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.

Lesh Fen

Early-attested site in the Parish of Whittlesey

Historical Forms

  • le lesschfen 1381 Ct


Lesh Fen (lost) is le lesschfen 1381Ct . This name, like Sedge Fen supra 204, etc., contains the name of one of the valuable products of the fens. Cf. leschiam voc. sedge 1579Ct (Swaffham Prior), leshiam anglice voc. ffenne strawe 1598 ib. In the first half of the 13th century, the men of Littleport were granted the right to cut lesch and rushes in Rack Fen. This was a valuable thatching material. Darby (Medieval Fenland 32, 34) suggests that it was probably used to cover all the species of the genus Carex , but as we find a distinction between Sedge Fen, Reed Fen and Rush Fen, it may have been used in a more restricted sense. This is the word which Ekwall finds in Lyscombe (Do) and Redlynch (So). Here all the early forms have i , from an OE  *lisc , 'reed,' but Ekwall points out that there seem to have been two bases, viz. lisk - and lēsk -. Cf. OHG  lisca , 'filix, carex,' MHG  liesch , Ger  Liesch (n.), Liesche (fem.), 'Riedgras,' OLG  lesc , 'scirpus,' MDu  lissche , lisch , lessche , Du lisch , lesch , 'iris.' For Redlynch, a compound of hrēod , 'reed,' a meaning 'fen' is suggested for *lisc , but in Cambridgeshire some kind of reed is clearly indicated. v. Studies2 109–10.