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.


Major Settlement in the Parish of Bewcastle

Historical Forms

  • Buchastre, Buchecastre, Buchcastre c.1177 Weth
  • Buthecastra c.1178 Ch 1348
  • Budecastr' 1254 Cl
  • Butecastre 1271 ib
  • Buthcaster 1272 Ipm
  • Buthecastr' 1278 Ass
  • Buthecastre 1279 1291 Cl
  • Bothecastre late12th Lowther 1362 FF
  • Bodecastr' 1251 Cl
  • Botecastre 1274 Cl 1279 Ass
  • Bothcastre 1332 SR 1372 FF
  • Bothe Castell castr' 1379 IpmR
  • Bothcastel(l) 1326 Ipm 1368 ADiii
  • Bothecastell 1327,1378 Cl
  • Beaucastell 1485 Ipm
  • Bewcastell 1493 Pat
  • Bowecastell 1511 LP
  • Bou Castel al. Belcastel c.1540 Leland
  • Bewcastle 1580 Border
  • Bewcastle castle 1597 ib
  • Bothcastre al. Bewcastle 1610 Denton


The second element in this name is cæster , an Anglian side-form of OE  ceaster , referring to the defences of the Roman camp established above the crossing of the Kirk Beck on the road running northwestwards from Birdoswald. A medieval fortress was built within these defences, which is referred to in the medieval Bothe Castell castr ' and is indicated on the 1″ Ordnance map by Bew Castle in antique type. The existence of this castle explains the development of the name into Bewcastle instead of the more regular Bewcaster .In the first element of the name medieval spellings vary between Buth - and Buch -, but the variations are merely scribal, and the original form was clearly Buth - from ON  búð, 'booth.' The name presumably referred to one or more elementary dwellings planted within the lines of the Roman camp. Derivation from the personal name Buet , which has sometimes been suggested, is made impossible by the early forms.

It is probable that the Romano-British name of the fort at Bewcastle was Banna (v. Appendix).