The Origins of Bosbury Place-names

Bosbury itself first appears in a chronicle entry for 1056, Upleadon and Munsley are found in the 1086 Domesday account, Staplow and Catley appear later. Other names of localities in the parish are generally descriptive, such as Nash End – the end of the village with ash trees growing, Fox Hill and two greens, Stoneyard Green and Pow Green.

Bosbury is named Bosanbyrig in John of Worcester’s Chronicon ex chronicis :

A.D. 1056. Athelstan, bishop of Hereford, a man of great sanctity, died on the fourth of the ides of February, at the episcopal vill called Bosanbyrig.

The Old English ending, byrig is the dative case of burh which means ‘a fortified dwelling place’*. Bos is generally taken to refer to the Anglo-Saxon male name Bosa – the same name may also be referenced in Bosley (Bosa’s woodland clearing) in Cheshire, Bosham (Bosanham in 1049*, Bosa’s homestead) in West Sussex and Bosworth (Bosa*’s enclosure) in Leicestershire. The Reverend Samuel Bentley in his 1891 book suggests the village name may relate to Bosa who was a scribe to Witlaf, king of Mercia mentioned in a charter of 833. However this information is taken from the Crowland Abbey charters which are known to be forgeries so it should be discounted. The name is recorded five times on the PASE database (see below) with individuals dating from 678 to 875 CE.

The village name changed slightly as time passed. In Domesday, it is Boseberge, in the Gloucester Cartulery of 1233, Boseburia and in the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291-2, it is Bosumbur’.

Leadon, the name of the river, has been accepted to mean ‘broad’ in the Celtic language. In particular the word lidan in Old Welsh has this meaning†. Celtic names of rivers are preserved in many places in England. However it is certainly inaccurate in describing the present-day narrow brook which exists down as far as Ledbury. Upleadon was Lede or Ledene in 1086 becoming Upleden’ in the 1291-2 Taxatio Ecclesiastica.

Land in Munsley appears four times in the Domesday account, Muneslai owned by Roger de Lacy, Moneslai owned by William, son of Baderon, Mulesage owned by William, son of Norman and Mulesage owned by Humphrey de Bouville. The Old English word lēah (dative lēage) means a wood or woodland clearing, later a pasture or meadow*, and Mun or Mul has been recorded as a Anglo-Saxon personal name.

Staplow may be derived from the Old English stēap meaning steep and hlāw meaning mound or hill*. This is descriptive of the present location.

Catley in Old English refers to the presence of wildcats in, most likely, a wood. It appears as Catesley in the 1243 Book of Fees.

BSS 2015


Domesday Book, 17 Herefordshire, Phillimore 1983
A.D.Mills Oxford Dictionary of British Place-Names OUP 2003
Bruce Coplestone-Crow Herefordshire Place-Names Logaston Press 2009
Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England database Website:  Accessed: 8/3/2014
†Victor Watts Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-names CUP 2004
*Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Website:  Accessed: 8/3/2014