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The Place-name Kingston and Royal Power in Middle Anglo-Saxon England

Patterns, possibilities and purpose

Jill Bourne
Publication Year:
180 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white: 4 tables, 20 figures (10 in colour), 69 colour maps
BAR number:


In this significant study, Jill Bourne presents the corpus of all 70 surviving Kingston place-names, from Devon to Northumberland, and investigates each one within its historical and landscape context, in an attempt to answer the question, What is a Kingston? She addresses all previous published work on this recurrent place-name, both scholarship with an etymological focus and contextual scholarship which examines the names within their wider context. The core of the work is the hypothesis that names of the type cyninges tūn or cyning tūn derive not from independent coinages meaning ‘manor/farm/enclosure of a king’ in some general sense, or in direct relation to the phrase cyninges tūn, as it is sometimes assumed in the literature, as an equivalent to villa regia. The study explores connections between Kingstons and the cyninges-tūns and villæ regales of the documentary sources; considers the concept and development of early kingship and its possible origins, the laws of the earliest kings, the petty kingdoms, and emergence of the larger kingdoms for which the term Heptarchy was coined (but not used at the time); and pays particular attention to Ancient Wessex, where more than half of the corpus of Kingston names are found, and to the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the Hwicce and Magonsæte, where a further quarter lie.

Jill Bourne is an Anglo-Saxonist and museum professional. She has a close association with the Institute of Name Studies (INS) at the University of Nottingham, where she studied for her doctorate. Her main area of research is place-names and landscape, in particular the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. She has published extensively and is the current editor of the Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society.

‘…a principally onomastic work which persuasively argues that ‘Kingston’ place names derive from early sites in the early petty kingdoms connected with the enforcement of royal authority. Important for scholars of Old English is Bourne’s demonstration that there is little justification for the widespread interpretation of these as the villae regales noted, for example, in the law-codes.’ Eric Lacey and Simon Thomson, The Year’s Work in English Studies, Volume 98, 2019

‘…Bourne makes an admirable, thought-provoking attempt to approach her question from all conceivable angles – linguistic, archaeological, geographical and historical – using a range of techniques, including three types of statistical analysis which confirm the sitting of almost all 70 cases in proximity to a Roman or other early highway. Her conclusions are powerfully suggestive rather than dogmatic, and the argument is very well illustrated by maps and diagrams throughout.’ K S B Keats-Rohan, Medieval Archaeology, Volume 62.2. December 2018

‘This is a thoroughly researched piece of work and is presented in a succinct, clear and interesting style. It achieves its purpose of examining the possibilities and certainly leads to some conclusions, giving us better insights into the meaning - rather than the simple translation - of the term Kingston.’ Graham Aldred, Medieval Settlement Research, Volume 32, November 2017

‘Jill Bourne’s work is pioneering, and has been inspirational for the continuing investigations by Ann Cole and myself on burh-tun, straet-tun and so on. … This work will be a foundation on which others can build.’ Prof. W.J. Blair, Queen’s College, Oxford

‘This is a highly original piece of work. There are few books that take an explicitly multi-disciplinary approach such as this - linking together place-names, archaeology, and landscape history to write a story about the organisation of Anglo-Saxon England … What emerges from this analysis is scholarly, wholly convincing, and deserving of a wider audience.’ Peer reviewer

‘This is a valuable approach, and the methodology employed here should be widely followed for other place-names.’ Peer reviewer

‘The writing is immediate and very accessible. Jill Bourne has a flowing and very readable style.’ Peer reviewer

‘All known examples of the place-name Kingston, from Devon to Northumberland, are included in this study. The author, in her thorough approach to the gathering of relevant data, has usefully drawn upon local knowledge.’ Peer reviewer

Table of Contents (B630_9781407315683-ToC.pdf, 168 Kb) [Download]