Newbourne - some thoughts on the name
Note: I have published a version of this material in Journal of the English Place-name Society, 38, 31-36 (2006). You may download a pdf of this article here.
There are problems with the generally accepted explanation from OE niwe
burna `new stream'. If that explanation were
correct, Newbourne would be a unique name
compounding `new' with a natural, rather than a man-made, feature. The only
other seemingly parallel case, Newburn-on-Tyne, is in fact a corruption of
niwe burh. It is hard to comprehend what a `new stream'
I propose we consider an ON name níu brunnar `nine springs',
assimilated early to the recorded OE forms. Supporting this view are
- The large number of springs at Newbourne is a highly distinctive feature.
- Place-names containing OE niwe are predominantly (but not universally) spelt niwe-, newe-, nywe- in their early forms. Such a spelling with -w- does not occur in the DB Neubrunna and all other recorded forms for Newbourne before 1327.
- Adjoining Newbourne is Kirton, generally accepted to contain ON kirkja `church'. Both villages are on a creek in the Deben estuary, a natural access route for Viking settlers.
If this explanation is correct, it is likely that we have here an early example
of the tradition of naming a place with many springs as either "Seven springs"
or "Nine springs". In the first category are Seven Springs (Gloucestershire); and (from OE seofen wyllas or
weak seofen wyllan) Seawell, Sewell, S(h)owell and Sywell
second category are Nine Wells, the source of Hobson's Conduit in Stapleford
near Cambridge (TL 461 542), Nine Wells on Knock Fell, and at least two
Furthermore, this explanation would place Newbourne in a natural context of a
small group of ON (or partially ON) village-names on the south Suffolk coast -
Kirton, Nacton, Snape, Lound, Thorpe, the lost Stockerland, and perhaps some
The image shows a map displayed at the Newbourne Springs Nature Reserve
(taken June 2007).
Note 9 springs to the east of the stream, and 7 to the west.