English village names

We’ve already touched on the subject of place names in an earlier blog - how Winchcombe gained an “E” but lost its orchards - and England is well known for the fascinating variety of names it attaches to its villages; Pucklechurch, Barton in the Beans, Matching Tye, Steeple Bumpstead, the list goes on and on and on and on. The variety reflects the people and languages that have washed over the land and often talks to the local geography. So, “tun”, Old English for homestead or estate, appears everywhere, often corrupted to “ton”; Brighton, Stockton, Hampton, Southampton, Northampton (“hamm” being Old English for water meadow).

Bad picture of a lovely pup, The Plough in Cold Aston / Aston Blank

Bad picture of a lovely pup, The Plough in Cold Aston / Aston Blank

We deliver cider to a lovely pub in an old village with not one name, but two; Cold Aston (Aston Blank). And by old, we mean old. In Saxon times, it was recorded as Eastunæ between 716-43 and in the Domesday Book as Estone, the influence of the Normans perhaps being felt in the change from East- to Est. From there it’s a short hop to Aston and by the middle of the 13th century is was known as Cold Aston. The derivation of “Cold” is not certain but it almost certainly has nothing to do with local climate; our Celtic-Roman-Saxon-Viking-Norman forebears weren’t daft enough to name their towns and villages over a snap of chilly weather and there’s no indication that Cold Aston is any colder than Turkdean, Notgrove, Naunton or Lower Slaughter that surround it. It’s probably derived from an old Saxon word meaning an old settlement, perhaps referring to a disused Roman camp that was related to the nearby Fosse Way. And in this age of rage and certain opinions, how refreshing to come across a something where the genuine answer is “who knows?”.

For some reason - again, who knows why - Cold Aston became Aston Blank in the 16th Century, the “blank” probably derived from the French or Old French blanc, “ white” or “bare”, referring to the white oolitic limestone of which the Cotswolds are formed, or the acres of open farmland that surround the village (probably the former, as the land would have been more wooded 400 years ago). And then in 1972 it became Cold Aston once again, with Aston Blank relegated to parentheses on the village signs.

Cold Aston, Aston Blank, call it what you will. It’s a typically charming and pretty Cotswold village, with a church, a primary school, sadly no shop, but it does have a lovely pub, The Plough. Eat, sleep, drink (proper cider, preferably, Bushel+Peck better still), enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Cotswolds, and reflect for a moment on all that has gone on before us.

And if you’ve read this far, thank you.