With the publication of South Devon Place Names this week I now have 21 books on the shelves of 'all good bookstores' as the saying goes. The county of Devon is my favourite part of this country and a place I always wanted to write about. However it is such a large county with a multitude of places that it was impossible to do justice to the place in one book, hence it was split. The decision of where to draw the dividing line was not an easy one for the shape of and population densities of the county are concentrated in the south. Thus the line was drawn at something of an angle and based loosely on the administrative districts known as hundreds.
When selecting a sample I decided to look at one of the principal population centres and one of the most famous places in the county which will prove of interest on both sides of the Atlantic.
Plymouth Sound is the natural harbour which would have provided a safe location for the Pilgrim Fathers. The term 'Sound' comes from the Old English term sund which literally means 'swimming', not that it describes someone or something swimming but should be understood as meaning 'a passage by water'. This is clearly following the name of the city and gives us quite a trail to follow in order to define this name.
Plymouth stands 'at the mouth of the River Plym', as the name implies, so we need to find the meaning of the river name. However this is not the original river name but has been derived from one of two places on its banks - Plympton or Plymstock - this is a process known as 'back formation'. From here we go to Plymstock, which tells us it was 'the outlying farmstead associated with Plympton', which in turn describes 'the farmstead where plum trees grow'.
I can only hope those who read a copy derive as much pleasure from it as I did in researching, photographing and writing it. Should anyone require a copy I would be delighted to supply same (signed if desired) at significantly less than the retail price.