On reading the book ‘Trees in Your Ground’ (published by the Tree Council and free to registered Tree Wardens) I was intrigued to find the statement ‘the yew ….. has left relatively few examples of its presence in today’s place names’, and I was able to confirm this on consulting my AA gazetteer. I also found that the BT Telephone Directory indicated that no surnames in this area seemed to be directly related to that tree, despite its wide distribution. I therefore investigated the associations of other trees with place names and surnames. Not surprisingly, tree- and timber-centred activities were quite frequent in the list – Wood(s), Turner, Woodley (a ‘ley’ is a field), Hewitt, Grove, Thorn(e), Orchard, Hedges, Pollard, Sawyer, Carpenter, Forrest, Twigg(s) and Field. The latter word may be derived from the term ‘felled’ where a clearance had been made. There is but one Thickett but no Spinneys. Haywards in time past were those placed in charge of hedges – hedge wardens.
I’m sure that many additions can be made to this list and I would be grateful for suggestions.
To be more specific, probably the overall winner is ‘Ash’ with surnames like Ashman, Ashby, and place names like Ashbourne and Ashcombe. Oak comes a close second, with Oakley, Oakham, and occupations like Cooper, Barker and Tanner. The Lime tree is well represented with names like Lindley, and even Linnaeus derived his name from his father who owned a field in which three lime trees grew. Beech is not uncommon, and place names like Buckingham and Buckfast probably have this origin. As an aside it may not be commonly known that the word ‘book’ is derived from Beech, and the two words in Swedish are identical. This is because early books were bound in beech boards. Holly, like yew, is rarely used, but more specific references include Rowntree (rowan), Juniper, and there are three Sycamores in the telephone directory, but only one Poplar!
But don’t be misled. All is not quite as it might seem. For instance, the name Ashlands at Portishead is derived from the pulverised fuel ash from the power station on which this development has been built!