The Groves of Britain

More Properly - The Sacred Groves of Britain

"grove n. 1. a small wooded area or plantation. 2. a. a road lined with houses and often trees, esp. in a suburban area. b. (cap. as part of a street name): Ladbroke Grove. [Old English graf; related to græfa thicket, GREAVE, Norwegian greivla to intertwine]" (Collins English Dictionary)

Before we can begin our search for British 'Groves' we must first establish what exactly we are looking for. The entry for the word grove quoted above shows that there are two meanings prevalent today, and it is the first of these two definitions in which we are interested; sorry kids! Byker Grove is definitely not an ancient Druidical religious site.

The first definition of the word grove above, meaning a 'a small wood', seemingly has no connection with the ancient religious sites we are trying to locate, in fact, we use two words in modern English to define the object of our quest: sacred groves. We must, therefore, look also for words other than, and older than, modern English.

"nemato- or before a vowel nemat- combining form. indicating a threadlike form: nematocyst. [from Greek nema thread]" (ibid.)

Interestingly, the Welsh/Gaelic word for an ancient sacred grove was nemeton, which obviously evolved from Greek. Notice again the reference to threading or intertwining (cf. grove above), which are suggestive of the interleaved branches of the trees which formed the ancient arboreal religious centres of the Britons.

A Grove by Any Other Name

There follows a collection of related words from the main languages used in British place-name construction. For a list of dictionaries and other works consulted, please refer to the bibliography at the bottom of the page.

Welsh/Gaelic
ced forest, wood.
lann early church.
lannerch grove, glade.
nemeton sacred grove.
Nemetona Goddess of the Sacred Grove.
Latin
grove n. nemus n., lucus, saltus m.
wood n. silva f., nemus m; (material) lignum n..
lucus -i m. grove; wood.
nemus -oris n. wood; grove.
saltus m. woodland with glades, woodland pasture, glade; pass, ravine.
silva -ae f. wood, forest, grove; plantation, shrubbery.
Silvanus -i m. god of uncultivated land, woods.
Gaelic
grove doire: an doire, na doire, na doireachan (f.)
coille: a' choille, na coille, na coilltean (f.) forest.
comraich sanctuary.
doire: an doire, na doire, na doireachan (f.) grove, copse
tearmann tearmad, termon-is sanctuary, girth.
Old Irish
fid-nemed sacred grove.
Cornish
lann church.
lannergh grove, clearing.
neved pagan sacred place.
Welsh
grove n. celli, llwyn.
argoed n. wood, grove.
bedwen bedw nf. Birch.
bedwlwyn n. Birch grove.
betws n. chapel of ease, oratory; Birch grove; brushwood covered slope.
celynnen celyn nf. Holly tree.
celynnog, clynnog nf. Holly grove.
celli celliau, cellioedd nf. grove.
dar deri nf. Oak.
deriwyn nm. Oak grove.
derlwyn n. Oak grove.
derwen derw nf. Oak.
derwydd derwyddon nm. druid.
dryw drywon nm. druid; wren.
ffawydden ffawydd nf. Beech or Fir tree.
ffawyddog nf. Beech or Fir grove.
gwig gwigau nf. grove, wood.
gwigfa gwigoedd nf. wood.
llan nf. church, monastery (enclosure).
llan -nau nf. church, parish, village.
llannerch nf. clearing, glade.
llwyn llwynau nf. grove, bush.
llwyn eithin nf. Gorse bush.
llwyni nf. pl. groves.
llwyn bedw nm. Birch grove.
onllwyn n. Ash-tree grove.
onnen onn, ynn nf. Ash-tree.
perth -i nf. hedge, bush; hedged enclosure.
Old Norse
birki birch forest.
hof pagan temple.
hris brushwood.
kirkja church.
lundr grove, small wood.
skogr wood.
Old English
bær grove.
bearu grove, clearing.
græf(e) grove, thicket, brushwood.
graf(a) grove, copse, woodland pasture.
widu, wudu wood, forest; timber.
wig, weoh heathen shrine or temple.
(Modern) Greek
grove αλσος [alsos], ασυλιο [aseelio].
αλσος [alsos] grove, thicket.
ασυλια [aseelia] asylym, immunity, inviolability.
ασυλο [aseelo] shelter, refuge, asylum.
Spanish
grove arboleda. lemon- limonar. olive- olivar. orange- naranjal. pine- pinar.
arbol tree; axle; mast.
arbolado trees.
arboleda wood.
Italian
grove [no definition]
German
grove hain, verwünschener wald, wäldchen, gehölz.
gehölz copse, coppice, small wood.
hain (pl. haine) grove, sacred clearing in a wood. druidenhain 'druid grove'.
verwünschener wald 'magical wood', grove.
wäldchen diminutive wood.
French

