While I have been working on my second series, The Inheritors, I have been reviewing the first segment of this family saga, The Conquerors. The second book of the first segment, Salvation, takes place in Cwmdu (Black Valley) and I thought about how the pronunciation of Cwmdu could be shown phonetically for non-Welsh speakers. I came up with ‘COOM-dee’. Most of us will recognize ‘combe’ pronounced ‘coom,’ since it is found in place names all over England.
Among those place names is further evidence of Welsh occupation of the country now known as England (as well as the country to the north now known as Scotland), centuries prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.
Taking a circular tour of England, we find Ross-on-Wye which is a direct Anglicization of Rhos-ar-Wy (Gwy is the name of the river, mutated by the adjective ‘ar’) ‘Rhos’ means moor or plain.
Southeast of Ross, we reach Bath, a favorite tourist destination, especially for Jane Austen readers. In Welsh, this spa town is known as Caerfaddon, (‘baddon’ means bath and is mutated by the feminine noun, ‘caer’ meaning fort). The Romans created the baths which are now visited by millions every year. During the Roman occupation of Briton, this town became an outpost for soldiers, a fort (from cess and cest from the Latin for ‘rest’ and ‘girdle’ (surround). The Romans took over many hill forts (caerau bryn) from the Brythonic Celts (Cymry/the Welsh people). Roman occupation of Briton ended by 410AD and the Anglo-Saxons (Saeson) arrived on the eastern coast of Briton around 450AD.
Northeast of Bath, we come to Oxford, a direct translation of Rhydychen (‘rhyd’ means ford as across a river and ‘ychen’ means oxen), a place where oxen cross the river. East, along the Gwy, we arrive in High Wycombe. ‘Wy’ is the mutated name of the river, Gwy, (as above) and is the geographic marker for the M40. This motorway was placed along a thoroughfare constructed by the Romans who used an original tract used by the Cymry to drive oxen to market. High Wycombe is an adaptation of Cwm-uwch-Wy (narrow valley above Gwy) which, along with all the other major towns located on the banks of the Gwy River, was and is a market town.
The string of market towns leads to London. Any cattle or other goods, not already sold along the route, were sold at Smithfield. This enormous livestock market is still a major destination for farmers throughout the countries of Britain. London was known to the Romans as Londinium, to the Cymry as Llundain — possibly from the Latin lun meaning crescent shape or moon(‘llun’ means moon and Monday in Cymraeg/Welsh). It was a bog but centrally located and easily defended, until Buddug (meaning ‘victory’) attacked in 60AD:
But this early prosperity wasn’t to last. In 60 AD, Boudica (Buddug – Ed.), queen of the Iceni tribe of Norfolk, chose Londinium as a key target for her revolt against Roman rule. Her timing was perfect – the Roman army was away, quelling an uprising on the Welsh island of Anglesey. Boudica and her rabble razed the whole 40 acres city to the ground, killing thousands of traders who had settled there. Her attack left a thick burnt layer of red ash in the soil which is clearly visible in archaeological excavations. It was the first great fire of London. (History.co.uk)
Southeast of Llundain is the cathedral town of Canterbury, known by the Cymry as Caergaint. ‘Caint’ is the Welsh for the county of Kent. Kent is an approximation of the original place name given to it by the Brythonic Celts (Cymry).
In my next post, we will go north – the rush is on to the next stop: the university town of Cambridge.