Down memory lane: Hidden meaning of what’s in a name

If we are nameless then who are we? Without our names we have no individuality, no distinct identity.
At best we become an indistinguishable part of a huge and monolithic gathering such as the Anglo Saxons or Victorians, the peasantry or the working class; at worst we are lost from history and become as nothing.

The desire to be known and remembered for who we are as separate entities with a unique character is a powerful human emotion. That is why our ancestors, no matter how poor, strove to avoid the indignity of a pauper’s funeral after their death.

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Then there were those places which may once have been called after a feature in the landscape but which were renamed after a man who was given overlordship of a manor.

Darlaston and Tipton fall into this latter category. The ‘tun’ element means a manor and experts have placed its common use to the period between 750 and 950. Thus Darlaston signifies the manor of Deorlaf. The second earliest recording of it in 1262 spelled it as Derlaveston, although by 1316 its modern form had emerged when it was given as Derlaston. As for Tipton, it was first noted in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was put down as Tibintone, meaning the estate of Tibba.

Willenhall is mentioned much earlier and it is one of the earliest Black Country place names cited in a document. In 732 it was given as Willenhalch and as such was the ‘halh, small valley, of Willa. Sedgley and Dudley are two other places that remember a person. Both signify a ‘leah’ or ley, a clearing – the one of someone called of Secg and the other of a fellow named Dudda.