SPNS AGM & SPRING CONFERENCE 2023 – 13th May 2023 – William Elder Building, Berwick-Upon-Tweed


Saturday, 13th May 2023
William Elder Building
56-58 Castlegate, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, TD15 1JT

The Society’s 2023 AGM & Spring Conference will take place on Saturday, 13th May 2023, at William Elder Building, 56-58 Castlegate, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, TD15 1JT.

The Conference will offer an exciting programme of talks by leading place-name experts and researchers.

Tickets are available for £25 and include a seat at the conference, tea, coffee, and a buffet lunch. Student tickets are available at concession price of £15 (for full-time students). Spaces are limited – if you are interested in attending, please book your tickets promptly to avoid disappointment.

To book your ticket, please follow the instructions below. 

Membership of the Society is not required in order to attend the conference, however please consider taking advantage of the Society’s special offer – Conference Ticket + 1-year Membership for the price of £30. Ordinarily, membership costs £7 a year or £18 for 3 years. Life membership is also available at a cost of £90. For more information, please visit https://spns.org.uk/membership.


To book your ticket for the SPNS 2023 AGM & Spring Conference, please fill in the form below. Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to pay via bank transfer. 

NB: If you would like to book tickets for more than one attendee, please complete the form again. 

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    SPNS 2023 AGM

    The SPNS 2023 AGM will take place between 10:30 and 11:30 hours on 13th May 2023, prior to the beginning of the Society’s Spring Conference at William Elder Building, Berwick-Upon-Tweed. For members who are not in a position to attend the conference, or would like to look through the materials and vote in advance, an online AGM will be held between between 11am on Monday, 8th May 2023 and 12pm on Friday, 12th May 2023. Please click the button below to find out more.


    10:30 – 11:30AGM
    Convener’s Summary & Discussion
    (11:30 – 17:30)
    11:30 – 12:00Coffee
    12:00 – 12:10Welcome!
    12:10 – 12:50‘Early Northumbrian Monasteries and Territories: the case of Lindisfarne’
    Colm O’Brien, Bernician Studies Group
    12:50 – 13:30‘Berwick Street-Names’
    Dr Catherine Kent, Honorary Fellow, Department of History, Durham University
    13:30 – 14:40Lunch
    14:40 – 15:00‘Working with Place-Names – Towards a Training Programme’ 
    Iain MacIlleChiar
    15:00 – 15:45‘Naming the Border Uplands’
    Prof. Diana Whaley, University of Newcastle
    15:45 – 16:30‘The Languages of Berwickshire Place-Names’
    Prof. Carole Hough, University of Glasgow
    16:30 – 17:10‘East Lothian in 100 Place-names: A Journey Through Time’
    Liz Curtis
    17:10 – 17:20Summing-up & Fin
    Alan Macniven


    ‘Early Northumbrian Monasteries and Territories: the case of Lindisfarne’
    Colm O’Brien, Bernician Studies Group

    From the mid-7th century, and increasingly as time progressed, Northumbrian monasteries of royal endowment came to be landholders on a large scale. From Bede we have data on the Wearmouth-Jarrow holdings, but the largest of all was Lindisfarne and the Community of St Cuthbert who continued to acquire lands into the 10th century. Such monasteries merit study as key players in the development of territorial infrastructures of the kingdom. I take Lindisfarne as a case study, and with a focus on Northumberland and southern Scotland. Claims to landholdings made in in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto, a document compiled in the 10th or 11th century, refer to places by name but the geography is sometimes muddled. Using established methods of retrogressive analysis, and drawing on insights of earlier scholars, I have made attempts to reconstruct the geography of these Lindisfarne landholdings. From geographical delineation, it becomes possible to think about rationale in such matters as development and management of natural resources. 

    Now retired, I am a Visiting Fellow in Archaeology in Newcastle University and a Research Director of the Bernician Studies Group, a community-based lifelong learning initiative. I am co-writing with Max Adams a book ‘The Power in the Land:Northumbria 367–867’ to be published by Birlinn.  


    ‘Berwick Street-Names’
    Dr Catherine Kent, Honorary Fellow, Department of History, Durham University

    Many of Berwick-upon-Tweed’s street names might be considered uninteresting. Labels such as Church Street, Chapel Street and Western Lane merely state the obvious, while the origins of Walkergate and Woolmarket are not difficult to guess. All these streets, however, are recorded as having had at least one earlier name. Other streets in the town have retained early names but have moved from a previous location. All have a longer and more complex history than is apparent from their names.

    Catherine is currently researching the origins and early urbanisation of Berwick. Her paper links historic street- and place-names to physical and societal changes, combining topographic and historical evidence to shed new light on the town’s development.


    ‘Working with Place-Names – Towards a Training Programme’
    Iain MacIlleChiar

    Click here to download the discussion paper. 


    ‘Naming the Border Uplands’
    Prof. Diana Whaley, University of Newcastle

    Straddling the present Scotland-England border, the rolling Cheviot Hills present a distinctive namescape of laws, knowes, cleughs, hopes, burns, sikes and strothers. Taking two imaginary walks mainly on the Northumberland side of the border, this paper will explore some of the recurrent place-name elements as well as selected rare or problematic individual names, considering how the naming reflects the history of the uplands and their management.


    ‘The Languages of Berwickshire Place-Names’
    Prof. Carole Hough, University of Glasgow

    The Leverhulme-funded project ‘Recovering the Earliest English Language in Scotland: evidence from place-names’ (REELS) produced an online resource covering all place-names on the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger map in the historical county of Berwickshire (www.gla.ac.uk/reels). Also now nearing completion is a full survey of place-names within the six parishes of Coldstream, Eccles, Foulden, Hutton, Ladykirk and Mordington along the Anglo-Scottish border. This will be published as a volume in the Survey of Scottish Place-Names (SSPN): The Place-Names of Berwickshire volume 1.

    Following the same structure as previous SSPN volumes for Fife, Bute, Kinross-shire and Clackmannanshire, with introductory chapters setting out the geographical, historical and linguistic background, this is the first to lack a substantial section on Gaelic. The sparsity of Gaelic suggested by the county-wide overview is confirmed by the in-depth survey of the six parishes. Neither is there a section on Old Norse, as no place-name reflects the presence of Norse speakers. This was to some extent anticipated, and partly informed the choice of study area in order to investigate the development of Northumbrian Old English into Scots in isolation from Scandinavian influence.

    The main languages represented are Northern Brittonic, Old English, Scots and Scottish Standard English. As in all SSPN volumes, some names remain linguistically or semantically ambiguous. Among them is the river-name Adder, generally attributed to a pre-Celtic stratum of hydronymy, but possibly from OE ēdre ‘water-course’. Another is the parish-name Mordington, generally derived from OE morþ ‘death, murder’, but possibly related to a recently-discovered personal name. Discussion of these and other names illustrates both the complexity and the richness of Berwickshire toponymy.


    ‘East Lothian in 100 Place-names: A Journey Through Time’
    Liz Curtis

    I am currently working on a popular booklet on East Lothian place-names, giving brief case studies of the names of main settlements and some other interesting or curious names. The productive farmland of East Lothian has drawn waves of settlers over millennia, who left names in their various languages. The talk will trace this story and will also touch on the county’s store of folk etymologies, which testify to the affectionate relationship between local people and their place-names.


    Students who wish to attend the conference may apply for a travel bursary of up to £200. For more information, please visit the Cultural Contacts Fund page. Please disregard the requirement to apply at least 2 months before the conference.


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