public SPASE

exploring village origins

Welcome to public SPASE

The essence of this workshop is that cartography is more than a presentational method: it is a powerful research tool. Within modern GIS systems maps acquire an archival quality and can be accessed and re-used time and time again. In all maps - and here Old English place-names will be my primary exemplar - there will inevitably be data that needs re-working, misinterpretations and even plain errors, but maps represent repeatable experiments, with all that this implies in terms of methodology and long-term research strategies. At each level in this hierarchy there are descriptions to be undertaken, questions to be posed and explored, corrections made, explanations postulated and models generated and it is the interlocking of these within the matrices of space and time that generates a historical geographical methodology. This is a variation on the approaches used by other branches of scholarship; not weaker, not better, just different, and part of our wider tool kit.

These arguments will be considered using (1) a national map of pre-Conquest woodlands and more recent common wastes; (2) a direct extract from this used to define early polities and explore place-name distributions in north-eastern England; (3) a map of the woodland, habitative and topographical names in County Durham, (4) the same for a local region along the eastern sector of the Roman Wall, and finally (5) - drawing background data from (3) - the enigmatic territory of Werhale, within which the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow were planted. In effect, all these studies are conjoined by the pragmatic concepts of scale within which historical materials and linguistic evidences must all be assessed.

Nevertheless, there is much that can be learnt about tūn as a place-name element from consideration of the term’s use in Old English documents, from examination of its geographical distribution, from comparison with archaeological and topographical evidence, and from the types of specific with which it forms place-names. These areas of investigation may help to reveal the types of settlement tūn was most likely to denote, their physical and organisational characteristics, the forms of land-use that gave rise to them, and how settlements called tūn differed from those given other habitative place-names.