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What is the Welsh Government doing to save our place names?

19 Mar 2024 4 minute read
An iconic road sign

James January-McCann Swyddog Enwau Lleoedd/Place Names Officer, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

What is the Welsh Government doing to save our place names? That’s a question that gets asked a lot at the moment, particularly on social media. It’s also a question with a quick and definite answer.

The List of Historic Place Names was established in 2017 to protect and preserve Wales’ place names, and to promote their use and visibility in public life.

When the List was first established it was already the largest collection of place names in the world, but over the years it’s grown even larger. We’ve just hit a new milestone – adding our 700,000th place name.

Field names

The List is used by local government, government bodies like Cadw, and developers to name and re-name streets and developments.

If a new housing estate is built on the edge of town, it will be named using historic names from the area, rather than having new ones made up that have no link to local history and heritage.

We often use field names for example, so a road will be named after the field it was built on, or the farm that used to be there a century or so ago.

Tafarn-y-pridd map

Even in more anglicised areas, the vast majority of the local place names will be Welsh language, so this makes a real difference in increasing the visibility of the language across the country.

Once all the new streets that we’ve named are built for instance, Swansea County will have a majority of Welsh language street names for the first time.

Preservation

All very well you might say, but what about all the house names that are being changed to English?

We’re currently collating all the data that we’ve collected on this, and hope soon to be able to provide a definite picture of when, where, why, and to what extent this is happening, as an evidence base for future legislation.

In the meantime, we’ve seen repeatedly that if people are shown how old their house name is, and have its meaning explained, they’re much less likely to want to change it.

We’ve got thousands upon thousands of house names in the List, and in some cases we can trace them all the way back to the medieval period.

This is why our work is so important. The more we can prove how old our place names are, the more people understand how important they are.

We give regular talks on place names right across the country, in person and online, and contribute articles to various publications, both in Welsh and English.

Get involved

We’re also constantly adding new names. We collect everything, so if you have a farm and know your field names, send them in to us.

If your house has a name, let us know where it is and send it in. If you’ve got an old map in the loft, take a picture and send it in. 

If a name is in the List, it has a level of statutory protection, and local government and other bodies have a legal duty to use the List in their naming duties, so if you’re concerned about the loss of place names, send them in to us so that they can be protected.

It’s not just Welsh language names either; English has been spoken in some parts of Wales for centuries, and English language place names are just as much a part of our cultural heritage as Welsh ones.

And what’s the 700,000th place name? Tafarn-y-pridd, a pub near Llangamarch, which was open between 1833 and some time after 1900.


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Andrew Davies
Andrew Davies
1 month ago

Diolch o galon am y gwaith gwerthfawr. I’d like to know, however, what is being done to deter the Forces of Globalization from Anglicizing Welsh topographical names? Any online map will daily supplant a centuries-old Cymraeg name with some new meaningless abomination. How can this be regulated? (It seems to me that the OS are at it as well. State sanctioned ethnic cleansing by stealth?)

Riki
Riki
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Davies

That’s because they are exactly that! Lets not forget the role we play in the destruction of own our culture mind you. We are far too Welcoming to those who seek out erasure, and it’s something we need to wake up from.

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