The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations.

Anthony Wheeler and the Origin of Place Names

Antony Wheeler, the well-known Sudbury historian, made a very welcome return visit to the Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday 8th February and talked to 19 members about the origin of place names. Antony began by explaining that the large majority of the names of villages and towns in what we now know as the United Kingdom may be traced back to the immigration of Angles, Saxons and Frisians in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Illegal immigration was rife even then as these peoples from northern Europe faced population increase, rising sea levels and harassment from tribes further east. In the land recently occupied by the Romans there was plenty of room and although the Romans attempted to stem the incoming tide by establishing forts along the coast, the immigrants gradually infiltrated bringing with them their languages. Much of England was at this time forested and work had to be done to create settlements. So ancient words - and their derivations - meaning, for example "people", "clearing" and "home" can be seen in place names today. Thus Saxham means, literally "home of Saxons". Information about what trees and crops grew and what wildlife thrived can often be discovered by tracing back how a place name originated. "Foxearth" almost certainly derived from words meaning " a forest clearing where foxes dwelt" Mr Wheeler- a teacher - held this class's attention as he peppered his fascinating talk with many such examples and he was warmly thanked by Chairman Alan Fitch. Mr Fitch reminded members that those wishing to go on the tour of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral on June 14th should let him know as soon as possible. This will cost £3 and it is hoped that an ascent of the tower will be possible. He also reported that the Web site was being visited by an increasing number of interested parties; it was important to include "org" in the address to avoid confusion with a site in America! Tuesday, March 8th at 8pm in Foxearth Village Hall will be the annual general meeting and following business there will be a talk about recent metal-detecting discoveries in Long Melford. Ken Nice

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