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.

Abingdon

Major Settlement in the Parish of Abingdon and St Helen Without

Historical Forms

  • (in) Æbbandune 699 BCS100 c.1200
  • Æbbandune c.730 c.1200 ib
  • Æbbanduna, Æbbendune 811 c.1200 ib
  • Abbandun 931 BCS680 c.1200
  • (æt) Abbandune 968 16th ib
  • (de) Abbenduna, (in) Abbendona, (to) Abbendune c.931 c.1200 ib
  • Abbendun 955 c.1200 ib
  • Abbendone 1086 DB
  • Abbendona 1130 P 1290–1 Winchester 14th
  • Abendone 1086 DB
  • Abendonia 1086 DB 1166(13th),1201–12(13th) O
  • Abendon' 1185 RR
  • Abendon 1199 FF 1315 Fine 1535 VE
  • Abbindona 1172–3,1174–5 P
  • Abbindon' 1205 ClR 1230 P 1275–6 RH
  • Abbindun' 1219 FineR
  • Abbinton' 1181–2 P
  • Abinton 1275–6 RH
  • Abindon' 1203–4 HunterFines
  • Abyndonya 1283–1304 PontReg
  • Abindone c.1300 RG
  • Abyndon 1305etfreqto1377 Fine
  • Abyndone 1325 Winchester 14th
  • Abingdonia 1224 (c. 1250) Bract, Abingdon
  • Abington 1535 VE
  • Habendune, Habindune 13th Gerv
  • Habindon 1247 AD
  • Habindone 1316 Ipm

Etymology

'Æbba's hill', v. dūn and Pt 1 2. Alternatively, the first el. could be the fem. pers.n. Æbbe . There is another occurrence of the p.n. in the bounds of Powick Wo in BCS 1282, which include the phrase on abbandunes wican . This would be an appropriate name for an outlying property of Abingdon, but the Abbey is not known to have had land in Wo. Cf. also Abbinton's Fm in Wichenford Wo 179, Abyndon 1316 et seq (p), probably a manorial n. from Abingdon Berks.

There is an important article, 'The early history of Abingdon Berkshire, and its abbey' by M. Biddle, Mrs Lambrick and J. N. L. Myres in Medieval Archaeology xii (1968), 26–69. This sets out the archaeological evidence for late Roman and very early Saxon occupation in Abingdon, and discusses the bearing of this on the foundation stories related in the various chronicles of the Abbey. Mrs Lambrick and Dr Myres argue for an authentic basis to the story (not in ClaudiusCix , but in ClaudiusBvi and Cotton Vitellius Axiii ) about the original foundation being on Boar's Hill, and the name moving downhill with the monks in the time of King Cædwalla, so that Abbendun displaced the earlier name of the new site, which was Seuekesham . The later Chronicles also say that Seuekesham had been a great city in Romano-British times.

It is clear from the evidence set out in this article that the monks had good reason for their assertion that Abingdon was on the site of a flourishing pre-English settlement, but it is not certain that their references to events preceding and connected with the foundation of the Abbey are based on ancient traditions in addition to objects found when they engaged in building works. It was argued in 1957 (M. Gelling, 'The Hill of Abingdon', Oxoniensia xxii, 54–62) that the legend of the migration from Boar's Hill might have arisen from the bounds of Abingdon lands in BCS 906, which refer to a place called abbendun on the eastern tip of Boar's Hill (v. Pt 3 for these bounds). The abundant material evidence to be found in Abingdon of early occupation could be the reason for the story of the early city called Seuekesham , Seouekesham . The omission of any reference to this early name in the charters copied into the chronicles suggests that it is part of a story invented between the compilation of ClaudiusCix in the first half of the 12th cent, (when the forged early charters were available) and that of ClaudiusBvi c. 1240.

It is possible for a place-name to be invented to suit a legend; cf. Horton , said by Camden to be an earlier name of Halifax, YW 3104.This is probably an invention of a much later date, but the intellectual process involved is comparable. The genuineness of the name Seuekesham is not proven, and its absence from pre-Conquest charters is suspicious. It has clearly some connection with Seacourt (465); it is noteworthy that spellings with -s - occur for Seacourt in 1166 and 1378, suggesting that an etymologically incorrect form of that name was current in ME.

Places in the same Parish

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