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The three commotes of GWYR, CARNWYLLION and CEDWELI were part of the pre-Norman cantref of EGINOG, in the old Welsh kingdom of YSTRAD TYWI.


The boundaries of the commote of  GŴYR were roughly (east-west) the land between the rivers Tawe and Llwchwr, plus the appendage of Kilvey/Cilfai, and (north-south) extending from Y Mynydd Du (the Black Mountain) to Rhosili. The commote was divided into two areas - 'Gwyr Is Coed' (Sub Boscus, 'below the wood', or poss. the lower part of the wood) and 'Gwyr Uwch Coed' (Supra Boscus - 'above the wood', or the upper part of the wood). The administrative centre was at Trewyddfa, located in Gwyr Is Coed, close to present day Morriston (Treforys). Parts of the ancient woods are preserved in the place-names of Fforestfach, Penlle'rgaer Woods and Cefn Fforest, all in the parish of Llangyfelach. After the Norman conquest of Gower (c1106-16) the earlier commote became the Norman Lordship of Gower.



The Normans erected castles and colonised southern parts of the peninsula with Picards and Flemings. Later the English, especially from the west of England also colonised much of the southern peninsula of the lordship.
The northern areas of the lordship and peninsula remained predominantly Welsh in language and culture.


Gower remained a Norman Lordship until the Acts of Union, 1536-42, when it became part of the new county of Glamorgan. Previously Glamorgan (gwlad Morgan) had been a Welsh kingdom located between the Wye and Tawe rivers, that is, until the legendary twelve Norman knights invaded and ruled. As with the Vale of Glamorgan and southern Pembrokeshire, the place-names of Gower reflect this historical diversity. In Gower, the pre conquest place-names were  Welsh, apart from two place-names containing Old Norse elements:- holmr ‘island’ (The Holmes, - Burry Holmes) and the pers. name Sveinn + ON. ey ‘island’ (Sweynesse 1153-84, - Swansea.). The topographical Abertawe may pre-date the territorial Sweynesse.

The post conquest place-names are still predominantly Welsh apart from the colonised areas, which either acquired new names given by the incomers, or corrupted existing unintelligible Welsh place-names. Later the emergence of place-names (especially field-names) containing the dialect of the west of England, testify to the presence of a migratory population from that area.


GOWER is the anglicised form of  GŴYR [GWHYR], Welsh for ‘crooked, curved’, prob. referring to the shape of the peninsula. Gower is a place-name, a name for an old territorial unit, and therefore should not be preceded by the definite article. One can of course refer to the Gower coast or to the Gower peninsula. c.f. Swansea, and the Swansea valley.



The earliest Gower place-names (prob. 6th. Cent.) were linked to the Celtic church. They usually contain the ‘llan’ element, followed by the name of the founder or cult leader e.g.

Llangynnydd (Llangennith) – church of Cynnydd or Cenydd.
Llanmadog – church of Madog
Llanrhidian – church of Rhidian
Llanilltud Gwyr – church of Illtud on Gower, (later anglicised as Ilston).     

"The extent of later anglicisation, including its effect on place nomenclature which saw Llanilltud Gwyr becoming Ilston and Llandeilo Ferwallt yielding ground to Bishopston, has obscured its (Gwyr/Gower) former Welsh identity from modern eyes." G. O. Pierce, Place-names in Glamorgan, p183.


Llandimor –  church of Tymor.
The early recorded form of Llandymor 1291, shows that the first element is Welsh llan ‘church’, although the exact location of the early church is obscure.  It is likely that this was the church of  Tymôr, who appears as Dymor, the second element , in the 1291 example. Tymôr consists of the Welsh personal name Môr with the honorific prefix ty- cf. Teilo (ty- & Eilo), Tysul (ty- & Sul), Tysilio (ty- & Silio), Teleri (ty- & Eleri) etc. It would have been usual for Tymôr to develop as  Tyfôr (in the same way that my & Môr > Myfôr) but the language of the area changed with the coming of the Normans, with the English in their wake, so that Tymôr was fossilised in its early form and thus stands as Llandyr rather than an expected Llandyr.The personal name Môr is also present in the similar sounding Llandremôr (see Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, sub nomine).

