Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Confusion at Ferryhill (NZ290328)

No one can say for sure how the town of Ferryhill in County Durham got its name. There are three theories. The first speculates that the ford across the now extinct river to the east (where the railway line now runs) combined with the lofty position of the settlement gave the place its name.

The second proposes that it is named after Sir Roger De Ferry (or Ferie), who famously killed the last boar of Brancepeth at Cleves Cross – now a part of the town – hence ‘Ferry’s Hill’. And the third theory simply suggests that the name is derived from the Old English fiergen, or firgen, meaning ‘wood’, or ‘wooded hill’ – with the ‘hill’ suffix added later.

The name first appears in the records as ‘Ferie’ in 1125, ‘Feregenne’ in 1256 and ‘Ferye on the Hill’ in 1316 – and it appears as an unnamed settlement in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 900. It would therefore seem likely that the latter place-name theory is correct. It has also been suggested that the ‘hill’ element was added to differentiate the village/parish from Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire – once also known as ‘Ferie’ and also on the Great North Road.

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