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Roger Quick's guide to some strange Yorkshire place names.

If you've ever thought that Yorkshire had some right queer place-names, try this!

Anyone heard of Ruddersfield, Suttle, Green Allerton or Pigbaner? What about Budlington, Humpswaite and Goinislong? Or did you know that Glastonbury, Newcastle, Liverpool and Plymstock are all in Yorkshire? Being North of Luton or West of Wisbech was sometimes enough to qualify as Yorkshire for the enumerators of the 1851 census in Devon, Norfolk & Warwick, to whom presumably Yorkshire was just another name for foreign parts.

The recently issued 1851 Census CDrom from the LDS makes it possible to look at all 3,970 Yorkshire strays side-by-side, and thus see how the enumerators did their best [and worst] to interpret what they were being told. This must have been a difficult task, since there are lots of names in the county which only survived in their official form in order to confuse aliens - such as enumerators - who duly rose to the bait and produced Berwakin Elmet, Kirby Mazend and the truly miraculous Walk upon Dearne. All of those, and all names following actually occurred in the census as shown.

Some names have evidently been compounded by false teeth, no teeth or other impediments, and emerged as Rawmarth, Grapington and Madford, which was given as the birthplace of a Mr Seed or Peed in Norwich. Consonants get given different weight in different counties, which may account for the existence of Sandal Macra and Astrigge. Yorkshire vowills were even more likely to be misrepresented and thus produced Bengley, Hurbury, Humpswaite and Stunningley. This nicely illustrates what one commentator called the der-di-derness of the English language; a sort of phonetic meltdown.

On the other hand, there are many clues here to local pronunciation of names like Asingwold, Loftos, and Wilstin Hill, which is presumably the Wilstin near Keathley, not far from Silstone and Glosbourn, which might be on the way to Wiecall. Similarly Ealand near Elifax, Bailom, Rothwellage and Sneeaton. But would you buy anything from Middleton Tires? [A dodgy firm if ever there was one]. And I'm still not sure about Bicolington and Wosperdale - not to mention Tadaslest, which sounds as though it ought to be near Eckerslyke [and no, that one didn't appear, not even in Norfolk.]

Some places seem universally difficult, like Kingston in Hule, better known as Wull. Kighley or Keiley evidently offered quite a challenge, as did Scarboruh and Driffell, all of which, like Hikheaton & Arkheaton, appear in a number of more or less hopeful forms. But the prize for the most permutations goes to a place called summat like Sheffiel, Shiffield, Sheffied or Sheffeld, which is how t'locals still pronounce it.

Especially delightful are the few wondrous creations which must represent the outcome of deep potholes of conversation, from which the enumerator emerged struggling into the light of sense bearing rare crystals such as Horstfortwoodside, Eccleshala Bierlow [which may have been a Viking war-cry:] and that lost village of the North Downs, Ecmond Wick. Let alone Giggleswich Lanken, which deserves to be closer to the Matterhorn than to Scafell Pike. Near Holbech, perhaps. Often one senses that the enumerator was plainly defeated, and ready to accept the first vaguely European sounds to emerge. But the true Yorkshireman never parts with much, not even information. So one informant just described his home as a Littletown. Which was duly recorded. As was Near Barnsley, which is at least as reasonable a name as Far Headingley. Presumably the informants, having fallen into the hands of southerners, gave only name rank and Co-op number and weren't saying owt else.

Some places, despite being simple misreadings, still sound appealing enough for a run out, given that great Yorkshire fiction, the First Fine Day. Why not have a run up to Maunby Twale, Ladaleworth, Oindley and Sherif Hubbow. Nip into Fathungton via Altops. Have a picnic at Senna Grove. And if Kippacks, then why not Thornex? After driving back through Jockwith, Heathley and Headon, you could stop for a bit of snap at Doneater. But that's clearly a misprint. The proper form is shown elsewhere. Dancaster. Very nace. But not as nace as Beverleigh.

All the strange places shown above were more or less identifiable. But when this article originally appeared on the Yorksgen List, we had quite a few odd socks left over that were even less guessable. The original competition had a first prize of a week in Pigbaner - if anyone could find it. The second prize was two weeks. Consolation prizes were a few hours in Tadaslest. See what you can make of this lot: Lardle, Exuylton Bridge, Kirtin, Goinislong, Pigbaner, Dastay, Hodlifan, Elecan, Neitherhallow, Ulevbridy, Midhoop, Leardro, Guysher, Cappis, and most mysterious of all, the ghostly Sunk Island. One clue; the Yorkshire alphabet does not include the letter aitch. In fact in Unslett and Edenly, aitches are about as common as hen's teeth.

Spelling is always provisional. Leeds was at one point in its history Leodis. Twenty miles was still a long distance when the census was taken in 1851, and census enumerators in Norfolk, Devon and Warwickshire were trying to make sense of an accent very different from the English that they knew. As late as 1959 I knew an old lady from Kent who mistook broad Yorkshire for German. After listening, the enumerators had to write down what they thought they'd heard. As a last stage in this game of Yorkshire Chinese Whispers, we have to interpret their handwriting.

The resulting knot can be untied by reference to the following list, which gives the solutions, guesses and learned opinions provided by subscribers to the YORKSGEN list.
A question mark indicates the most creative solutions.

As for any others, your guess is as good as ours!

Written by Roger Quick, who also owns the copyright, with additions by various others.

by Roger Quick
with small additions by various others

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