Lagadranta    Obscure.   Poss. Llan + Cadrand (pers. Name) + da ,  ‘church of Cadrand the good’.

poss. Llangadrand-da (not evidenced) > poss. Llangadranta (not evidenced) > Langedranta (1755    Terrier of Lanmaddock Rectory lands NLW) > Lagadranta (1801    Will of George Jenkin, Farmer, lease under sur John Ouberry) 

Cf. Llannerch Cadrant, 1326 BBSD, p272. Llandeilo Fawr. [AMR]


Llan-y-tair-Mair –church of the three Marys, (known today as Knelston). Tradition has it that Anna, the Virgin Mary’s mother, was married three times and had three daughters named Mair. Anna was greatly respected in Wales during the Middle Ages, and it is likely that Anna’s daughters are the three Mair’s of this place-name. (MR/ETG)


Llanferwallt – church of Merwallt, later Llandeilo ferwallt and Bishopston. Villae Sancti Teliawi de Lanmerwalt, A. D. 1131, indicates that the earlier name for the church was Llan Merwallt or Llanferwallt.
Llanferwallt contains two elements llan, and the pers. name Merwallt.
Merwallt was abbot there at the time that Eurogwy was bishop of Llandaf.
The pers. name Merwallt was forgotten, through lack of usage, and the final element was assumed by popular etymology, to be a topographical ferw allt signifying a fanciful nettled or water cressed wooded slope.
[Note the prep. ar (on) of c. 1566 ll. deilo ar ferwallt erroneously assuming the ‘church of Teilo on a nettled wooded hill’.]
During the fierce territorial dispute between the diocese of Llandaf and St. Davids, Llanferwallt was claimed by Llandaf. As Teilo was the patron saint of Llandaf, the church was rededicated to him and named Llandeilo ferwallt. This endorsed the strong association of this church with Llandaf. The English name for the village and parish is Bishopston, Bisschopiston 13th cent. (OE biscop + tun) ‘bishop’s farm’. This is prob. a translation of villa episcopi c. 1230. The bishops of Llandaf owned the ecclesiastical land in the parish. This land was known as the bishop’s or bishops’ farm. 


Llanddewi, Landewi in Gower, 1281, - church of Dewi

Llanmorlais is not a true ‘llan’ name. It was earlier Glan Morlais and refers to the banks of the Morlais stream.

Llanyrnewydd, was earlier Llanynewer 1587 and represents the church of Enewyr/Ynewyr.



Welsh secular names of this and later periods include:

Trewyddfa  - 'farm of the place of the tumulus'.                                                         

Ystumllwynarth – river bend of the high grove (later conveniently anglicised to Oystermouth).
Dulais – the black stream (later translated as Blackpill)
Dyfnant – ‘deep valley’, nant = stream or valley (metathesised as Dunvant).
Cila – ‘the nooks’ – anglicised as Killay

Llethryd (llethrid) - 'bright' (stream).

Cillibion - kelly lybyon 1558, is Welsh celli (groves) & gwlybion (plural of gwlyb 'wet') giving 'wet groves'.
Cillonnen was earlier Cilwonnon 1594 and is prob 'cil' and the pers. name Gwynon, (answer to Jeff Evans's question).

Clyne, Y Clun - Clun 1306 - Welsh 'clun' (meadow, moor).

Cefn bychan - 'little ridge' (for Jeff Evans).
Crofty is 'crofft' and 'ty' giving 'small field house', (for Jeff Evans).
Penardd – ‘top of the height’ (later Penard)
Pwll du – ‘black pool’
Penmaen – ‘stone hill’
Penclawdd - 'ditch's end'.
Glandwr –‘waterside’ (later Landore)
Llwynon – ‘ash grove’ prob. Lunnon.
Penrhys – ‘?hill of Rhys’; ? 'pen' & 'rhys'(fa) top of the sheepwalk?;  [later Pen  rice]
Porth Einon, Portheinon, c. 1250, – ‘Einon’s harbour’ (later Port Eynon)
Rhosili, rosulgen 1136-54, ‘Sulien’s moor’ (later Rossilly)
Cefn bryn, ‘hill of the ridge’

Y Crwys (the Cross) is known in English as Three Crosses (three crossroads, one on each corner of a  triangle; see Yates Map 1799.)

 Sgeti, Enesketti 1319, ynys + Ceti - Ceti’s island, river-meadow, c.f.Cilgeti, Kilgetty Pembs. (the favoured English orthography is Sketty).                                                                          


English names are all post 12th cent. many containing ME ton ‘farm’ preceded by a pers. name or a descriptive element e.g.

Cheriton , 1387 – ‘farm or settlement with a church’ (dedicated to St. Cadog)
Middleton, - ‘middle farm’, later taken as the village name.
Horton, le Hortone 13th. Cent, - horh + ton - ‘muddy farm’
Ilston , Iltwiteston 1319, – ‘farm of Illtud’ – earlier Llanilltud (Gwyr).
Knelston, Knoylestoune 1326 – ‘farm of Knoyl’, (known to Welsh speakers as Llan-y-tair-Mair)
Newton, 1626 – ‘new farm’
Norton – ‘north farm’
Overton –‘upper farm’
Singleton, ‘farm of the Sengleton family’ (Robert de Sengelton, 1383)
Gowerton is a late (1885) name given to the Gower Road Station. It was later given a Welsh Tregwyr.(see Lliw Valley)

Oxwich, Oxenwych c. 1291 ‘ox farm’. also shown as Trenynni in 1812 Hist. of Wales.(Powell)
Parkmill, Parke mill, 1583 – ‘the mill by the park’, from Parc le Breos. The de Breos family were lords of Gower 1203-1326.
Wormshead, Wormyshede 15th cent., OE wurm ‘snake, serpent’; known in Welsh as

Ynysweryn (Henisweryn 14th cent.) ynys 'island' & gweryn 'reptile, snake'; also as Pen-y-pryf  (16th cent.), 'snake, serpent's head'  as well as a more recent and artificial looking Penypyrod. 



