By topic: 142
Observer, 19 October 1924
In book: Loose

“Cole” in church names (AW) + “Puck” in place-names



Sir,—As regards St. Nicholas Cole Abbey and St. Katherine Coleman, the place-name element “cole” is abundant all over England, and undoubtedly pre-historic. There are (or were) two Cole Harbours on the Thames—one in the precincts of the Tower; Colebrook in Islington, and Coleman-street, mentioned in temp. Ed. 1. and according to Lethaby also named in a very early Saxon charter as Coelmundingehaga. It undoubtedly was the Celtic “coel” stated by Rowlands to be “some solemn appurtenance of religion, although now quite forgotten,” and in present Welsh, coel is “an omen, belief,” coel y beirdd, the alphabet of the bards; coelcerth a beacon or bonfire. A cole prophet in the N.E.D. was a wizard. There is a Chapel Coleman in Cardigan, and near it is an ancient Ogam Stone called “Coleman’s Stone.” And one of the lost churches in my own district was “Villa Colman.”

Cole Farms and Coleman’s Farms are abundant all over the kingdom, as are Cole Hills. We have two of the last in Herefordshire (one termed Coles Tump) both sighting marks of about 1,000 ft. altitude.

As Mr. Kingsford indicates in the case of St. Nicholas Cole or Cold Abbey, the letter “d” often intrudes when a vowel commences the next word, and I find on my sighting points of tracks Cold Ash, Cold Oak, Cold Elm, Coldman’s Hill. There are Colewells and Coldwells. We have Cole Cross; and Coleways, Colways, and Colgates (or roads) are frequent. I will not expound my own deduction that the cole man was concerned with the early tracks, on which all ancient churches stand, for the evidence is voluminous.—Yours truly,
Alfred Watkins.



Sir,—In your “At Random” column you quote the fact that the name Pokesdown is claimed by some as being a corruption of Puck’s Down, or Pixie’s Down, but add rather sceptically: “The etymology would be more convincing if they could point to some other Puck or Pixie in English place-names.”

As one who knows well the grand Derbyshire Peak district, allow me to point out that in this fine series of Pennine table-lands and valleys there is no such thing as a “Peak.” Kinderscout, referred to on the maps as the centre of the High Peak district, is as typical a table-land as one could possibly imagine. Skilled etymologists have often maintained that this is clearly a case where Puck or Pixie is the real source, corrupted into Peak by the false analogy of those who knew that there were mountains there, and who therefore guessed that the name must refer to Peaks! At any rate, I have many times set right those puzzled tourists who searched the skyline for a peak which was not, and which, geologically speaking, probably never had been!—Faithfully yours,
William Platt.


Source info: MS note by AW “Observer Oct 19 1924”.