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.

Bessels Leigh

Major Settlement in the Parish of Bessels Leigh

Historical Forms

  • Leie 1086 DB
  • Lea c.1200 ClaudiusCix
  • Leye 1284 Ass 1327 SR
  • Legh 1229 Pat
  • Lye 1412 FA
  • Besilles Lee 1538 Moulton
  • Beselslight 1595 ib
  • Besselsley 1676 ArchJ
  • Besilsleigh 1830 OS


OE  (a)h, probably 'woodland clearing'. This may represent the OE  Earmundesleah , for which v. infra . The modern name has a family-name prefixed; cf. 'in Leghe…quod Petrus Besyles nuper tenuit' 1428 FA.

The forms Leoie , Leia cited in DEPN from BCS 1170 are of dubious authority. The charter is a grant of Marcham, dated 965, and at the end of it the author of ClaudiusBvi has added a note that 'Frileford, Appeltun, Leoie' were members of Marcham in King Edgar's time, and their bounds are described partly here, partly elsewhere. He then gives a short set of bounds under the heading Metae de Leia , which occur elsewhere in both cartularies as those of the woodland attached to Chilton. There is evidence to suggest that this piece of wood was near West Ilsley (v. Pt 3), and the author of ClaudiusBvi may well have been mistaken in connecting the survey with Bessels Leigh. It is probable that he himself supplied the forms Leoie , Leia , and they were not to be found in any of the pre-Conquest material he was using.