One of the most interesting geological features of Mansfield is Hamilton Hill, situated near Kings Mill, half a mile south of the river Maun, south of Mansfield on the boundary with Sutton in Ashfield, rising sharply to approx 525 ft above sea level. Age-old theories as to its existence have centred around it being a burial mound or a pre-historic place of worship but later historians have dismissed this outright. The likely scenario is that this sandstone hill has been formed by natural geological events through erosion over thousands of years.
However, the subject of this chapter concerns our ancestors. Did they name it and if so what did they call it and why? The region was covered with forest when the post 1066 Domesday survey was completed so how did they perceive the hill?
In a map c.1390, now in possession of the Duke of Rutland, the river we now know as the Maun is called the "Aqua de Mam" The 'mam' was short for Mammeskeued a name seen in records around the same period describing Hamilton Hill.
Professor Eilart Ekwall, author of English River Names, writes :—
Mansfield evidently, does not contain a river name but may be compared with Mam Tor, the name of a hill in Derbyshire and the Mam occurring in Irish and Scottish names of hills. The source of the latter is Irish: Mam, "a breast," identical with Welsh Mam, "mother," "womb."
So Mansfield is considered by the experts to have derived its name from a hill, probably Hamilton Hill but are there alternative explanations? Towns, villages and hamlets would often take their names from the knights who were granted the lands from King William after the conquest so was there a knight who gave us the name Mamesfelde as recorded in the Domesday survey? There is no knight of this name or anything similar sounding in the 'Battle Roll' although there are medieval documents containing the name de Mammesfeld but at least a century later whom probably gained his name from the town rather than the town's name from him. What do we know about Mansfield in 1066? The survey records a mill, a fishery and 2 churches. Neighbouring Sutton and Skegby were recorded as bereues or berewicks meaning barley stores implying that agriculture was centred in this area. The mill was no doubt Kings Mill, close to the agricultural centre, the fishery nearby was probably the Hermitage and the Saxon built St Peters in the heart of Mansfield was one of the churches listed the other unknown. So what of Mansfield and why did the Normans give it the status of a Royal Manor? The Anglo-Saxon, Mercian Kings were known to hold Sherwood Forest in high regard for its excellent hunting while building Mansfield for the logistical centre that supported that activity. The Norman replacements were no exception. Its status as game larder, wood store and nobleman's pleasure park was increased because its agricultural status in medieval times was non-existent because the sandy soil was not suited to growing grain crops. The naming of Sutone (Sutton in Ashfield) probably derived from south town based on the fact there are around 80 place names in England using the word Sutton. Ashfield means ash trees growing on the 'feld' meaning open land ie feld as in Mamesfeld.
|Given the aforementioned references, it seems highly likely that Mansfield took its name from Hamilton Hill. (pictured here) Derived from 'mam' meaning breast or mother in Celtic. As a Sutton lad myself, born on Eastfield Side, I've always used mam for mother so the word appears to have remained in the area. Judging by this latest 'virtual earth' picture either mother nature is in agreement or someone has been very busy! No, I havent altered it with Photoshop! There is some obvious subsidence at the top of the hill...could be the burial chamber collapsing!!|
So how did we get from Mamesfeld as recorded in the Domesday Book to Mansfield? Here's a list of references used when naming the town of Mansfield in medieval documents such as maps and court rolls.
1163 - Mammesfeld
1189 - Mamefeld
1189 - Man'efeld
1278 - Maunsfewd
1291 - Mamesfeld
1291 - Mannesfeld
1428 - Maunsfeld
1564 - Mawnsfeld
The spelling has changed according to the development of phonetic dialects and the gradual merging of old English and French-Norman languages.