Place-names and GIS

Scanned copy of an extract from the Meverley tithe map, traced by H.D.G. Foxall. The original is held at Shropshire Archives.

Scanned copy of an extract from the Meverley tithe map, traced by H.D.G. Foxall. The original is held at Shropshire Archives.

By Emily Pennifold

I am a research student at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) in Aberystwyth. My project looks at how field-names can be used to track the linguistic borders between English and Welsh with particular focus on the Hundred of Oswestry in Shropshire and the historic county of Radnorshire. I am also using field-name evidence to establish what happens to the vocabulary of minor place-names in a language contact area, particularly in a situation where one language is actively encroaching upon the territory of another. So far I have been collecting names from the mid-nineteenth century Tithe Schedules and maps held by the National Library of Wales and the Shropshire Archives. The corpus currently includes exactly 20,477 field- and farm-names.

As the project has developed it has become increasingly supported by the use of digital technologies. As the study of place-names naturally lends itself to the study of maps, GIS software has become integral in the process of transcribing and geolocating field-names and common elements which will become part of in-depth vocabulary studies. An  excellent resource for this part of the project are the digitised copies of Shropshire tithe maps, hand-traced by the historian George Foxall. These beautiful reproductions include the names of each field and can be georeferenced to the current OS maps with a surprisingly high degree of accuracy.

I am also working as part of the Place-Names of Shropshire Project, a collaborative project between The University of Nottingham and CAWCS, funded by AHRC. We are trialling the use of GIS software in the collection of names for the production of place-name gazeteers. This technology means we are instantly able to compare older tithe, estate and OS maps with modern OS to establish how names have changed over the last 200 years.

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