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.


Early-attested site in the Parish of Prees


Two suggestions have been made for the first element Clem -, sometimes Clam -. The earliest was by Cameron, PN Db 759, listing Clam Park as an infertility name, associating it with the verb clem 'to starve'. This is the interpretation of Sa instances followed in FN 25, but more credence has generally been given to the later suggestion by Dodgson, in PN Ch 347, of derivation from an OE  *clǣme 'muddy place' from clām , modern dialect cloam . This second suggestion led to the field-name term being discussed under clām in VEPN, but with the acknowledgment of the Cameron alternative. 'Muddy place' was adopted without qualification by John Field in A History of English Field -Names 39, with Clemley Park Db 142 cited as one of the examples.

Work in progress on the Shropshire survey is revealing that this group of names is exceptionally well represented in north Shropshire, where several townships have two instances and Prees has seven. The context of the Prees examples gives strong support to the 'hunger' interpretation.Five of them are in the north of the township in the area called Prees Higher Heath. On the TAMap this area is partly occupied by 'plantations' and 'allotments'. These are surrounded by a dense fringe of tiny enclosures, each with its own name; and among these are four Clemleys, also a Hunger Hill and a Labour in Vain, the latter adjoining one of the Clemley fields. Gorsty, Grig and Griggy are frequent qualifiers.Adjoining the southern edge of this belt of tiny enclosures are four larger fields called The Clemley and Little Clemley, Lower Clemely and Top Clemley: these are at approx. GR 567346, between The Fields and Manor Ho. In the south of the township, in Prees Lower Heath, there is another cluster of tiny fields, of which two adjacent ones are called The Clemley and two elsewhere in the group are Big Clemley and Little Clemley: here also Gorsty ~ and Griggy ~ names are prominent.

There can be little doubt about the nature of the land on these two heaths, and infertility is much more likely to be referred to than mud.Another piece of evidence (acknowledged to be significant in the VEPN article) is the field-name Clem Guts in Wem infra , and there is also the delightful Clem Gander, cited in FN 25. Clem-gut is noted in EDD as a Sa term for poor food. Clemson in Sutton upon Tern adjoins Famish Croft.

The second element in Clemley might be -ly used as an adjectival suffix and assimilated to the common place-name ending -ley. Against this, but not necessarily fatal to it, is that the usual adjectival suffix is -y, as in Gorsty, Griggy, and that Clemley could be used as a simplex name, sometimes with the definite article. The frequent addition of Park can be explained as ironic if the reference is to exceptionally poor land.

Clemley (Park) is one of several field-name terms which were in use in the 19th century and must have been understood by farmers in groups of counties, but which did not find their way into written sources and thence into dictionaries, and presumably did not survive late enough to get into EDD. Another such is Puppies Parlour, discussed in EPNS Journal 22; this was known in Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

As regards the date of the Clemley names, valuable evidence has recently come to light in the discovery of forms Clemley and Clemley Park in a document of 1615 in SRO 322 box 2 for a f.n. which survived as Chelmley Park in the TA for Acton Reynald (Part 4 99, v. Addenda supra ). This is considerably earlier than the 1756 reference noted on p. 91. As NED says, however, “the simplex verb [i.e. clem ] hardly appears before 1600”, so the names are not likely to be of ME or OE origin.

PN Ch 2 52 notes a minor name Clamhunger Wood and field-names Clemonga, Clamhanger, Clemhunger, which Dodgson (followed by VEPN and LPN) explained as from a compound of clām or *clǣme with hangra 'sloping wood'. Dodgson says “the form has been influenced by ModEdial.  clam , clem 'to starve' and hungor”. In the light of the Sa evidence for Clem-, Clam- names it seems likely that this also is a 19th- century infertility name rather than an older name meaning 'muddy hanging wood'. The forms given in PN Ch are 19th-cent.