[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]
[Image: Fragment of the Gough Map]

Linguistic Geographies: The Gough Map of Great Britain

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Posted on 16 January 2011 by Elizabeth Solopova 

In a recent article in Imago Mundi 62 (2010), pp. 3-29, Thomas Smallwood drew attention to the importance of the place-name Aberystwyth for dating the map. According to Smallwood between 1288 and 1399 the settlement was consistently referred to in the English Patent Rolls as 'Lampader' or similar. The name 'Aberustuyth' was used for the first time in the Patient Rolls in 1402, and became generally adopted in the 15th century. In connection with this I have been asked to comment on whether or not 'Aberystwyth' is written on the map in the original hand. This is unfortunately very difficult to determine, because the name has virtually disappeared from the map (see first image below). It is just about possible to see some of the letters, to the left and above a vignette depicting a single building, including an upper case A, b, w and y. Luckily Aber- is a common element of Celtic place-names, meaning 'the mouth of the river', and appears in several place-names in Scotland. The beginning of the word can therefore be compared with other names beginning with Aber- which are in the hand of the original scribe, such as Abrebrothok or Aberdeen on the second and third images below. The letters 'Ab...' are similar in all three examples and 'w' in Aberystwyth looks like the Secretary letter form. It is therefore possible in my opinion that highly faded Ab(er)[yst]wy[th] is indeed in the original hand. Aberystwyth Abrebrothok Aberdene As a contribution to the debate on the relevance of this place-name for dating the map, I would like to reproduce the entry for Aberystwyth from Owen, Hywel Wyn and Morgan, Richard, Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales (Llandysul: Gomer, 2007):

Aberescud c. 1194, Aber Ystwyth 1166 (c. 1400), aber Ystwyth 1206 (c. 1400), Aberestuuth 1232-3, aber ystwyth c. 1400. The original Norman castle was built in 1110 at the old estuary of the river Ystwyth near Rhydfelin about a mile-and-a-half south of the modern town. In 1211 a new castle was built, possibly at Plas Crug near the estuary of the river Rheidol (probably on the site of an earleir castle (Aber Redival 1164 (late 13cent.), Aber Reidawl 1164 (c. 1400)) and the older name was transferred to it and ultimately to the present castle (constructed in 1277) and its adjoining borough. As a p.n. Aberystwyth, however, did not become the fixed name until the late 14 cent., alternating with Llanbadern Fawr.


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