Review of ‘Peak Place-Names’, by Louis McMeeken

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 8th September 2003, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Louis McMeeken
Published by Halsgrove
ISBN 1-84114-271-9 (2003)

My guess is that Louis McMeeken has been working on this book for years, without even being aware of it. The breadth of his knowledge is not acquired simply by research and he will have gleaned a rich hoard of facts through his post in the Tourist Information Centre at Bakewell. As far as both visitors and Peaklanders are concerned, queries about place names are what is known in modern jargon as a FAQ (frequently asked question).

This book is packed with information as surprising as it is fascinating, and how the author enjoys himself. He reveals that Goatscliffe owes more to marigolds than goats and Endcliffe hides a connection with ducks. Then there is the revelation that Abba used to live in the High Peak, and how appropriate the derivations of Matlock and Bakewell turn out to be ... but wherefore Toilet Wood and Mincing Wood? Kiss Wood sounds acceptable enough but it has lost a central word which developed shock value and had to be dropped.

It transpires that Peak place-names owe much to the Celts, something to the Anglo-Saxons and a little to the Normans. In unravelling the meaning of rivers 'and other wet places', Louis McMeeken writes that 'they retain names which could be unchanged since they were first named by the first prehistoric settlers'. From now on I will think of the lovely Wye as the 'moving one' or 'carrier'.

Here and there are history lessons in cultivation: flax (Latin: linum) at Lin Dale, Cranberry Clough, Parsley Hay and Cressbrook, Thatch Meadows and Candlerush Edge all speak for themselves. Not so easy are Cinnamon Hill and the wonderful Cacklemackle.

This entertaining and informative book is broken down into 18 chapters. With a full-colour cover and a generous selection of clear black and white photographs only one thing is missing, and that is an index. My own bound-to-prove invaluable copy already bristles with bookmarks for future reference!

Review by Julie Bunting

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