Er, I don't know where my French dictionary is at the moment. As soon as I've dug the thing out I'll update this page with the appropriate findings, if any.

The 'Groves' of Modern Britain

Groves in England

Following entries from the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills.
Beer Devon. Bera 1086 (DB). '(Place by) the grove'. OE bearu.
Beer Hackett Dorset. Bera 1176, Berehaket 1362. 'The grove', or 'the woodland pasture'. OE bearu or bær + manorial affix from a 12th cent. owner called Haket.
Boxgrove W. Sussex. Bosgrave 1086 (DB). 'Box-tree grove'. OE box + graf.
Bromsgrove Heref. &Works. Bremesgrefan 804, Bremesgrave 1086 (DB). 'Grove or copse of a man called Breme'. OE pers. name + græfe, graf.
Chilgrove W. Sussex. Chelgrave 1200. 'Grove in a gorge or gulley', or 'Grove of a man called Ceola'. OE ceole or OE pers. name + graf.
Cosgrove Northants. Covesgrave 1086 (DB). 'Grove of a man called *Cof'. OE pers. name + graf.
Cotgrave Notts. Godegrave (sic) 1086 (DB). 'Grove or copse of a man called Cotta'. OE pers. name + graf.
Gargrave N. Yorks. Geregraue 1086 (DB). 'Grove in a triangular plot of ground'. OScand. geiri (replacing OE gara) + OE graf.
Graffham W. Sussex. Grafham 1086 (DB). 'Homestead or enclosure in or by a grove'. OE graf + ham or hamm.
Grafham Cambs. Grafham 1086 (DB). Identical in origin with the previous name.
Grafton, a common name, usually 'farmstead in or by a grove', OE graf + tun; examples include: Grafton Heref. & Worcs., near Hereford. Crafton 1303. Grafton N. Yorks. Graftune 1086 (DB). Grafton Oxon. Graptone (sic) 1086 (DB), Graftona 1130. Grafton, East & West Wilts. Graftone 1086 (DB). Grafton Fyford Heref. & Worcs. Graftun 9th cent., Garstune (sic) 1086 (DB). Affix from the nearby FLYFORD FLAVELL. Grafton Regis Northants. Grastone (sic) 1086 (DB), Graftone 12th cent. Latin affix regis 'of the king' because it was a royal manor. Grafton Underwood Northants. Grastone (sic) 1086 (DB), Grafton Underwode 1367. Affix 'under or near a wood' (OE under + wudu) refers to Rockingham Forest.
However the following has a different origin: Grafton, Temple Warwicks. Greftone 10th cent., Grastone (sic) 1086 (DB), Temple Grafton 1363. 'Farmstead by the pit or trench'. OE græf + tun. Affix refers to early possession by the Knights Templars or Hospitallers.

