Welcome to our site which documents the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon place-name, Workington. It is being restructured and this page will be split into smaller entries on individual pages.
It is an attempt to fill a few of the gaps in our shared history, because thousands of family trees are interwoven with Workington's growth and development.
Different spellings and abbreviations of the town's name. The research concentrates on discovering the many different spellings and abbreviations which have been used to identify Workington, especially those found in sources now on the internet.
English place-name publications indicated that, over a period of almost 1,000 years, the town's name had been written down in 22 different ways.
My research has however found and authenticated 113 alternatives to W-o-r-k-i-n-g-t-o-n. 105 are listed on this page with appropriate citations or hyperlinks. The others will be added when time allows.
At present, I do not distinguish between an abbreviation and a spelling and refer to both as terms, names or words.
Later, we will most probably find that many of the 113 appear in earlier documents than those that I have identified. There will also be other spellings that I have not discovered. The research has just begun.
It is hoped that Workington's local and family history will benefit from this on-line effort to recover and share historic memories. It should be emphasised that all of the 100+ terms (for Workington) belong to the town and anyone who feels that they were born, bred or have roots in Workington and the surrounding districts.
West Cumbrian place-name researchers. Although this web site was created to look at the place-name Workington, I believe that those researching the history of other West Cumbrian settlements (Harrington, Distington, Stainburn, Seaton, Clifton, Brigham, Camerton, Cockermouth, Egremont, Cleator, Frizington, Moresby, Maryport, Whitehaven, Cockermouth, Flimby etc) will find useful information sitting within many of our sources.
Work began in the Local History Department of Workington Library. There are many books defining British place-names but Sedgewick's Place Names of Cumberland and Westmorland published by Manchester University, and Armstrong's The Place-Names of Cumberland, published by the English Place-Name Society, proved the most useful.
My thanks go to local genealogist and historian Janet Thompson for showing me the 8 alternative spellings for the town's name that appear in John Flavel Curwen's A History of the Ancient House of Curwen (1928). The three books mentioned above record 22 different spellings for our town's name, beginning with Wirchington in 1100.
The 22 alternative spellings were typed into a variety of internet search engines to look for hits (references) in on-line documents. All authenticated links (those that refer to our Workington in Cumbria) are posted further down this page.
Maps. Searching Martin and Jean Norgate's collection of maps and tables at Portsmouth University proved particularly rewarding. The copies of Martin and Jean's maps which appear on our site and the links to the original maps have been created with their full approval.Scrabble letters. An important part of the research used crossword and scrabble techniques. Starting with the Anglo-Saxon form Weorc-inga-ton and reducing it to the sounds 'W-K-N-T-N'.
Then inter-changing a variety of vowels and/or consonants that may fit slightly different pronunciations. This proved to be an essential activity, because at the moment we can't find words in historical documents through a search engine, if we don't know what those words are and how they are spelt!
After discovering just how many 'scrabbled' terms turned out to be 'living' in documents sitting on line, I called this technique The Scrabblington Method. Over 70 of the words I had made using scrabble tiles produced successful hits.
Each new find was in fact the re-discovery of source enabling us to recover historic memory. The method can be used by anyone (with a scrabble set and an internet connection) to start identifying the historic spellings and abbreviations, of any British place-name.
Art. A new poster provides a visual summary of the research as of 6 Nov 2009. View or download the The Evolution of an Anglo-Saxon Place-name(pdf). It includes the most recent find WKGTN - It also appears in Lloyd's Shipping register of 1861-1862. It refers to the Brig. Amphion, built in Wkgtn in 1804, captained by J.Connell. Destined for WhitVn
New abbreviations, all found in the Lloyd's Shipping Register 1838-1839 - Wrktn, Wkngtn, Wrk, Wrk'tn and Wrkgtn - are listed below, but do not appear in the artwork on the poster of 6 Nov 2009. They will appear in the next edition.
The Origin of the Place-name
The name Workington is of Anglo-Saxon origin.