Mumbles, prob. via Lat. mammalis (of the breasts) relating to the shape of the two islands.
Scurlage, named after Sir Herbert Scurlage
Brynmill – Wesh ‘bryn’ & Eng. ‘mill’ – ‘mill hill’.
Portmead, OE port & mead ‘town meadow’ (Swansea) c.f. Wauarlwydd ‘lord’s meadow’ {the lord of Gower]
Bracelet Bay, bracelet < broad slade (slade = little valley)
Langland < long land
Paviland – Welsh Pen y fai (top of the plain) & Eng. 'land'. [poss. progression - Penyfai > Penvailand > Paviland.]
Kittle – ‘kite hill’            

Arthur's Stone on Cefnbryn is known to Welsh speakers as Maen Ceti 'Ceti's stone', cf. Sgeti (ynys & Ceti) & Cilgeti (cil & Ceti), Pembs.                                                                                                                 

Ryer's Down - was Ryrydysdon 1327 - Welsh pers. name Rhirid & Eng. dun (hill, down).

Kennextone - was Kennithstoane 1642 - Cenydd & tun - '(St) Cenydd's farm'.      

Leason -was Leissaneston 1319 and Treleison 1641 - Welsh pers. name Lleision & tun - 'Lleision's farm'.                                                                                                                               

Eynon's Ford - Welsh pers. name Einon & Eng. 'ford'.  

Porth Tulon, Lann Teiliau portulon, Porthtulon c1170 'Tulon's port';  ("On Caswell Bay." LL. p416.)

Three Cliffs Bay is known in Welsh as Bae'r Tri Chlogwyn (City and County of Swansea).


The west of Eng. Dialect is apparent in s. Wales as:
Vennaway – ‘fen way’,  Vishwell – ‘fish well’,
Viel – ‘field’, Vurlong – ‘furlong’,
Vershill – ‘furze hill’, Vord – ‘ford or poss. W. ffordd’,
Vernal – ‘fern hill’, Vouls – ‘fowls, birds’,
Vorvil – ‘fore field’ etc.


Industrialists and landowners have contributed place-names such as
Morriston – ‘Morris’s town’. (ton = Mod. Eng ‘town’; ton ≠ OE farm)
Manselton - ‘Mansels’ town’ (Mansel family)
Port Tennant – ‘Tennant’s dock’ (George Tennant 1765-1832)


Stavel hagr; Killy Willy;  Pwll y Bloggy;  Pool y Budder. 

These notes are intended as a brief guide and an insight into the intricacies of place-name etymology and the complexities encountered in only a small part of the area known as Gower. Documentary evidence is essential in uncovering the meanings of place-names. Without the recorded early forms, place-name etymology relies on fanciful guesses and imaginative onomastic tales. I trust that these notes are of help.  






Mommulls 1549 Place-Names of G.B. & Ireland
Mommells 1583 Earl of Worcester
Mummess 16th cent Leland; Enwau Lleoedd 30
Mumbles poynt 1610 Speed
The Mumbles Point 1729 E. Bowen Map of S. Wales
Mumbles 1799 Yates Map
the Mumbles 1835 Pigot & Co


The Mumbles (with the definite article), or Y Mwmbwls in its Welsh guise,is the name of a village and headland
located close to two small islands near the village of Oystermouth, [Ystumllwynarth], Swansea.
It is likely that these two small islands and headland were perceived as breasts. They were recorded as: Mommells in 1549 and Mommells in 1583.


Latin mamma = breast, teat; the diminutive form is mamilla with a plural mamillas. This plural form noted as mommulls and mommells (as above), in turn attracted an intrusive ‘b’ between the ‘m’ and ‘l’ consonants, to give a prob. mommbells and ultimately Mumbles. This intrusive ‘b’ is also present in humble < humilis; mumble < mumle (to mutter) and orally, with chimbley < chimley < chimney.


c.f. Moel famma = the breast shaped hill;
Mam Tor (Derbyshire) = breast shaped hill
Mammesfelde = the field near the breast shaped hill > Mansefield.
To sum up, the Mumbles is from the mommalls (the breasts), and refers to the breast shaped contours of the islands and headland.

Y Mwmbwls would appear to be a cymricisation of The Mumbles