Whalsey – where Anglian settlers called the indigenous Britons ‘foreigners’

Whalsey field with in front the River Swale, to the left the raised platform of Pally Stone, and behind (right) the Iron Age fortified mound that probably gave the name to the field.

Whalsey field with in front the River Swale, to the left the raised platform of Pally Stone, and behind (right) the Iron Age fortified mound that probably gave the name to the field.

A large, seven-acre field next to the River Swale near Whita Bridge in upper Swaledale was recorded in 1844 as Whalsey, and in 1135 as a cattle farm called Whallasheued. The most likely interpretation of the former is ‘Welsh people’s island’ and of the latter is ‘Welsh people’s hill.’ Both versions seem to refer to the known Iron Age fortified mound at the west end of the field, which is now known as How Hill.

If the interpretation is correct, this place-name seems to be a rare surviving example in Swaledale of a reference by Anglian settlers to the former presence of the Celtic Britons, who they called the Walas, literally foreigners; which was a bit rich coming from the Anglians.

For a more detailed explanation of the location and the possible meanings of Whalsey and Whallasheued, visit the Swaledale place-name website associated with this blog here – Whalsey.

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About Will Swales

Amateur historian with a special interest in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
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