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.

Sauvey Castle

Early-attested site in the Parish of Withcote

Historical Forms

  • Saluéé (sic) 1211,1212 P
  • Salvee 1229 Cl
  • Salveye 1239 ib
  • Salveie 1247 Nichols
  • castra sua de Rokingham et de Salveia 1220 Pat
  • Salveia(m) 1247,a.1250 Nichols
  • Salveyam a.1250 ib
  • castrum de Sauueie 1211 P
  • castrum suum de Sauveye 1230 Pat
  • castro de Sauveye 1238 Cl
  • Sauveye 1235 Pat 1244 Lib 1261 Pat 1328 Fine
  • Sauveie 1237 Cl
  • Sauvee 1248 Pat
  • Sauvey 1246,1254 1267 Cur
  • Sauweye 1316 Fine
  • castri de Sawueye 1269 For
  • Sawveye Hy3 Nichols
  • Sawaie 1401,1407 Pat
  • Sawaye 1437 Fine
  • Savaye 1462 Pat
  • Savey 1566 AAS
  • Sauey 1586 Plan
  • Seway 1406 AD
  • Seuay 1406 ib
  • Seway alias Sevay 1483 Fine
  • Seway alias Seuay 1510 LP
  • Seyvaye 1561 AAS
  • Saywaie 1561 AAS
  • Sayway 1620 Ipm
  • Sauvoye 1347 Fine
  • Savoye 1566 AAS
  • Sauvey Castle 1846,1863 White
  • castra nostra de Rokingeham et de Salvata 1218 Pat
  • castrum nostrum de Salvata 1219,1220 ib
  • castro de Salvata 1224 ib
  • Sabaud' 1255 Cl 1275 Fine 1276 Cl
  • castrum de Sabaudie 1290 Misc


Built by King John in 1211 principally for use as a hunting lodge, Sauvey is the finest Norman motte and bailey castle in Leicestershire, occupying a strong position, with ravines to the north and south containing streams which meet at the east end of the site. The name Sauvey appears to be OE in origin and probably means 'the road through the willows', v. salh , weg . However, rather than the generic's being weg , a final el. ēg 'land partly surrounded by water' to describe the castle's exact site (hence 'willow island') would seem more appropriate to the location, but in that case an intrusive v would be difficult to explain.

The range of the surviving forms shows strong AN influence. Thus the vocalization of l to u (Sal - > Sau -) is due to AN modification, as is the change of medial w to v (-weg > -vey ), cf. Sanvey Gate, Lei 161–2.The form Salvata is the result of scribal false etymology, from MLat  salvata 'safe' (cf. MLat salvatio 'protection'), alluding to the strength of the castle's position. A further medieval confusion was the identification of the English name with Savoy in France. Hence the Latin form for Savoy (i.e. Sabaudia ) is also ascribed to the castle, appearing as Sabaud ' and Sabaudie .

Note the presence of MLat  castrum 'a castle' with several 13th cent. forms.