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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in the
English Historical Review
Vol. 10 (1895), pp710‑712

The text is in the public domain:
F. J. Haverfield died in 1919.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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 p710  English Topographical Notes

I. Some Place-Names in Bede.

Bede, in the 'Historia Ecclesiastica,' mentions the Roman names of sixteen towns, &c., in England:—

Calcaria Tadcaster IV.23
Campodonum Slack, near Huddlesfield II.14
Cantia Kent often
Cataracto (-a) Catterick II.14, &c.
Dorubreuis Rochester II.3
Doruuernis Canterbury often
Doruuentio The E. Yorkshire river Derwent II.13
Eboracum York often
Lugubalia Carlisle IV.29
Rutubi Portus Richborough I.1
Sabrina the Severn V.23
Tamensis the Thames often
Tanatos Isle of Thanet I.25
Vecta Isle of Wight I.3
Venta Winchester III.7
Verulamium St. Albans I.7

These names are not contemporary names fitted into a Latin dress, like (I think) Lindocolinum or Lundonia; they are, with slight differences, the actual name used by the Romans three or four centuries before Bede. About half of them became known, or at least may have become known, to Bede through the Roman writers from whom he borrowed: the rest, notably Calcaria, Campodonum, Cataracto, Dorubreuis, Doruuernis, Lugubalia, cannot be thus accounted for. Bede could scarcely have learnt these obscure  p711 Roman names from any Roman source, unless from some itinerary or description of Britain, and, so far as one can judge, he had no access to any such source. His ignorance of the real Roman names of Lincoln and London, Chester and Caerleon, is decisive proof that he used no such authority. It is, however, possible that he learnt the names Calcaria, Campodonum, and the rest from some post-Roman — British or English — source or sources. We do not know whence he derived the materials for the chapters in which these names occur; for the most part his sources would naturally be English. But it is not difficult to show that the names might easily have been preserved. The Romanised Britons spoke Latin to a considerable extent, and presumably used the Roman place-names, and those now in question might have been learnt from them by the English with little difficulty. They belong mainly to (1) Kent and (2) Yorkshire. (1) Kent, the first land definitely occupied by the English, was, in the first instance, occupied by agreement, and the conquerors might hear and record Roman place-names. (2) In South and West Yorkshire the British kingdom of Elmet survived till about A.D. 625, and its conquest was seemingly preceded by intercourse between Britons and English. We do not know the exact limits of Elmet, but it seems certainly to have included the neighbourhood of Calcaria and Campodonum. Lugubalia, as a chief town of the Cumbrian Britons, retained its Roman name similarly.

II. Bannavem Taberniae.

The 'Confessio' attributed to St. Patrick and some lives of the saint say that his father, Calpurnius, lived in uico Bannauem Taberniae, ubi ego [Patr.] capturam dedi.​a The place has been identified in a great variety of ways, with the aid — usually — of more or less violent emendation or etymology. It may be worth while pointing out that Bannaventa is the name in the Antonine itinerary for a 'station' on Watling Street, probably three or four miles from Daventry, which itself lies west of the road, while Banna is the name of an unidentified spot in the north, probably a dozen miles east of Carlisle, near the Wall. I do not know what can be made of berniae or uemtaberniae, the two relics of the vulgate. It seems to be palaeographically and otherwise impossible to explain berniae (as has been suggested) as a contraction of Britanniae, or (as has also been suggested) as a corruption of Hiberniae, as (inter alia) the name of Ireland in the 'Confessio' is Hyberio; but the fact that Bannauem Taberniae contains the whole of an actual place-name, Bannauenta, is a curious coincidence. Patrick's 'Confessio,' even if not by St. Patrick (Pflugk-Harttung, Heidelberger Jahrb. III.71), is, at any rate, old, would naturally preserve the tradition of a Romano-British name. I should add that the coincidence of Bannauem  p712 Taberniae and Bannauenta has been independently observed by three persons — by myself, by Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, Bodley's librarian, and by a writer some time since in the Dublin Review. I am unfortunately unable to accept the inferences drawn from the coincidence by Mr. Nicholson and by the Dublin reviewer, and I have therefore ventured to state the case as I conceive it.

F. Haverfield.

Thayer's Note:

a Confessio Patrici, 1.

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Page updated: 16 Nov 19