Apr 122019

Most of us have mysteries associated with our place. Relevant to our shared endeavour are mysteries around our founding families, Who came here first? Why did they come here? Where did they come from? What was life like in those early years?

We all have mysteries in our ongoing studies. Who did ...? Why did they do that? When was this building built? Who owned the land at this time?

And so on.

For some of us, the very name of our place raises questions. For my place it’s not its current name - Springhill is clear enough. Rather it is the name by which the area was previously known, Deadwenclough. Etymologically that is also straightforward. A ‘clough’ is defined as a ‘gorge or narrow ravine’ (Colllis), but locally is used to describe small brooks which haven’t cut the countryside to that extent. ‘Quene’ is an old northern word for woman and is thought to come from the Old English cwen. Lowland Scots however has a similar word, ‘quine’, thought to be of similar entymology and still in use today. ‘Dead’ means, well, not alive.

So we have a place name which roughly translates as ’the stream of the dead woman’. That raises lots of questions...

Firstly, why is it called that? Presumably a dead woman was found in the river at one stage.

When did this occur? Early sources of the area are very limited as the broader area was subject to Forest Law until 1507. However it was probably never used for hunting and certainly was used for cattle rearing in the late Middle Ages. A late 19th century gentleman’s history of the area refers to ‘Deadwinclough’ as holding one of the two local pinfolds in 1324 so it was obviously some time ago. Unfortunately he didn’t cite his sources very well.

Where was it? There are two brooks (Balladen Brook and Parrock Brook) in the Deadwenclough area, both of which were sparsely inhabited in the 16th century. The pinfold was known to have been near the latter brook in the 16th century so it may have been that one. This runs for about 2/3 of a mile before flowing into the river at the valley bottom to any attempt to locate a site is both tentative and very vague.

Who was she? No idea.

How did she come to be there? Wouldn’t I just love to know!

What is interesting is that this was thought sufficiently uncommon for it to be immortalised in the name of the area. It remained the official name for the area until roughly the beginning of the 19th century when it changed to the much more conventional ’Newchurch’. ’Newchurch’, of course, isn’t new but that’s another story.

Does anyone have unsolvable mysteries in their place? Even better, does anyone have any ideas how I can solve mine?

Janet Barrie

 Leave a Reply



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.