Living after Offa: Place-Names and Social Memory in the Welsh Marches
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractHow are linear monuments perceived in the contemporary landscape and how do they operate as memoryscapes for today’s borderland communities? When considering Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke in today’s world, we must take into account the generations who have long lived in these monuments’ shadows and interacted with them. Even if perhaps only being dimly aware of their presence and stories, these are communities living ‘after Offa’. These monuments have been either neglected or ignored within heritage sites and museums with only a few notable exceptions (Evans and Williams 2019; Williams 2020), and have long been subject to confused and challenging conflations with both the modern Welsh/English border and, since the 1970s, with the Offa’s Dyke Path. Moreover, to date, no study has attempted to compile and evaluate the toponomastic (place-name) evidence pertaining to the monuments’ presences, and remembered former presences, in today’s landscape. Focusing on naming practices as memory work in the contemporary landscape, the article explores the names of houses, streets, parks, schools and businesses. It argues for the place-making role of toponomastic evidence, mediated in particular by the materiality of signs themselves. Material and textual citations to the monuments render them integral to local communities’ social memories and borderland identities, even where the dykes have been erased, damaged or obscured by development. Moreover, they have considerable potential future significance for engaging borderland communities in both dykes as part of the longer-term story of their historic environment.
CitationWilliams, H. (2020). Living after Offa: Place-names and society memory in the Welsh Marches. Offa’s Dyke Journal 2, 103–140. http://dx.doi.org/10.23914/odj.v2i0.274
JournalOffa's Dyke Journal
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/