WHAT’S IN A NAME
By Roy Rushworth
The Name of Rushworth/Rishworth originated in the upper Calder Valley of West Yorkshire
“A place where there are rushes” is the most plausible explanation of our name origin so far, but there are other possible explanations too.
There are so many place names ending in ‘worth’ that it is obviously an add-on and the real origin of our name is in the first syllable. Rus(h).
(‘Worth’ in old English means ‘enclosed area’, ie; fenced field.)
The more history books I look at, the more versions I find, but one thing they all agree on is that Vikings called Rus invaded and ruled over the predominant Slav population in the area of Novgorod & Kiev in the late 9th century. Over the next century or two they intermingled with the Slavs and the result was the Russian peoples.
Before and after this the Rus raided & traded down the Volga River to the Caspian Sea and down the Dnieper to the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, coming into contact with Arabic peoples.
It is not known for sure which Scandinavian country the Rus came from, Sweden being the most likely geographically and also because of the large numbers of Arabic coins found whilst excavating an ancient town near Stockholm called Birka.
This rang a bell with me because I was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire. But thinking of names brought to mind Barkisland in Calderdale, an oddity I had noticed previously, or rather part of an oddity.
Between the town of Rishworth and the Calder River are 6 towns or villages with names ending in –‘land’. Unlike the ‘worth’ ending which are scattered all over Yorkshire, these are all within miles of each other, and none elsewhere.
Elland, Greetland, Norland, Barkisland, Stainland & Soyland.
In England there are lots of Anglo Saxon town names ending with “ham’ & ‘ton’ also Danish ending in ‘by’ & ‘thorpe’. But towns ending in ‘land’ are few and far between and mostly in Cumbria, where interestingly, there is a village called Rusland. (West of Lake Windermere)
Most of the Viking settlement in England was by the Danes, Scotland & Ireland by the Norwegians. There were Swedes too, but they were not as numerous, as their main expansion was east. Could a ‘land’ ending for a town indicate Swedish origin?
The most common in the UK is Sunderland (4).
In my Swedish directory there are 5 towns called Sund. There are two large islands off the east Swedish coast, Oland & Gotland.
In Calderdale we have Elland & Greetland. Rather vague really, but not so vague is the 13th century title ‘The Township and Manor of Ryshworthe Cum Norland’ which sounds to me like ‘Rus(hworth) from Northland’
If Barkisland was named for Birka, a trading town, it fits the name as it lies at the hub of the other 5 -‘land’ names. Roads fan out from Barkisland to Norland, Greetland, Elland, Stainland & Soyland.
Also from this loose junction is a road leading south which is marked on a modern ordinance survey map as Rishworth Road, and which leads to Ringstone Edge Moor.
This is where a Speede map of 1610 places the town of Rushworth (Spelt with a ‘u’) – miles from the town’s present position (and perhaps copied from earlier maps). Although we can question the accuracy of this map, Ringstone Edge deserves examination.
The moor is presumably named for a stone circle found there. There is also a Tumulus near a spring and the moor top is the highest point for many miles around, all pointers to a defensive highpoint in ancient times. Just to the south of the reservoir (which has drowned a large portion of the moor) is the remains of an area enclosed by a square ditch called Meg Dike, thought to be either Celtic or Roman fortifications but nothing proved as yet.
My theory is that a large group of settlers slightly different from the main stream, specifically some of the Rus, settled in upper Calderdale, early in the 9th century.
Any hostile forces moving up Calderdale would initiate an alarm and the Rus with their animals would retreat up the hills to a defensive enclosure. The Rus ‘worth’.
No hard evidence for this theory in the form of documents is likely to turn up as the Vikings had little use for the written word, their laws customs & deeds handed down orally.
(This in itself could be a clue, as our ancestors could not get the spelling of the name right! – the pronunciation of the name, and place names, changing with the evolving English language.)
I suspect the English pronunciation of the Rus is Rush. Just as we pronounce Russia as ‘Rushia’
(The word ‘Russia’ came into use to describe the fusing together of the Rus and the Slavic people from Asia.)