Institute of Archaeology


Robert Briggs

Robert Briggs

An interdisciplinary study of the significance of Old English -ingas in Anglo-Saxon society and culture, with special reference to place-names


Email: robert.briggs.15@ucl.ac.uk
Section: World Archaeology


An interdisciplinary study of the significance of Old English -ingas in Anglo-Saxon society and culture, with special reference to place-names

Old English ‑ingas was a name-forming element often used to identify groups of people. It has been suggested to be present in a substantial number of English place-names, as well as in the names of social groups recorded in a range of early medieval textual sources. As a result, ‑ingas has attracted the interest of linguists, archaeologists, and historians, but a satisfactory explanation (or explanations) of what set an ‑ingas apart from other groups of people in the Old English period has yet to be advanced.

A view has prevailed since the later 1960s that English ‑ingas place-names belong to a secondary phase of Anglo-Saxon settlement no earlier than the sixth century CE. This, however, is framed in terms of models of the immigration of Germanic people into post-Roman lowland Britain that have been challenged or discredited by more recent scholarship. Similarly, linguists have since shown the ‑ingas place-name corpus to be less homogenous than traditionally believed.

A new paradigm is needed, and I aim to deliver this by undertaking the first multi-disciplinary investigation of who the groups were who bore names ending in ‑ingas: their origins, status, and relationships with other groups which bore names containing different elements. This will acknowledge and reinforce the strengths of the best existing scholarship while overcoming the frequently restricted thematic focus of such work.

The foundation of this research will be a fresh objective linguistic analysis of the name data, both in place-names and other contexts. Upon this will be founded studies of the spatial, material and textual contexts of both the places and spaces to which ‑ingas names were and/or are attached. In particular, the ability to harness the wealth of archaeological data recorded in the past 50 years should permit a more refined view of the material cultural context of the names, to the extent that it may be possible to advance suggestions as to when -ingas groups flourished, their status within wider Anglo-Saxon society, and whether the element changed in meaning over time.


  • MA, Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies, University of Nottingham, 2014
  • MA, Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, 2007
  • BA, Geography, University of Leeds, 2006

    D J Turner and R Briggs, 'Testing Transhumance: Anglo-Saxon Swine Pastures and the Surrey Weald', Surrey Archaeological Collections, forthcoming.

    R Briggs, 'A Late Anglo-Saxon period sword from the Thames at Vauxhall in the Royal Ontario Museum', Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin 453, 2015, 3-5.

    R Briggs, 'The thing about -ing(tūn)', Onomastics.co.uk <http://onomastics.co.uk/the-thing-about-ingtun/>, 2014

    Conference papers

    "'British" slaves of the resurgent West Saxon realm? A fresh look at Old English wēala-tūn place-names in South-East England', presentation, Leeds International Medieval Congress, 8th July 2015.

    'Alfred in expeditione: Assembling the evidence for a West Saxon military campaign in the year 882', International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, 15th May 2015.

    'Old English -ingas and -ingaham place-names in Surrey: An overview of past, present and future research', presentation, Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland Spring Conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 28th March 2015.