What’s in a Place Name?
Quite a lot actually. If you are lucky, a place name can be a very good pointer to an otherwise unrecorded history.
I came across an online post about their utility as a source which introduces the subject and illustrates what one can glean from such study. It can be seen at How to do archaeology with place names
It is particulary useful in that it has several examples of distribution maps which illustrate Anglo-Saxon and Danish settlement patterns in Britain derived from place name elements. The effect of the maps is really quite striking.
When I taught classes on local history in my home town one of my standard things was to use Ekwall’s Dictionary of English Place Names and the local English Place Name Society volume to show how much they could reveal about settlement patterns, be they Anglian, Frisian, Danish or more recent, and about past landscapes - references to clearing woodland for example or to what were once fenland settlements. A real treat was to open up about the etymology of Dewsbury, but then, that might just be too much excitement for one day...