The origins of these old Leeds place names
Many of the villages around Leeds have ancient origins and names which date back to Anglo-Saxon, Viking or Norman times.
The modern spellings are often derived from names which have altered considerably over the centuries, with the original meanings having passed out of use. It was common for small villages to be named after the farmer who had first begun to cultivate the land before the settlement grew.
Horsforth was originally called Horseford - simply, a river crossing (in this case the Aire) used by horses. The original Horsforth ford was recorded in the Domesday Book as being situated off Calverley Lane.
Hunslet was first referred to during the Anglo-Saxon period as Hun’s Creek - Hun being a man’s name and a creek referring to an inlet of the River Aire. Its spelling was later changed to Hunsflete. It could also refer to a ‘hound’s let’ - an area for hunting with dogs.
Roundhay’s name also has hunting origins - it is a fusion of the French word ‘rond’ meaning ‘round’ and the Old English word ‘haeg’ meaning enclosure - this later became ‘hay’ and meant a hunting park, in this case owned by the de Lacy family of Pontefract Castle.
Scholes is an Old Norse word meaning a hut or temporary shelter, while Eccup was first called Echope - an Old English name referring to a small valley belonging to Ecca, who probably farmed there.
Alwoodley has Old English origins - it was first called Aethelwaldlah, meaning a woodland clearing at the farm belonging to Aethelwald. By the Norman period it had become Aluuoldelei.
Otley is also named after a farmer who once lived there - his Saxon name is likely to have been Othe, Otho or Otta. Its name has evolved from Ottanlege to Otelai and later Othelia.
Barwick, which was part of the ancient kingdom of Elmet, is derived from the Old English words ‘bere’ (barley) and ‘wic’ (settlement) - a barley farm, possibly as part of a feudal estate. It was first called Bereuuith.
Wetherby appears in the Domesday Book as Wedrebi, which translates as a settlement on the bend of a river. Other definitions refer to it as a ‘ram-farm’ - or even being named after a castrated ram.