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.


Major Settlement in the Parish of Countisbury

Historical Forms

  • Contesberia 1086 DB
  • Cuntesberia 1177 P
  • Cuntesbir' 1200 Cur
  • Cuntesbiry 1209 Oliver
  • Cuntesbyr' 1249 Ass 1275 RH
  • Countesbyre 1291 Tax
  • Cuntebiria, Cintebiria 1222 Bracton
  • Cundeburye 1238 FF
  • Cunisbere 1577 Saxton
  • Consberye 1581 SR
  • Cunsbery 1629–57 Barum1,59


Plummer was probably right (Two Saxon Chronicles ii, 93) in identifying this with the arx Cynuit of Asser (c. 54), a place near the Devon coast where Ubba, brother of Ivarr the Boneless, suffered defeat. This identification was criticised by Stevenson (Asser's Life of Alfred , p. 265, n. 3) on phonological and formal grounds. On the phonological side it should be pointed out that Cynuit is only one of the numerous Welsh spellings of Anglo- Saxon names found in Asser. Cynuit is for Cunet with the regular Welsh change of long e to ui or oi . The normal development of British Cunet is to Kennet , but Ekwall (RN 99) shows that in some names it developed to Cunet , Cuned , and ultimately to Cound . The final d for t is a late Welsh change, but the vocalic development is of earlier date and would explain the form of Countisbury. The name Cunet here must denote a hill and be related to Welsh cwn , 'height,' the place standing at an elevation of nearly 1000 feet, though less than half a mile from the sea.It is to be noted that Asser says that the arx cynuit can only be approached from the eastern side. It is only on the eastern side that the approach to Countisbury Hill is in any way easy. On the formal side it is to be noted that genitival compounds of a Celtic first element and an English second element have their parallel in such names as Andredes-weald , Andredes-ceaster , etc., cf. also Kentisbury supra 49. burh is recorded in OE  itself as a rendering of Latin arx .

Places in the same Parish