Shoreham-by-Sea:   Toponymy

First records of name: Sorham  1073  Soraham 1075  Soreham 1086

The origin cannot (unlikely to) have come from the modern word 'shore' which was not used in Saxon times, and does not appear to be used in its current meaning until the 14th century. Scor,  pronounced 'shor' was probably a word at the time meaning  'slope' or a similar topographic feature.
(However, this is according to English Dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary 3rd Edition is different.)

It is also cannot be derived from the Latin/Saxon word 'õra' meaning shore or landing place for boats for linguistic reasons.Words were simply not constructed like this and the word 'õra' disappeared from use. (Origin of place names of Bognor and Pershore, but there is not 100% agreement on the meaning of õra. I am satisified AH.  The earliest reference I can find to õra  is a document called "Ora Maritima" by Festus Rufus Avienus dated 366 AD. AH.)

Popular place-name books usually give the meaning for Shoreham as 'estate at the foot of a steep slope'.
Steep slope was from the Saxon word 'scor'. pronounced 'shor', but written 'sore' by the Norman scribes.(This was first thought to be as they would pronounce the word. The French Normans had difficulty in pronoucing certain consonant groups. Or is this a German sound shift ?  Treat this as speculation.).
This is the most reasonable explanation, although my first thoughts were that the slope is hardly steep, it is too steep to plough.

(The American Heritage Dictionary 3rd Edition gives the etymon for the word 'shore' as scora and this would be consistent with the past participle of scoren,  shear, shorn.This is the same origin.)

Normans changed the writing of English from the clear and easily readable insular hand of Irish origin to the delicate Carolingian script then in use on the Continent. With the change in appearance came a change in spelling, e.g. sc to sh (Ency. Britannica)
(This is an over-simplified explanation.)
As for the palaeographical statement, I don't think your edition of the Ency. Brit. has caught up with research in this area. Insular minuscule wasn't always used by the Anglo-Saxons - the situation is quite complex, including 'pointed minuscule', 'square minuscule' and others, but Carolingian influence in this area came to England in the 10th century at the time of the great monastic reform movement, not after 1066. (CB)

Whether this word 'scora' was in use for the current meaning of 'shore' when Shoreham was given its name in Saxon times is debateable. The actual shore as we know it today would be more than one mile to the south, although the River Adur estuary had carved an inlet adjacent to Old Shoreham. (see reconstructed map).

Ham =  probably from the Saxon 'hamm', a geographical feature roughly corresponding to a peninsula  surrounded on three sides, usually by marsh. Later the marsh may have been drained to become a meadow.
Also a bend in a river or a river meadow?
[NB. Ham Road adjacent to the Civic Centre, Police Station, and Supermarket, acquired is name from the Ham(m), and so did Hammy Lane, and the Hamm Allotments (adjacent to Eastern Avenue).]


>Re Shoreham:  it seems to me unsafe to assume derivation from Old English _hamm_ ('hemmed-in land') rather than OE _ha:m_ ('a homestead, a village') in the absence of any -hamme or -hom spellings in what is quite a substantial medieval record. You're quite right to note that _hamm_ does occur in the parish in the name Ham (surviving in Ham Road etc.), but none of the data assembled by Mawer & Stenton (The Place-Names of Sussex, EPNS, pp.246-7) provides evidence for _hamm_ in the name Shoreham itself.
Humbly, Paul<

My guess is that this in turn came from the MLG word hamme, OE ham, hom, referring to the thigh (joined to the buttock like a peninsula) and the origin of the word ham for the joint of pigmeat.

le Ham  1549

The Hamme, Green Hamm, and Hamm Fields are mentioned in a Duke of Norfolk map of 1752.

There is some topographic/soil evidence to back up this claim as well (and there is no indication that this was known to Margaret Gelling).

Reference (for hamm):
"Place Names in the Landscape"  by Margaret Gelling,
 pages 41- 50.
ISBN 0 460 04380 3

More notes:  web page

The Gelling classification was later refined by John Dodgson, who divided category (5) into (5a) "cultivated plot in marginal land" and (5b) "an enclosed plot, a close", and added a category (6) "a piece of valley-bottom land hemmed in by higher ground" (Dodgson 1973). While Gelling had argued that "land in the bend of a river" was the original meaning of hamm, Dodgson looked upon the whole set of meanings as figurative expressions of the basic concept of "a surrounded, hemmed-in place" and Karl Inge Sandred's subsequent thorough study of the etymology of the element suggested to him that the original meaning was "enclosure" and that the meaning "plot of ground by a river" developed from this because river-meadows were frequently enclosed to protect them from straying cattle (Sandred 1976). [extract from the web page]

'ham' meaning village or homestead is also a possibility.

Interpretation by Andy Horton. References available. 24/9/97, and 3/1/98.

The full name Shoreham-by-Sea was assigned in 1910.

In 1457 the port of Shoreham is named in a document as Hulkesmouth alias Shorham. The New Shoreham Borough Seal of c. AD 1295 shows a ship in a curved form. A type of ship known as a hulc is known from late 10th century laws, and in the 15th century this type of boat was the main trading vessel of northern Europe. The seal is the logo of King's Manor School, Shoreham.

Origin of the name Adur

be eastern bremre, ofer bremre 956,  aqua de Schorham  1263,  aqua de Pende  1301, aqua de Schorham 1263.

From a mistake in interpretation of 5th century Roman documents for Portus Adurni, which was originally claimed to be in what is now the Adur estuary, but now known to be at Portchester. The name appeared in Michael Drayton's 'Polyolbion' in the 17th century (1612).