Graveley Herts. Gravelai 1086 (DB). 'Clearing by a grove or copse'. OE græfe or graf(a) + leah.
Gravely Cambs. Greflea 1086 (DB). Possibly 'woodland clearing by the pit or trench'. OE græf + leah. Alternatively identical in origin with the previous name.
Gravesend Kent. Gravesham (sic) 1086 (DB), Grauessend 1157. '(Place at) the end of the grove or copse'. OE graf + ende.
Grayshott Hants. Grauesseta 1185. 'Corner of land near a grove'. OE graf + sceat.
Greasby Mersey. Gravesberie 1086 (DB), Grauisby c.1100. 'Stronghold at a grove or copse'. OE græfe + burh (dative byrig) (replaced by OScand. by 'farmstead').
Grove, a common name, '(place at) the grove or copse', OE graf(a); examples include: Grove Notts. Grava 1086 (DB). Grove Oxon. la Graue 1188.
Hazel Grove Gtr. Manch. Hesselgrove 1690. 'Hazel Copse'. OE hæsel + graf.
Kentisbeare Devon. Chentesbere (sic) 1086 (DB), Kentelesbere 1242. 'Wood or grove of a man called *Centel'. OE Pers. name + bearu.
Lanercost Cumbria. Lanrecost 1169. Welsh/Gaelic *lannerch 'glade, clearing', perhaps with the pers. name Aust (from Latin Augustus).
Lanivet Cornwall. Lannived 1268. 'Church-site at the pagan sacred place'. Cornish *lann + neved.
Leagrave Beds. Littegraue 1224. 'Light-coloured, or lightly wooded, grove'. OE leoht + graf.
Lumby N. Yorks. Lundby 963. 'Farmstead in or near a grove'. OScand. lundr + by.
Lund, 'small wood or grove', OScand. lundr: Lund E.R. Yorks. Lont 1086 (DB). Lund N. Yorks., near Barlby. Lund 1066-9, Lont 1086 (DB).
Lunt Mersey. Lund 1251. Identical in origin with LUND.
Musgrave, Great & Little Cumbria. Musegrave 12th cent. 'Grove or copse infested with mice'. OE mus + graf.
Nymet Rowland & Tracey Devon. Nymed 974, Limet (sic) 1086 (DB), Nimet Rollandi 1242, Nemethe Tracy 1270. Welsh/Gaelic nimet 'holy place' (probably also an old name of the River Yeo). Manorial affixes from possession by a man called Roland in the 12th cent. and by the de Trascy family in the 13th.
Nympsfield Glos. Nymdesfelda 862, Nimdesfelde 1086 (DB). 'Open land by the holy place'. Welsh/Gaelic nimet + OE feld.
Nympton, 'farmstead near the river called Nymet' (probably also an old name for the River Mole), Welsh/Gaelic nimet 'holy place' + OE tun: Nympton, Bishop's Devon. Nimetone 1086 (DB), Bysshopes Nymet 1334. Affix from its possession by the Bishop of Exeter in 1086. Nympton, George Devon. Nimet 1086 (DB), Nymeton Sancti Georgij 1291. Affix from the dedication of the church. Nympton, King's Devon Nimetone 1086 (DB), Kyngesnemeton 1254. Affix from its status as a royal manor in 1066.
Palgrave Suffolk. Palegrave 962, Palegraua 1086 (DB). Probably 'grove where poles ar got'. OE pal + graf.
Palgrave, Great Norfolk. Pag(g)raua 1086 (DB). Possibly 'grove of a man called Paga'. OE pers. name + graf.
Potsgrove Beds. Potesgrave 1086 (DB). 'Grove near a pit or pot-hole'. OE pott + graf.
Redgrave Suffolk. Redgrafe 11th cent. 'Reedy pit' from OE hreod + græf, or 'red grove'' from OE read + graf.
Rochbeare Devon. Rochebere 1086 (DB). 'Grove frequented by rooks'. OE hroc + bearu.
Seagrave Leics. Setgraue 1086 (DB). Possibly 'grove with or near a pit'. OE seath + graf.
Staplegrove Somerset. Stapilgrove 1327. 'Grove where posts are got'. OE stapol + graf.
Walgrave Northants. Waldgrave 1086 (DB). 'Grove belonging to OLD'. OE graf.
Walsgrave on Sowe W. Mids. Sowa 1086 (DB), Woldegrove 1411. 'Grove in or near a forest'. OE wald + graf. Originally named from the River Sowe itself, a pre-English river-name of unknown meaning.
Wargrave Berks. Weregrave 1086 (DB). Probably 'grove by the wiers'. OE wer + graf.
Whitgreave Staffs. Witegraue 1193. 'White grove or copse'. OE hwit + græfe.
Wingrave Bucks. Withungrave (sic) 1086 (DB), Wiungraua 1163. Possibly 'grove of the family or followers of a man called *Wiwa', OE pers. name + inga + graf. Alternatively 'grove of the dwellers at, or devotees of, a heathen temple', OE wig, weoh + inga + graf.
Youlgreave Derbys. Giolgrave 1086 (DB). 'Yellow grove or pit'. OE geolu + græfe or græf.

