Friday, 23 March 2012

Why Langbaurgh? (NZ558117)

For as long as anyone can remember, somewhat indistinct areas of what is now known as ‘Cleveland’ have been known by the ancient name of ‘Langbaurgh’. ‘Redcar and Cleveland’ – basically eastern Cleveland, from Redcar to Staithes – has been especially linked to the term. This odd-sounding, strangely-spelt placename is a funny old concoction, and I can’t be the only north-easterner who hadn’t a clue where it came from – until, that is, I made a concerted effort to find out.

It transpires that the name comes from the ‘village’ of the same name a little to the north of Great Ayton – which, ironically, now lies a few yards over the border in North Yorkshire. I say ‘village’, but there’s not really very much there, and one wonders how the heck it ever came to lend its name to the huge tracts of land which lie to the north and east.

The answer seems to lie in the geological feature which overlooks the village to the north, namely, Langbaurgh Ridge. It lies bang on the North Yorkshire border, and derives its name from the words ‘Lang’ (long) and ‘Beorge’ (hill). Turns out that this ‘long-hill’ has been an ancient meeting point since the Viking era – in other words, the administrative centre of the local ‘wapentake’. And this was one big wapentake, extending and including everything on the map from Middlesbrough down to Whitby. For centuries, the terms ‘Langbaurgh’ and ‘Cleveland’ (pre-1974 version) were pretty much interchangeable.

In time, bits of it were hacked off and subdivided. But ‘Langbaurgh’ lived on long into the modern age as an administrative area, in the absence, even, of anything much so-named ‘on the ground’. It was even resurrected in 1974 as the name of a non-metropolitan district of the newly-created ‘County of Cleveland’. In 1996, the area in question was re-branded as ‘Redcar and Cleveland’.

So will we now be able to finally shake off the curious old placename?

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