A little gem


Rental for Bagot manors in Bagots Bromley, Blithfield, Colton, Blithbury and Field, bound in medieval music (1582). SRO D4038/E/1/3.

Sometimes, no matter how focused and disciplined your intend your research session to be, you come across something in an archive catalogue that’s just too intriguing not to do some further investigation.


The medieval manuscript had been cut to size and used to form a decorative binding.

This is exactly what happened last week when we were looking through the Bagot of Blithfield collection at the Staffordshire Record Office. We were searching for estate rentals which might contain field-names to record for the project. The archive catalogues usually give details of the kind of information that’s included in each document, which is brilliant for us as we don’t end up ordering documents that contain (for example) tenants’ names and rent amounts, but not the names of the land they rented. That saves our volunteers and the archive staff lots of time and energy. Usually we’d have dismissed D4038/E/1/3, as the catalogue entry states “Rental for Bagot manors giving free tenants and chief rents …”, with no reference to field-names. However, it then goes on to add “… wrapped in medieval music.” So, as you can imagine, we had to have a look.


The beginning of the rental itself, dealing first with Bagots Bromley (here spelt Pagotts bromley).

The document duly appeared (thanks to the archive fairies), and it was indeed bound with medieval music. And it was beautiful. So why on earth was it there?

The rental dates from 1582, and although it may not have been bound immediately following this date, it’s reasonable to think that it was roughly contemporary. So was reusing manuscripts in this way a common practice in the late 16th century? Essentially, the answer is “yes”. Less valuable or important manuscripts had been used as scrap for binding for many years, but after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (from about 1536 to 1541) the contents of monastic libraries, containing huge numbers of manuscripts, were consigned to the scrap heap. So in that social climate, the reuse of this music in a secular context is not surprising, although it might seem shocking to us.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen reuse of manuscripts, but it is the first time we’ve had a look at music used in this way. Rentals we saw earlier in the year were bound with older documents, and in some cases scraps of manuscripts had been stitched together to make a book cover. This is one of the joys of archival research – all the things you come across that you were never even looking for!


A rent book from the manor of Haywood in 1771, bound with a manuscript from the reign of Charles II.


Scraps of manuscript stitched together to form a book cover. One of these looks like it may date to the 14th century – it refers to land in Derbyshire as well as Staffordshire.


The Earl of Shrewsbury’s Fleaky Bitt

This post was contributed by Val Gannon, one of our volunteers.

Front cover of the 1789 survey of the Earl of Shrewsbury's estates (D240/E(S)/2/4 at the Staffordshire Record Office)

Front cover of the 1789 survey of the Earl of Shrewsbury’s estates (D240/E(S)/2/4 at the Staffordshire Record Office)

As part of the Staffordshire Place-Name Project, I am indexing document no. D240/ES/2/4, “Survey of the Earl of Shrewsbury’s Estates”, 1789. The survey covers the Earl’s estates in North Staffordshire and he was an extensive land owner. Continue reading

Study day programme

The programme for the upcoming place-name study day on 15th July is now available! Talks will include:

“Priming the pump: first progress report on the Staffordshire place-name project” – Rebecca Gregory

“From the coal face: selection of short reports from volunteers”

“Looking forward: breaking new ground with Staffordshire place-names” – Jayne Carroll

“Staffordshire field-names: landscape, language, history” – Jayne Carroll and John Baker

…and, last but not least, place-name bingo!

Don’t miss out, book your place today. Continue reading

Next Study Day announced!

Our next study day, “Squitchy Piece, Lion’s Paw, and a Roll of Tobacco: Latest news and developments from the Staffordshire Place-Name Project” will take place on Saturday 15th July 2017 at the Staffordshire Record Office.

There will be contributions from members of the Institute for Name-Studies (based at the University of Nottingham), news about the project’s progress so far, and you’ll get the chance to hear from our volunteers what they’ve been working on and the skills they’ve learned. Watch this space for a full programme soon.

Booking is in advance only. Download the booking form to make sure you don’t miss out!