Note should also be made of the following sites not mentioned above: Deri 41(SO1202) "The Grove", Derry Hill 34(ST9670) "Grove Hill", Derwen 67(SJ0650) possibly "The Oak Grove", Druidale "Valley of the Druid" on the Isle of Man, Lanlluest 48(SO1874)?

There are a number of places in Cornwall which contain the Lann- element in their names, this is a Cornish word for a holy or sanctified place, many perhaps of ancient origin, later the site of Christian churches. There are so many of these places that a page should perhaps be dedicated solely to them, but this is a website about Roman Britain, and I'm already way off track, so please be contented with the following few examples (no attempt has been made to translate): Lana 20(SX3496), Lanherne 19(SW8964), Lanhydrock 19(SX0863), Lanlivery 19(SX0759), Lanner 18(SW7139), Lanreath 19(SX1756), Lansallos 19(SX1751),

Chalgrave, Bedfordshire and Chalgrove, Oxfordshire mean 'chalk pit'. From OE cealc + græf.

The Groves of Anglesey

Dio's narrative of Suetonius Paulinus campaigns and the orgies of the Grove of Andate, also Tacitus's description of Agricola's deforestation of the Druid groves, are quoted at length on the RBO page MONA / Ynys-Môn. In the meantime, here is a list of the recognised Sacred Groves of Wales compiled from the Ordnance Survey Atlas of Great Britain.

The Groves of Wales

The following entries have been identified from various publications by the Ordnance Survey, too numerous to recount. All of the following Welsh-English translations are my own fault. If you should spot any deliberate stupid mistakes, please feel free to berate my feeble Welsh:

gwas-cymraeg@roman-britain.org

Argoed Mill, W of Llandrindod Wells, Dyfed (SN9962) "Mill Grove"
Bettws, N of Abergavenny, Gwent (SO2919) "The Chapel or Birch Grove"
Bettws, NW of Newport, Gwent (ST2991) "The Chapel or Birch Grove"
Bettws, N of Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan (SS9086) "The Chapel or Birch Grove"
Bettws Bledrws, N of Lampeter, Dyfed (SN5952) "The Chapel or Birch Grove Wherein lies the Door?"
Bettws Cedewain, N of Newtown, Powys (SO1296) "The Chapel or Birch Grove of Cedewain"
Bettws Evan, N of Newcastle Emlyn, Dyfed (SN3047) "Evan's Chapel or Birch Grove"
Bettws Gwerfil Goch, NW of Corwen, Clwyd (SJ0346) "The Chapel or Birch Grove of the Red Tallow Men?"
Bettws Malpas, NW of Newport, Gwent (ST3090) "The Chapel or Birch Grove of the Difficult Passage?"
Bettws Newydd, N of Usk, Gwent (SO3606) "The New Chapel or Birch Grove"
Betws, nr. Ammanford, Dyfed (SN6311) "The Chapel or Birch Grove"
Betws Garmon, SE of Caernarfon, Gwynedd (SH5357) "Garmon's Chapel or Birch Grove"
Betws-y-Coed, Conwy Valley, Gwynedd (SH7956) "The Chapel or Birch Grove in the Wood"
Betws-yn-Rhos, Colwyn Bay, Gwynedd (SH9073) "The Chapel or Birch Grove on the Moor"
Bryn Celli Ddu, Anglesey (SH5070) "The Hill of the Black Grove"
Capel Betws Lleucu, nr. Sarn Helen, Dyfed (SN6058) "Chapel of The Grove of Lleu (or Luke)"
Clynnog-fawr, Lleyn Peninsula NE coast, Gwynedd (SH4149) "Upper Holly Grove"
Druid, W of Corwen, Clwyd (SJ0444) "Druid?" [What a postal address; 'Druid, Clwyd'. Ace!]
gelligaer, nr. Bargoed, Mid Glamorgan (ST1397) "The Camp at the Grove"
Gelli Gynan, SE of Ruthin, Dyfed (SJ1854) "Gynan's Grove"
Gellilydan, NW of Tomen-y-mur, Gwynedd (SH6839) "The Wide Grove"
Gellioedd, Clwyd, N of Bala (SH9344) "The Groves"
Gelly, N of Narberth, Dyfed (SN0819) "The Grove"
Gellywen, W of Carmarthen, Dyfed (SN2723) "The White Grove?"
Llanerchymedd, Anglesey (SH4183) "The Grove of Mead (i.e. frequented by honeybees)"
Llwyn, NW of Tomen-y-mur, Gwynedd (SH6839) "The Grove"
Llwyn, W of Clun, Hereford & Worcester (SO2880) "The Grove"
Llwyncelyn, E of New Quay, Dyfed (SN4459) "The Holly Grove"
Llwyn-crwn, SE of Tomen-y-mur, Gwynedd (SH7137) "The Round Grove"
Llwyndafydd, S of New Quay, Dyfed (SN3755) "David's Grove"
Llwynderw, Severn Valley, Powys (SJ2004) "The Oak Grove"
Llwyndyrys, LLeyn Peninsula, Gwynedd (SH3741) "The Intricate or Difficult Grove?"
Llwyngwril, Barmouth Bay, Gwynedd (SH5909) "The Grove of the Brave?"
Llwynhendy, E of Llanelli, West Glamorgan (SS5599) "The Grove of the Grandfathers?"
Llwynmawr, S of Llangollen, Clwyd (SJ2236) "The Great Grove"
Llwyn-on (resr.), NW of Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan (SO0011) "The Ash-tree Grove (reservoir)"
Llwynypia, Rhondda Valley, Mid Glamorgan (SS9993) "The Grove of Piety or Atonement?"
Onllwyn, NE of Neath, Mid Glamorgan (SN8310) "The Ash-tree Grove"