Further Investigations:
Ardaoneon (R&C 43) next
Holder suggested a connection with ND's Portum Adurni , traditionally assigned to Portchester (SU6204). This connection is further argued in PNRB's Portus Ardaoni. But as Williams points out, "there is no certainty as to the true location of Portus Adurni".
Entry in Notitia Dignitatum:
Praepositus numeri exploratorum, Portum Adurni.

The name "Adur" from the Celtic word 'dwyr' or 'dwfr' meaning 'flowing waters' is in doubt. The source reference is in Henry Cheal's 'History of Shoreham' but there is no reference in the book, and there does not appear to be a word 'dwyr' known to the experts (checked). The name 'Adur' may have arisen by mistake by Harrison's application of the Roman 'Portus Adurni' to a location near the current Adur, from the document 'Notitia Dignitatum' .
The latter is reckoned to be the same as the 'Portus Ardaoni' in the Ravenna Cosmography, probably cognate with British
'ardu-', 'height'. (Carol Biggam)

New research:  Old river names like the Thames often have ancient origins, pre-Saxon, i.e. Celtic. I have now discovered the Cornish  (Celtic) word "dowr" and the Welsh "dofr" which means water. The must be a possibility that (Adur without the A) was in existence as the common name of the river before Michael Drayton erroneously attributed 'Portus Adurni' to a location near the current Adur.

New:  'a-dhowr' (Cornish) means of the water, or from the water. Now, there still must be considerable doubt over the origin Adur from the Celtic (there are no comparable names in Wales or Cornwall).

As for Adur, the Modern Welsh for 'water' is 'dwr' (pronounced 'door' with a long 'oo'), but the Old Welsh predecessor of 'dwr' is 'dofr'. This is where Dover gets its name. (Carol Biggam)

There is a River Adour in France.
- Aturonna, vient de atur (rivière) + onna (source).
- Du ligure passé par l'ibéro-basque aturra : la source

In fact, we probably do have the pre-English name of the Adur recorded in the Ravenna Cosmography as 'Nuba' / 'Novia' (see Rivet & Smith pp. 426-7), most likely a British *_nouia:_ 'new, fresh, lively'. (Paul Cullen).

 Nuba (for Nova R&C 68) is a settlement name derived from the name of the river. Both the Adur and the Cuckmere are candidates for Ptolemy's Kainos Limen (Novus Portus) and Ravenna's river Novia (R&C 267). The Ouse can be
precluded because the settlement Mutuantonis (R&C 69 (Lewes?)), is easily related to Midewinde, the earlier river-name.
        Tom Ikins
  The Roman Map of Britain

The river has also been known as the Sore (Holinshed's Chronicle 1577). This is likely to be because of back-formation. Back-formation is the reverse of affixation, being the analogical creation of a new word from an existing word falsely assumed to be its derivative. (i.e. Sore arose after the name Shoreham and not the other way round).
e.g. The river that runs through Arundel used to be called the Tarrant (Tarente c.725), when the Old English name Arundel was first in use. Later, the river was called the Arun, not from the original root of Arun ( hoar - valley #), but named as an abbreviation of the name of the town.
However, in Celtic names, Aberdeen, Falmouth (Aberfal) and others, the river name came first.

# hoar refers to the shrub "horehound" ? Ballota nigra and dell is a smallish valley ?)

ofer may be the flat-topped hillsite mentioned by Ann Cole.
The 'ofer' above is a preposition with meanings 'over, beyond, above, upon, in, across' etc. Cole's 'ofer' is a noun. They're different words - the preposition has a short initial 'o', and the noun has a long 'o'. This indicates a different history. (CB)

Sudewic  1073  Suthewick next to the Shorham  1279

The south is harder to explain than  wic  which is Old English (originally Latin) for a farm, and certainly much more than this, the trading centre (road to London), market centre, and centre of the agricultural estate.

There have been considerable studies, debates, even some controversy or at least conflicting views, on the origin of wic in place names and their historical context. The Latin root vicus is clear.

Place names ending with 'ing' means 'the people of'. The first part may derive from Wlanc, meaning proud or 'imperious', of Hlanc, 'lank' or 'lean', [Mawer and Stenton]. It is also suggested that the word has been affected by the common word 'lance' in use well before 1290.
The reason for the large variation is likely to be due to errors in transcriptions and each writers individual attempt to reproduce his version of the pronounciation of the word Lancing  (by Ray Hamblet).

Date   Spelling
1086  Lancinges

Full Information on Ray Hamblett's Lancing web pages:



le Milhouse, le Wynd Milhill 1549


Chingestune  1086
Kyngeston next to the Schorham 1279
Kyngeston Bouci  1315
Bousy  1317
Robert de Busc held the manor in 1199

Trailgi  1086 (now Truleigh)  OE treow + leah  =  tree + clearing


Sele noua Schorham  1261  (Sele Priory)
Bukkyngham 1550
Eringeham 1086 DB  (possibly Ering = arable ? AH)

Anningadun  956
Staninges  1086 DB
Hethenburiels, Etenesburieles  1279
Fiskergate  1188

Slonk Hill (Shoreham)  possibly from  slohtre OE  possible meaning a field of some type unknown, or it could even come from slah-thorn which is the sloe thorn, blackthorn in the books. Notes.

La Houne  1288
Porteslage,  Porteslamhe 1086 DB,  Portes Ladda 1080  France
Harundel(le) 1086 DB
Eldretune 1086 DB  Aldringeton  1200
Storgetune  1086 DB  (storca = storks?) 

ofer  means over in this context, but this is not the meaning for lots of ofer = over in place names like Southover (on the outskirts of Lewes.)
This page researched and compiled by Andy Horton

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