Important reassessment of the significance in early agricultural history of English settlements named as 'thorps'.
Thorp – or throp in some areas – is a common place-name or part of a place-name in England. A standard explanation of them is that unlike tons, bys and hams, thorps were small villages attached to more important places. This new study combines the expertise of linguists with archaeological evidence, and also examines the names found in the north and south. It connects the origin of the names with major changes in the landscape between 850 and 1250.
Thorps, far from lying on the fringes of the settled countryside, were important because they helped to revolutionise farming methods. Rather than dismissing them as 'secondary settlements' or dependent hamlets, we need to think about the characteristics that made them distinctive and therefore deserving of the name that they were given.
The authors consider the siting of thorps and throps in relation to the landscape and to soil types in particular. Amply demonstrating the value of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of early medieval settlement in England, tthey are able to draw important conclusions about the changes in farming that swept the country during this period and by association the process of village nucleation. By examining both the chronology of place-names in thorp and throp and their qualifying elements (notably the presence or absence of personal names), it appears possible to chart both the speed at which arable enterprises farmed in severalty converted to communal cultivation as well as the direction in which the changes spread. There is a sense of real excitement as many fresh insights are revealed in the course of the book.
Paul Cullen is a Research Associate in the Department of English, Linguistics and Communication at the University of the West of England, working on the project Family Names of the United Kingdom. He is also editor of the English Place-Name Society's Survey of Kent and an Honorary Visiting Fellow in the Institute for Name-Studies at the University of Nottingham.
Richard Jones is a Lecturer in Landscape History in the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester. He is the co-author of Medieval Villages in an English Landscape: Beginnings and Ends, which addresses the relationship between settlements and open-field farming in the English Midlands, and co-editor of Deserted Villages Revisited.
David Parsons was, until recently, Director of the Institute of Name-Studies at the University of Nottingham, and is now Senior Research Fellow at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Research. He is Deputy Director of the Survey of English Place-Names, and the Survey's editor for Suffolk.
Published march 2011; 240pp; paperback