These two villages have been discussed a number of times on this blog. Today, I would like to propose some new theories on the origins of their names. I believe it is entirely possible that both of these villages have their origins in the pre-Roman Brythonic speaking culture that occupied this corner of the territory of the Corieltauvi tribe.
In a recent post, I put forward the theory that Rainworth got it’s name after the death of King Raedwald’s son Raegenhere. The theory goes that after the battle, Raedwald renamed a ford that crossed the river Idle (where Rainworth water now passes under the road next to the bus stop) to Raegenhere’s wrath, which ultimately mutated to Rainworth as the village grew up around the ford in the river. If this is true, then it places the Battle of the Idle on the land known locally as “the bogs” and Rainworth Heath/Nature reserve.
The key point in this history that I would like to pick up on here is that Rainworth was nothing more than a ford where the river Idle (now Rainworth water) crossed the Roman road running from Mansfield to Newark.
Before the Roman invasion and until the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons, the tribal Britons spoke the Brythonic language. As the Anglo-Saxons invaded, they gradually pushed the Britons further and further west until they had been pushed into Wales. And it is here that they remain until this day, with the Welsh language developing from the Brythonic that was once spoken all across the lands. Brythonic/Welsh is effectively the native language of the British Isles, not English.
The study of place name entomology is also riddled with opinion and outdated information. With many place names assuming either no meaning, or that they are named after a presumed historical person. Blidworth is an example of this very lazy entomology, where the name is assumed to mean “the enclosure/land of Blitha”, where Blitha is a presumed historical person that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest ever existed. We see these assumed people in many place names, but there is no evidence for it. It is just one of those things that has been repeated often enough that it has become “fact”. The truth is, these place name meanings are often conjecture. Further, there seems to have been very little consideration of languages outside the evolution of English. Most place names tend to be credited to Anglo-Saxon, Old English, Norman (french), Norse (viking). Where we do have accepted older place names, they are often referred to as “Celtic” ignoring the fact that we have at least two insular Celtic language families. The first is the Brythonic family that includes Welsh, Cornish, Cumbric and Breton. The second is the Goidelic family that includes Irish, Manx and Scots Gaelic. I find it very interesting then, to look at our local place names through the lens of the Brythonic language that was once spoken here, and the closest we have to that is North Welsh.
With all of that in mind then, I find it very interesting that Welsh word for ford (around which the village of Rainworth grew up) is “Rhyd”. The letter “y” in Welsh (in this instance) is pronounced somewhere between “i” as in “is” and “ee” as in “bee”. Tag on the Anglo-Saxon word for enclosure (worth/worde from weorthig) and you have Rhyd-worde, meaning the enclosure of land around the ford, and sounding an awful lot like the word Rainworth we use today. Could it be that the name Rainworth has nothing to do with Raegenhere, and is actually derived from the Brythonic word for ford?
The neighbouring village of Blidworth can also be subjected to the same kind of analysis. Blidworth has already received much attention on this blog because of the Druid Stone ritual complex just outside the village, and the solar aliments with other important local landscape features. It is well known that the village was recorded in the doomsday book after the Norman invasion, so it is safe to assume there was a good water supply. And in fact there are over 30 recorded wells and a number of natural springs at the top of the hill on which the village stands, some of which were said to never dry up until the mine shaft was sunk in the 1920s which lowered the water table. It has also been suggested to me a number of times that some of these springs/wells would have been sacred, and very likely important to the local deities.
So what can we find looking at the place name? Well, there is the Welsh word “Blyd” which means “wet”. Once again if we add on the Anglo-Saxon worde then we end up with Blyd-worde meaning “wet enclosure”. And once again, given the nature of the geography of the area, I would suggest that the case for this theory is stronger than “the enclosure belonging to Blitha”. Of course we can never know for sure. But I am happy to contribute another theory for consideration, and if I am right, then we can clearly see that these villages have their roots in the Brythonic culture that once dominated this landscape.