Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Humberland - Geddit?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Humberland - Geddit?

Article excerpt

With reference to R Noble's letter in one of last week's editions of The Journal in which he/she gave, as you say, "an interesting explanation" of the origin of the place-name "Northumbria!".

Sadly it was one in which the writer has fallen into the old trap of attempting to explain a very old name in terms of its modern spelling.

The only way in which to approach this question is to find the earliest possible form of the word and try to find its meaning in the light of the language in use at the time the name was given. In this case the place name is Anglo-Saxon (i.e. Old English).

The name was originally spelt Norphymbre (see the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 867AD) and meant "dwellers north of the Humber", but it was also used for the land which they occupied, including the Anglian parts of Scotland.

Eventually the land north of the Tweed was ceded to Scotland and the name became restricted to the rest of the land north of the Humber. Cumberland and the rest of western Northumbria got their own special names at an early date and by 1065, again in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Yorkshire (Eoforwicsir) and Norphymbraland are mentioned side by side. So it looks as though, at this time, Norphymbraland referred to what we knew as Northumberland and Durham - until the invention of Tyne and Wear!

When Durham became a Palatinate under its Prince Bishops, that county was no longer reckoned as part of Northumberland which, in its modern sense, is used after circa 1100.

The fact that the old spelling was in effect North Humberland would seem to me to rule out any talk of "Umbria" or any other Italian connection, so let us accept our own Anglo-Saxon heritage.


Let's hear it for our hospitals

RECENT media reports about local health services have concentrated on the loss of three-star status by Newcastle City Hospitals. This has meant little coverage has been given to hospitals in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland which all achieved three-star status.

Last week I was able to personally experience some of the reasons why Gateshead hospitals achieved three-star rating when I underwent orthopaedic surgery and spent five days on ward 12 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. …

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