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The lost sacred grove of Mansfield?

It recently came to my attention that there is an area of Mansfield that used to be known as “Newton Town”. I am very familiar with the area, and have walked through it many times as I’m sure many of you have too.

The area in question is roughly where Rosemary Avenue, just off Rosemary Street is now. Behind the offices of Mansfield District Council.

The name “Newton Town” is very interesting. Firstly, Newton is the most common place name in the UK with no less than 87 Newtons. The accepted entomology of Newton is that it derives from Old English Neowe for new, and Tun meaning enclosure or settlement. This results in this area being called “New Town Town”. Why the extra redundant word?

It is supposed the name Newton is a name used for a new settlement when the population decides to move to a new area, or for an area of planned expansion.

There are examples of other “Newtons” nearby, such as Newton in the Bolsover district of Derbyshire. This place was recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as Neutone which seems rather different from the Old English Neowetun.

An alternative entomology might be that some of these “Newtons” derive from the Celtic word Nemeton which means sacred grove. There are many other places across the Celtic world that retain names derived from this word, such as Nematobriga in north-west Spain, Medionnemeton in Scotland or Nymet and Nympton in Devon among many many others.

It is interesting to note that the word Nemeton ends in the *-ton suffix that is usually taken to be from the Old English for town. It is entirely possible that as the local Brythonic language was replaced by the Anglo-Saxon languages, that this suffix became confused and the similar sounding Nemeton was misunderstood as Neowetun, thus changing the meaning of the place name.

This could explain the redundant word “town” in the place name. Should the name be “Sacred Grove Town”? Could this be the lost location of a Sacred Grove of the ancient Druids, just outside of the old settlement that became Mansfield?

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