Barwell was a village quite distinct from Hinckley, has its origins before the Norman conquest. The name relates to a slope of a hill or ridge with a nearby brook and until the late 19th century Burbage was spelt "Burbach".
Going a little further from Hinckley is Stapleton. This was of Saxon origin and is again first recorded in the Domesday Book. It means the tun or settlement by a stapol (staple) or post although quite what this meant remains unclear.
Elsewhere, Cadeby, of Scandanavian origin was Kati's settlement or farm and has only expanded slightly in size in the last 1,000 years. Finally, Market Bosworth was Bosa's homestead well before 1,000AD. The market was added in the Middle Ages after it received a charter market in 1285.
Place names record the history of the nation and are an interesting reminder of the communities which lived in Leicestershire 1,000 years ago.
Author: Hugh Beavin
Written for: Hinckley-on-line