Identification: the river Wear


This name is a compound in the three river-letters b (changed to v), t (changed to d) and r. One should note the place-name Coganges, referring to Chester-le-Street on the river Wear. Those who used the hill-letter n1 in the old-style element gan  did not leave their mark on the river-name - there is no river-letter or  in Vedra. But those who used the hill-letter s in what appears to be an old-style element, ges, did leave their mark on the river-name. The corresponding river-letter appears, changed to v, at the beginning of Vedra. The river-letter b is also seen in the place-name Abisson, this having been the name of the hill-fort now known as Maiden Castle, at Durham. It will be remembered that in place-names having an essa-type ending the part of the name before the ending can be either a land-name including the hill-letter or a river-name including the corresponding river-letter b (explained in Chapter 4: essa-type ending).  In Abisson the part of the name before the essa-type ending is simply the river-letter b. The Celtic name was evidently transferred by the Romans to a fort which they built at Durham, probably at a location suitable for controlling a crossing on the river.  This identification is explained in Chapter 15: Navione to Alavna (187)). The d of Vedra is a modified river-letter t corresponding to the hill-letter l2. This hill-letter appears always to have been used in an inversion-type manner, this suggesting that the Celtic form of Coganges  had been Lucoganges. But what is interesting is the river-letter r of Vedra. This river-letter is added to the river-name in the old-fashioned, old-style manner, but evidently corresponds to the hill-letter m used in an inversion-type manner. This is unusual, but there are a few other cases, as one can see, for example, if one studies the relationship of the place-name Mugulesde (Ugueste (219) at Stirling) and the river-name Bdora (the Forth). There is no inversion-type element in the hill-letter m in Lucoganges, but people using the hill-letter m must have settled somewhere along the course of the Wear before about 100 BC. If they had arrived later then they would probably have used their river-letter r in an inversion-type manner, i.e. they would have placed the r at the beginning of the existing river-name (cf. the initial r in the river-name Rother). But note that the name of the Chester-le-Street fort may have been Mucoganges. In this case people using the hill-letter lmust have settled somewhere along the course of the Wear and they must have added their river-letter t, changed to d, to the river-name before the m-people at Chester-le-Street added their river-letter r.




[This page was last modified on 06 April 2021]


[NB. Detailed information as to the different river-letters and as to how they were combined to form compound river-names, together with information as to the four categories of Celtic river-names, is given in Chapter 19: the rivers of Roman Britain. Detailed information as to the different hill-letters is given in Chapter 1 and information as to how the hill-letters were combined to form compound place-names is given in Chapter 2]