Stoke-on-Trent Local History


History of Settlement


One Stoke-on-Trent place name surviving from the time of the Celts is Penkhull (Pen meaning End of Wood or Hill). But almost all place names originate in the later part of the Anglo-Saxon period.

Celtic Tribes in Britain and Ireland

Celtic Tribes in Britain and Ireland

Celtic Britain was dominated by a number of tribes, each with their own well-defined territory. It is thanks to Roman chroniclers, such as Strabo, Julius Caesar, and Diodorus, that the names of individual tribes are known to us today, albeit in Romanized form.



In the 1st millennium BC the Celts overran the British Isles, as they did virtually all of western Europe. With iron ploughs they cultivated the heavy soil of the river valleys; with iron weapons and two-wheeled, horse-drawn chariots, they subdued and absorbed the indigenous inhabitants of the islands. Their priests, the Druids, dominated their society.


Although it had long been known to the Mediterranean peoples as a source of tin, Great Britain did not enter the Roman world until Julius Caesar’s two expeditions to the island in 55 and 54 BC—as an afterthought to his conquest of Gaul. Caesar’s contact, however, was temporary; permanent occupation had to wait until Rome had solved more pressing problems at home.

Emperor Claudius I invaded Britain in force in AD 43, but nearly two decades passed before the Romans had captured the island of Anglesey, Wales, headquarters of the Druids, and put down the revolt of Boudicca, the queen of the Iceni. The Roman governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola won the Battle of Mons Graupius (AD 84), somewhere in Scotland, but the northern tribes proved hard to subdue. In 123, Hadrian’s Wall, stretching 117 km (73 mi) from the Solway Firth to the River Tyne, became the northern frontier.


Collective name for the Germanic peoples who, in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, migrated to Britain from the North Sea coastlands between the Netherlands and Norway. They conquered and occupied lowland Britain, and the period of their dominance—the Anglo-Saxon period of British history—runs from the first half of the 5th century to the Norman Conquest of AD 1066.

Place names in England

There are four main categories of Viking place names in England.

  1. Place names ending in -by, such as Selby or Whitby. These -by endings are generally places where the Vikings settled first. In Yorkshire there are 210 -by place names. The -by has passed into English as 'by-law' meaning the local law of the town or village.
  2. Place names ending in -thorpe, such as Scunthorpe. The -thorpe names are connected with secondary settlement, where the settlements were on the margins or on poor lands. There are 155 place names ending in -thorpe in Yorkshire.
  3. Place names as a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Viking words. These are known as 'Grimston hybrids', because -ton is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning town or village, and Grim is a Viking name. The idea is that a Viking took over an Anglo-Saxon place and called it after himself. (Women's names are very rare in place names). There are 50 'Grimston hybrid' names in Yorkshire.
  4. Changes in pronunciation. The Anglo-Saxon place name Shipton was difficult for the Vikings to say, so it became Skipton.

There are several arguments connected with these place names. Some historians have argued that the Viking invasions involved very large numbers of people because there are so many Viking place names. Other experts have argued that once the Viking language became the main language of the region, place names would naturally be named using Viking words. Another factor is that few large Viking settlements were on entirely new sites: many Viking settlements continued on the traditional Anglo-Saxon sites.


Previous:  Archaeology and settlement
Next: Meaning of place names


Chesterton and Roman occupation
on Saxon owners - notices in Domesday Book, -  Robert De Stafford and his property.

questions / comments / contributions? email: Steve Birks