English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Nostell Priory

Early-attested site in the Parish of Wragby

Historical Forms

  • Osele 1086 DB
  • St Oswald del Ostell 1424 Rent258
  • Nostlec 1108–14 YCh1465
  • Nostla a.1114 Dugdvi 1121–9 YChx 1126–1180 YCh1012–32 12 Nost
  • Nostleighe a.1114 Tockw 15
  • Nostlai, Nostlay 1121–7 YCh 1189 Nost4 1215 ChR
  • Nosteleia 1130–40 YCh1466
  • Nostel 1115–20,1135–9,1156–9,1160–80 YCh1034 1433 Nost e.13 MaryYii,70d 1249,1300 Ebor
  • Nostlad 1147–53 YCh 1154–9 ib
  • Nostlath 1148–52 p.1153 YChvi 1154–69 Tockw 1189 Nost4d
  • Nostleth 12 YChvi 1189 Nost4d
  • Nostlat 1188–1202 YChviii e.13 Tockw
  • Nothlathes 1331 Ass5
  • Nosthle 1147–53 YChvi
  • Nostle 1175–90 YCh l.12 e.13 RegAlbii,19 1219 FF 1220 Cur 1240–50 Bodl69 1247,1249 RegAlbii,6d,iii,93
  • Nostele 1237 Ebor 1379 Bodl
  • Nostelle 1280,1282 Ebor
  • Nostell 1300 Ebor 1380 Ch 1400 Pat 1409 DiocV 1624 FF
  • Nostell Abby 1666 Visit
  • Nostall 1654 PRHtnP


Nostell was the site of an important Augustine priory dedicated to St Oswald, King and Martyr, and founded in 1121; the appearance of the name in DB would therefore rule out any connexion with the name of St Oswald (which was one of Moorman's suggestions).Goodall 72 rejects the DB spelling Osele without initial N - on the grounds of the later spellings which have it regularly, and he supposes that Nostell is an -el derivative of some word connected with OFris  nōst , MLG  nöste , which mean 'water-trough'. Ekwall (DEPN), following another of Moorman's suggestions, accepts the DB form and takes the name as a compound of OE  ōsle 'blackbird' and lēah 'glade'. Whilst there is ample evidence elsewhere to illustrate the prefixing of initial N - from the old def.art. atten through wrong analysis, as in Nosterfield YN 223, etc. (v. EPN i, 13–14 s.v. atten ), the very early and persistent spellings with -t - in Nost - do not support Moorman's proposal, especially as other YW p.ns. which probably contain OE  ōsle (Ouslethwaite i, 293, Ossett 188infra ) provide no parallel to this development of an intrusive -t -. In addition, none of these suggestions satisfactorily explains the various early spellings with -lad , -lath , -leth (which are not cited by these authorities). Such spellings as -lath , -lad could be derived from ON  hlaða 'a barn', but -leth is an unusual variant of this. In any case the final element must have been a rare word to have lost its etymological significance early enough to give rise to these variants, as well as to confusion with lēah (in Nostleighe , etc.) and its ultimate disappearance (in Nostle , Nostel , etc.). The most likely source seems to be OE  lǣd or lād 'water-course', with -th through ON  influence or confusion with hlaða 'barn', and with -leighe (and subsequently -le , -el ), due in the first place to AN  variants of -th (cf. IPN 109).The first el. could be an OE  nōst cognate with OFris  nōst 'cattle- trough', MLG  noest 'bucket', OHG  nuosc 'conduit' (as suggested by Goodall), assuming that the DB spelling is erratic; a similar word appears in Nost Ing (Hawksworth) pt. iv infra . But if initial N - is not original, the first el. should be from OE  ōst 'a knob, protuberance, a knot', probably used topographically of a hillock or protuberance in the ground (cf. Ekwall, Studies 75); such a description might well apply to what is now called Planetree Hill by which Nostell Priory stood. On the whole, amongst these speculative suggestions, an OE  nōst -lǣd 'water-course used as a conduit or providing a drinking-place for cattle' seems most likely on formal as well as topographical grounds.