Saturday, 27 June 2015

Derivation of the name of The Felling

Allen Mawer
This is the man who in 1920 got wrong the derivation of the place name "Felling" my view
He was born in London and in 1920, for a few years only, he was an administrator at Durham University, before moving on to Liverpool and ultimately returning to his native Smoke.
He got it wrong because he was not a local nor was he a hillwalker. Had he been a hillwalker he would surely have gone to the Lake District where he would have indulged in fellwaking following the famous book "Fellwalking with Wainwright". Only in this northern part of England and a bit of Scotland do we use the word "fell" for a spongy bleak hill, that the rest of the country calls a moor.
His book on the place names of Northumberland and Durham is online and I have read it from cover to cover. He has the well known item on The Felling but he does not deal with Low Fell, High Fell or Pelton Fell
This is his Felling entry on Page 83 continuing on to Page 84

That's all he says
He is an expert on place names and you can be certain therefore that if he knew the Northern word "fell" he would have had to discuss it, even if he then discounted it and favoured the silly notion that it was about trees being felled. The Oxford dictionary says that a fell is "a hill or stretch of high moorland, especially in northern England" and I am as certain as I can be that, had he known the word 'fell' as a stretch of high moorland and had he physically left his Durham University and came to The Felling travelling uphill from Birtley and downhill to The Felling he would not have written the Felling entry as he did. Of course even in 1920 he would not have been able to discern that it was fell land but he could have read Thomas Wilson's poem about the building of the New Durham Road in 1826 which contains this line "Then reet ower the Fell, and by Carter's famed well.."
Or he could have read John Wesley's  accounts of his preaching visits to Gateshead and The Felling in the 1770's when he deplored one journey in the bleak of winter but on another occasion admired the views he got from crossing The Fell. Or he could have read the Trade Directories which listed The Felling, The High Fell and The Low Fell. As you can see from Mawer's entry he was clearly influenced by the fact that the locals called it..and still do... The Felling but he did not know that the locals also said The High Fell and The Low Fell...and still do in relation to the New Durham Road which to this day is referred to as ...The Fell. When someone says "last night I was drinking on The Fell everyone knows that they are referring to the pub circuit on Durham Road (and including Beaconsfield Road and Kells Lane)
You may read the entry or indeed the entire online book here
This blog entry compliments my first piece on the subject here. This blog is to further assert my view which has been strengthened by reading Mawer's entire book
(David Mills in his 'A Dictionary of British Place-Names' has gone with Mawer's explanation. I may have to read it cover to cover to see whether he knows the word 'Fell' as a 'Moor' See here where Chas C Taylor, a local historian and place name expert does not go along with Mawer


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