Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.
names of two great English saints, Eadward the Confessor and Eadmund of East Anglia; and Henry III. bestowed them upon his two sons, Edward I. and Edmund of Lancaster.  In this manner they became adopted into the royal and fashionable circle, and so were perpetuated to our own day.  All the others died out in mediaeval times, while the few old forms now current, such as Alfred, Edgar, Athelstane, and Edwin, are mere artificial revivals of the two last centuries.  If we were to judge by nomenclature alone, we might almost fancy that the Norman Conquest had wholly extinguished the English people.

A few steps towards the adoption of surnames were taken even before the Conquest.  Titles of office were usually placed after the personal name, as AElfred King, Lilla Thegn, Wulfnoth Cild, AElfward Bishop, AEthelberht Ealdorman, and Harold Earl.  Double names occasionally occur, the second being a nickname or true surname, as Osgod Clapa, Benedict Biscop, Thurkytel Myranheafod, Godwine Bace, and AElfric Cerm.  Trade names are also found, as Ecceard smith, or Godwig boor.  Everywhere, but especially in the Danish North, patronymics were in common use; for example, Harold Godwine’s son, or Thored Gunnor’s son.  In all these cases we get surnames in the germ; but their general and official adoption dates from after the Norman Conquest.

Local nomenclature also demands a short explanation.  Most of the Roman towns continued to be called by their Roman names:  Londinium, Lunden, London; Eburacum, Eoforwic, Eurewic, York; Lindum Colonia, Lincolne, Lincoln.  Often ceaster, from castrum, was added:  Gwent, Venta Belgarum, Wintan-ceaster, Winteceaster, Winchester; Isca, Exan-ceaster, Execestre, Exeter; Corinium, Cyren-ceaster, Cirencester.  Almost every place which is known to have had a name at the English Conquest retained that name afterwards, in a more or less clipped or altered form.  Examples are Kent, Wight, Devon, Dorset; Manchester, Lancaster, Doncaster, Leicester, Gloucester, Worcester, Colchester, Silchester, Uttoxeter, Wroxeter, and Chester; Thames, Severn, Ouse, Don, Aire, Derwent, Swale, and Tyne.  Even where the Roman name is now lost, as at Pevensey, the old form was retained in Early English days; for the “Chronicle” calls it Andredes-ceaster, that is to say, Anderida.  So the old name of Bath is Akemannes-ceaster, derived from the Latin Aqua, Cissan-ceaster, Chichester, forms an almost solitary exception.  Canterbury, or Cant-wara-byrig, was correctly known as Dwrovernum or Doroberna in Latin documents of the Anglo-Saxon period.

On the other hand, the true English towns which grew up around the strictly English settlements, bore names of three sorts.  The first were the clan villages, the hams or tuns, such as Baenesingatun, Bensington; Snotingaham, Nottingham; Glaestingabyrig, Glastonbury; and Waeringwica, Warwick.  These have already been sufficiently illustrated; and they were situated, for the most part, in the richest agricultural

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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