Place Names in Leigh and other parts of Kent

Place Names in Leigh and other parts of Kent, from a talk by Dr Paul Cullen

Dr Paul Cullen is currently preparing a six volume study on place names in Kent – starting with East Kent. In September 2005 he prepared material specially for a talk to the Historical Society with a power point presentation. The following notes are best read in conjunction with the presentation.

Contact : Dr Paul Cullen at

Reference Books : Full list given on presentation.

Old English (OE) As Prime Source for West Kent Place Names

OE includes the language/s used by Angles, Saxons, Friesians, Swabians, Jutes, etc. Although Bede and others are clear that Kent, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire opposite the Isle of Wight were settled by Jutes, not everyone agrees. There is no particular evidence of a separate Jutish language and the settlers/conquerors in Kent seem to have imposed their own place names instead of prior Celtic or Norse place names as was done in other parts of England. The Norman/French invasion changed few places names so the OE place names largely survive today.

LEIGH From OE Lēah meaning a woodland clearing (i.e. definitely within a forest). It is the most common OE word in place names, although usually in conjunction with another word (TUDELEY, PLUCKLEY,, etc). So Leigh – by itself – could indicate it was THE clearing with some sort of pre-eminence – but no particular evidence of this or any obvious reason.

WEALD From OE walda meaning forest.

HURST From OE Hyrst meaning a wooded hill or a slope with trees upon it. So SPELDHURST may be from OE Speld meaning a wood chip: PENSHURST would not come from a sheep pen and could come from a personal name relating to ‘pen’: WICKHURST probably from OE Wīc meaning a specialized farm. (There were lots of Wīc derived names along Roman roads): SANDHURST would convey a sandy wooded hill (which is true when you visit).

DEN From OE meaning wooded pasture. So MOORDEN comes from OE mōr meaning moor or marsh or wasteland: HAYSDEN from OE hāes(e) which means brushwood: BARDEN – not sure but might be personal name.

HOATH from OE meaning heath. So BLACKHOATH WITH OE blaec is black heath.

BOROUGH From OE berg or boerg meaning a continuously, pronounced rounded hill: HILDENBOROUGH, BIDBOROUGH, CROWBOROUGH, etc.

DOWN From OE dūn meaning upland rise as in NORTH DOWNS, or KINGSDOWN, etc.

HILL from OE hyll meaning steep slope with long view as in IDE HILL (Edith’s Hill), SMARTS HILL, etc.

BORE probably from OE word meaning an elevation.

-OUR ending From OE ōra meaning ridge as in VEXOUR, where vex is probably from OE feax meaning either hair or coarse grass. ASHOUR meaning a ridge with ash tree/s, etc.

BRIDGE From OE bryeg meaning bridge, eg TONBRIDGE (town bridge) or EDENBRIDGE (although river Eden’s name almost certainly came much later).

HE- From OE hēath meaning high ridge. So HEVER means a high ridge place.

SWAYLANDS From OE swegen for male person (swain) and OE land; so labouring man’s land.

MARK BEECH From OE mearc meaning boundary.

BOUGH BEECH From OE boga meaning bow or bent thing (or possible bridge).

CHARCOTT From OE cott meaning cottage; and possibly OE cerr meaning turn, turning or bend.

NIZELS From OE nīge or niwe meaning new; and OE ge-sell meaning shed/lowly shelter.

CHIDDINGSTONE From OE stān meaning stone; and possibly OE cīding meaning chide/brawling/noisy (but Chidda could be person’s name).

MEDWAY from OE way meaning road or river and OE med meaning middle.

BOURNE From OE meaning clear stream (often on chalk).

BROOK From OE meaning muddy stream, through marsh: so BID BROOK etc.

People’s names

Don’t forget that numerous place names come directly from the people who owned the house or the farm, eg in Leigh: APPLEBYS, PRICES FARM, HEALY’ GARAGE, MOON’S GARAGE.