Hunting quarry

Quarry fields

The “quarry” fields in Hopton (north is to the left on this map)

Sometimes field-names are straightforward, and sometimes much less so. Beryl, one of our volunteers, has been working with some maps and surveys of Hopton, just north-east of Stafford, and found a cluster of fields containing the word quarry – Quarry Field, Quarry Meadow, and so on. This isn’t unusual in itself – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fields across the country with quarry in their names, and most are simply pieces of land containing or adjoining a quarry. (John Field gives plenty of examples in English Field-Names: A dictionary.)


What stumped us, however, was that there didn’t seem to be an obvious quarry anywhere in sight, either on the modern Ordnance Survey maps, the late nineteenth-century ones, or even on the maps which accompanies the survey where Beryl found the quarry fields. Continue reading

Recent place-name survey work: examples from Shropshire

This post is a summary of the talk given by Dr John Baker from the Institute for Name-Studies (University of Nottingham) at the Staffordshire Record Office on 4th February 2017.

More information about the Shropshire survey can be found on the project website.

The place-names of Shropshire


Margaret Gelling (1924-2009). Copyright Peter Gelling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

The Shropshire place-name survey has been conducted over almost sixty years, beginning in 1959. Work was begun on the collection of Shropshire’s place-names by a group of dedicated volunteers, under the watchful eye of Margaret Gelling. Gelling wrote six volumes of the English Place-Name Society survey of the county before her death in 2009, the last of which was published posthumously in 2012. The part of the county which remained to be covered was the south and part of the west, along the Welsh border.

A four-year project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, began in January 2013, with the aim of completing the EPNS survey of Shropshire. The project was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Name-Studies (University of Nottingham) and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (University of Wales). The project is now complete, and the EPNS survey volumes for Shropshire will be available soon. Continue reading

The English Place-Name Society and the Study of Place-Names

This post is a summary of the talk given by Dr Jayne Carroll from the Institute for Name-Studies (University of Nottingham) at the Staffordshire Record Office on 4th February 2017.

More information on the place-names mentioned in this post can be found on the Key to English Place-Names.

The English Place-Name Survey

Portrait of Sir Frank Stenton in academic gown with a backdrop of bookshelves.

Sir Frank Stenton. Copyright the artist’s estate / Bridgeman Art Library, photo credit University of Reading Art Collection

The English Place-Name Society (EPNS) was established in 1923 with the aim of producing a county-by-county survey of the place-names of England. The first volume, an Introduction to the Survey, was published in 1924, and the survey for Buckinghamshire, written by Allen Mawer and Frank Stenton, was released a year later.

The English Place-Name Survey now has 91 volumes, with most counties in England having at least partial coverage. The earliest counties to be surveyed consisted of only a single volume, but the most recent surveys have much more detailed coverage, several with more than six volumes so far completed. The most recent counties to be surveyed contain major place-names (the names of settlements and other large features) as well as minor names (smaller landscape features, street-names and buildings) and field-names. Continue reading

About the place-name project

The study of place-names is an important part of local history, telling us about the language, society, landscape and agricultural history of the places we live. An organisation called the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) was set up in the 1920s with the aim of surveying the place-names of every county in England. The survey has so far produced 90 volumes, and is used by researchers, academics, and anyone interested in the origins, meaning, and significance of English place-names.

The EPNS survey of Staffordshire was begun by J. P. Oakden, and his first volume, covering Cuttlestone Hundred, was published in 1984. Sadly Oakden passed away soon afterwards, and the survey remained incomplete. David Horovitz has also published a book on The Place-Names of Staffordshire, based on his PhD thesis, which includes a selection of the county’s names.

Work on Staffordshire’s place-names is about to begin again, and you can get involved! Continue reading

Staffordshire Place-Names Study Day

Hello, and welcome to the Staffordshire Place-Name Project! Read all about the project on our About the project page. You can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Are you interested in place-names? Do you want to find out more about volunteering to help in the latest research into Staffordshire’s place-names and history? Then come along and join us for a Place-Name Study Day at Staffordshire Record Office on Saturday 4th February. The study day will be kicking off our project, and we hope to see you there. You can download the booking form here to reserve your place.