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.

The Berth, Berth Pool

Early-attested site in the Parish of Baschurch

Historical Forms

  • The Burgh Poole 1700 Gough
  • Berth Hill, Pool 1833 OS
  • Byrth, The Byrth Pool 1841–4 TA


The name is that of the large Iron-Age fortification which adjoins the pool. It derives from burh 'fort', with substitution of-th for the –f which, though not documented, must have developed from OE -h , ME  -gh , pronounced [χ]. Development of burh to Burf can be seen in Abdon and Clee Burf in this county. Interchange off with th is well evidenced in modern dialects. Gough's form appears to show the more usual development to Burgh or Borough, but the pronunciation could have been Burf .

In Part 1, s.n. Wattlesborough, it was suggested that in Sa the nominative burh was more likely to be used than the dative byrig when the reference was to an ancient earthwork, as opposed to the term being used for a manor house.

The Berth has long been of special interest to historians of the Welsh Marches. The Welsh  poem cycle known as Canu Heledd names Eglwysseu Bassa , i.e. Baschurch, as the burial place of Cynddylan, ruler of Powys. In this poetry the central place of Cynddylan's kingdom is called Pengwern . Pengwern has been considered to be an earlier name of Shrewsbury, but the meaning, '(place at) the end of the alder swamp', is more appropriate to The Berth, which stands near the junction of an area of small lakes and meandering streams with the higher ground on which Stanwardine in the Fields and Weston Lullingfields are situated.The small amount of excavation which has so far taken place at The Berth produced Iron Age pottery, with a single Neolithic sherd, but a cauldron which has been considered to be of Dark-Age date was earlier found in nearby marshland. It is possible that the fort was re-used in the post-Roman period and became a centre of power after the abandonment of Wroxeter; but if the Dark Age occupants were Celtic Christians it may be difficult to recover archaeological proof of their presence.

In Staffordshire, about 30 miles N.E. of Baschurch, there is a replica of the situation at The Berth. The village called Maer (DB Mere ) is beside a small lake which adjoins an earthwork called Berth Hill. Maer has the same name as Merehouse supra , and to complete the symmetry there is a DB settlement called Weston adjacent to Maer. It is unlikely that this is due to anything other than coincidence.