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.

Child's Ercall

Parish in the County of Shropshire

Historical Forms

  • Arcalun 1086 DB
  • Arkeluu 1198 Cur
  • Arkelawe 1200 Cur
  • Arkelun 1205 Cur
  • Parva Erkalawe 1242 Fees
  • Erkalewe 1271-2 Ass
  • Childes Erkelewe, Childes Erkalew 1294-9 Ass
  • Ercalewe 1310 Ipm 1397 InqMisc
  • Erkelawe 1310 Cl
  • Erkalow 1326 Pat
  • Ercalewe Parva 1334 SR
  • Excalewe 1242 Fees
  • Hercalwe Parva 1255 RH
  • Herkalwe 1331 Ch
  • Childes Ercalwe 1333 Cl
  • Parva Ercalwe 1316 FA
  • Ercalwe Parva 1346,1428 FA
  • Childeserchalewe 1339 HAC
  • Childesarkeslowe, Childeserkeslowe 1397 Pat
  • Childes Ercall 1410 Fine
  • Little Ercall 1449 Fine
  • Chyles Ercall 1540 SBL6083
  • Childesercall otherwise Arkelowe 1440 Cl
  • Ercall Parva 1698 SBL10383
  • Arcall Parva 1535 VE 1633 PR(L)
  • Childes Arcoll 1577 Saxton
  • Child Arcol 1695 Morden
  • Childs Arcoll alias Arcoll Parva 1699 SBL13071
  • Little Arcoll 1722 PR(L)
  • Childs Arkoe 1582 PR(L)
  • Chields Arkhole 1695 ib
  • Erchall Parva 1705 PR(L)
  • Childs Archall 1708 ib


High and Child's Ercall are 6½ miles apart. There is no reason to suspect an ancient administrative connection between them, but they share the same place-name, which is extremely well-documented. Its OE form can be reconstructed with a fair degree of confidence from the ME  spellings, and it appears likely to have been *Earcaluw . Many of the spellings show influence from OE  hlāw 'tumulus, hill', but the -lue , -luu -luwe spellings which occur for Ercall do not appear in names containing hlāw .(In a number of forms given above, scribal or editorial misreading has produced -lun , -lon for -luu , -lou ).

The hill called The Ercall, adjacent to The Wrekin, lies 6 miles S.E. of High Ercall, 9½ miles S.S.W. of Child's Ercall. No early spellings exist for it. Ercal Wood is shown on the side of the hill on the 19th-cent. OS map, but apart from that the hill-name is not documented. This means that no ancient connection can be proved between the hill-name and the two settlement-names; but it seems likely that Ercall was a district-name used for a large portion of the Shropshire plain with this striking hill at its southern edge, and that the district- name became attached to the hill. It remains a difficult question whether the original reference of the name was to a district or to a settlement.

Ercall has hitherto been considered “an old Welsh name of the district” (DEPN), though Welsh scholars have recognised that it is not explicable in Welsh. M. Richards ('The Lichfield Gospels ---', Nat. Lib . of Wales Journal XVIII, no. 1, 1973, p.142) says “Ercal is the Anglo-Saxon form of an earlier Welsh name”. Professor Richards was discussing the form Ercal which occurs in the cycle of poems known as Canu Heledd, Which have been considered to date from c.850, but which may be considerably later. It seems at least as likely that Ercal is a Welsh version of an English name whose form is preserved more accurately in the series of records which begin with DB. Cf. what is said above about the references to Baschurch in these poems.

If *Earcaluw were a hill-name, it would be explicable as a compound of ēar 'gravel', ? 'mud', and a substantival use of the adjective caluw 'bare'. The latter word (modern callow ) is generally cited as nom. calu , dat. calwe , but caluw is one of the recorded OE spellings. Use of the adjective as a substantive in place-names has given several instances of Callow (e ), and the Welsh  use of moel may be compared. The word ēar is only recorded in OE as the name of a rune, and its precise meaning is not known.It is cognate with ON  aurr 'gravel, loam' and Swedish ör 'gravel', and it occurs in the place-names Earith Hu, Erith K and Yarmouth Wt. A compound of a geological term with caluw 'bare hill' might suit the settlement-site of High Ercall, which stands among low hills. It may be tentatively suggested that the name was applied originally to this settlement and then became the name of a district bounded by the Ercall. The stanza of Canu Heledd in which the name occurs says that “the sod of Ercall is on brave men”, and this could be interpreted as showing that in Welsh tradition Ercall was a district rather than a settlement.

The spelling Arcall represents the modern pronunciation.The spellings Archaule c.1540, Erchal 1658, Archall 1703 (H. Ercall) and Erchall 1705, Archall 1708 (C. Ercall) suggest that there was a variant local form with [ʧ]. (Early ME  spellings with -ch - have no significance in this respect, as at that date the spelling was occasionally used for [k]).

The loss of the final syllable, first evidenced in the late 14th cent., should be compared with the development of Edgebold, Edgmond and Fitz. The spelling Ercal in Canu Heledd suggests that this happened at a much earlier date in Welsh speech.

As regards the affixes used to distinguish High and Child's Ercall, Magna /Parva and Great /Little are self-explanatory. High is synonymous with Great , as is Miche ('much'). Child 's has not been explained. The settlement belonged to the Strange family, and ME  child 'young nobleman' could refer to a junior member of that.The same affix occurs in Childswickham Gl, and there also it is not precisely accounted for.

Places in this Parish