Groves in Scotland

I'm working on it. Honest!
Comrie 107(NN7722) "The Sanctuary" comraich?
Dergoals 86(NX2459) "The Boiling Grove"?
Dernaglar Loch 86(NX2658)? "The Loch of the ?Glar? Oak" der-na-glar?
Derry Burn 117(NO0396) "The Grove Stream"
Derry Cairngorm 117(NO0198) "The Blue Mountain Grove"
Derryguaig 105(NM4835) "The Grove at the Grave"?
Dersalloch Hill 93(NS4304) "The (Hill of the) Unclean Grove"
Dervaig 111(NM4351) "The Grave in the Oak (Forest)"
Doire Bhuidhe 92(NR9249) "The Yellow Grove"
Doire Tana, Mountain 115(NH2128) "The Mountain of the Thin or Shallow Grove"
Doirlinn Head 112(NL6299) "The Grove at the Head of the Pool"?
Lanark 95(NS8843) "The Grove" from llanerch?
Lanrick Castle 101(N6803)?
Lanton, Borders 96(NT6221)?
Lanton, Highlands 97(NT9231)?
Lanyar Taing 143(HU3893)? "Grove of Thanks"? llanerch-taingeil?
Larachbeg 105(NM6948)? "The Little Ruin"
Gellyburn, N of Ardoch, Tayside (NO0939) "The Grove with a Stream?"
Perth, S of Ardoch, Tayside (NO1123) "The Hedged Enclosure?"

I'm still compiling a definitive lexicon of Grove and Nemeton words, so until that happens, the above list will be far from complete; one has to begin somewhere, however.


Other 'Grovey' RBO Stuff

Druids * Sacred Groves * Nemeton * MONA / Ynys-Môn


See: Place Names on Maps of England and Wales by the Ordnance Survey,
The Classical Dictionary of John Lempriere,
Y Geiriadur Bach (Welsh dictionary) by Christopher Davies,
Abair! Faclair (Gaelic dictionary) from Gairm Publications,
Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills,
The Collins Gem Latin Dictionary,
The Collins Gem Greek Dictionary,
The Oxford Italian Mini-Dictionary,
The Oxford Spanish Mini-Dictionary,
The Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary,
Philip's New World Atlas (1995 edn.),
Ordnance Survey Atlas of Great Britain,
Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in Antiquity by Nicholas G.L. Hammond.
Many thanks to Vivien Boyes for valuable input, also to Matthias Masuhr for much of the Germanic grove definitions above.