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.

Berechurch olim West Donyland

Early-attested site in the Parish of Colchester

Historical Forms

  • Berdechirche t.Hy3 Colch
  • (le) Be(e)rdecherch(e) 1379,1400 Ct
  • Bierdecherche, Bierdechyrche 1277 Oath
  • Beyre 1468 Dugdiv
  • Bere 1497,1555 FF
  • Berechurch(e) 1509–47 Rental 1532–44 LP 1547 Pat
  • West Donylond alias Berechurch 1536 LP
  • Berechurche or West Donilande 1594 N
  • Beere alias Beere Church 1602 EAvi


This is a difficult name. It would seem to be a compound of cirice and some descriptive adjective. The suggestion may be hazarded that it is descriptive of one of the familiar Essex churches with a 'boarded' wooden tower. The first element may be a metathesised form of OE  bred , 'brede, board, plank,' a metathesised form found in other Germanic languages and formed the more readily through association with the allied word board itself. Alternatively, there may have been an adjective byrde (n ), 'made of boards.' This would give Essex berde , but it would be more difficult to account for the modern long vowel. For such a name cf. Bradkirk (PN La 153) and Felkirk (PN SWY 137). The shortened Bere must have arisen when the meaning of the compound was no longer understood. So in Kent, Dowde's Church (PN K 102) is known indifferently as Dode and Dodechirche in the 14th century. We may note also Layston (Herts), earlier Lefstanecherche . Berechurch lies west of East Donyland infra 387. The church is called alternatively the church of St Michael of Dunilande and of St Michael of Berdechirche in Dunilande . In the 16th century Berechurch is used as the name of a manor, a messuage, the parish, and the church. Berechurch and Westdonyland are sometimes used together as names of different places (e.g. 1544 LP).