All of the place-name books say that it is derived from three Anglo-Saxon words:
- Weorc - most probably a leader's name12345-Alternative spellings and definitions of Weorc
- ingas - people
- tun or ton - settlement/estate/enclosure/farm(1).
The settlers were a group of people whose leader was probably called Weorc. But, it is important to remember, that we have no definite proof that this man called Weorc actually existed. Weorc is an unusual name but not unknown, Worksop is another place based on the same name.
Over a thousand years ago, the inhabitants of the land, who may have replaced earlier settlers, would have called themselves Weorcingas (Weorc's people or People of Weorc) and their settlement Weorcingaton (estate of the Weorcingas). Other local place names with similar origins are Harrington, Distington and Frizington.
One person who is known to have borne this name was an abbess called Verca who lived near the River Tyne. She is mentioned in Bede's Life of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The Old English noun weorc, is defined as accomplishment, achievement, act, action, deed, labour, measure, move, work, workmanship, construction, structure, edifice,6, possibly military work linked to a fortification. In Old English, the verb is weorcan (or wyrcan), which is defined as to do, make, produce, prepare, perform, construct, use (tools); constitute; amount to; to strive after; to deserve, to gain and to win.
Before the introduction of the Latin alphabet, words would have been written using runic alphabets, commonly known as runes. Modern Anglo-Saxon dictionaries give werc, wirc, and wyrc as alternative spellings of weorc. But, weorc is the West Saxon form of the word, and therefore the Old English form that most language experts would quote, because the centre of power and literacy was in the southwest at the time of the Danish wars. The 'eo' letters in Weorc can confuse people, but for pronunciation purposes the 'o' may be ignored, but it can help when trying to produce a strong rolling r sound. Anglo-Saxons would have strongly pronounced the r.
Over almost a thousand years, the town’s name has been written over 105 different ways. This is understandable, because for most of our history, ordinary community members were neither able to read nor write, and few communications were ever written down.
The spellings in historic documents were often decided by visitors, especially officials, monks and later mapmakers, who wrote down the names as they believed they had been spoken to them. Due to the sheer physical difficulties involved in map-making, people frequently lifted material from earlier works, without either checking accuracy or giving credit to the original cartographer.
The title Weorcingaton, was probably spoken but rarely if ever written down. The first known records were written soon after the conquest of England by the Norman French. After the 'kicking K', as primary school pupils call it, replaced the Latin 'c' and 'ch', the letters WKNTN are nearly always present in each word. It is only in the latter part of the twentieth century that the first 'n' and the 't' begin to be dropped.
Today, when speaking informally or blogging, people often call the town Wukki'n and Wucki'n, Wukitun, Wukintun, Wukkiton and Wukkinton, with the emphasis on the Wuk sound. Some dialect experts believe that it is essential to use the double k of Wukk in order to place appropriate emphasis on the K. For texting and chatting on line the preferred spellings are Workn, Wktn and Wkn.
New List of Workington's alternative spellings and abbreviations discovered by 30-01-2013
The 105 alternatives (found in 2009=10) are listed below
Weorcingaton and Weorcingatun
Werkinton (Transferred) CHECK
Since 1100, the Work in Work-ington has evolved through Wirch, Wirk, Wyrch, Work, Wirg, Wyrk, Wryk, Wurc, Werk, Wurk, Woork, Wynk, Wark, Wyrek, to Wuck, Wukk, Wuk and Wk.
The name for the people of the Workington, which began as the Weorcingas of Weorcinga-ton, has evolved through Wirching, Wirkyn, Wirchin, Wirchinghe, Wirchinge, Wyrchyn, Wirkin, Wirkyng, Wirkein, Workin, Wirke, Wirging, Wyrkin, Wirking, Wrykin, Wyrking, Wyrkyng, Wryking, Wurcing, Werken, Workyng, Werkyng, Wrykyn, Working, Wyrchyng, Wurking, Wurkin, Woork-king, Woorkyng, Wynkin, Workin, Wyrken, Werkin, Werking, Warking, Warkins, Worken, Wyrekin, Wurki', Worki, Worky, Wyreken, Wyreking, Wucking, Wuking, Wuckin, Wukin, to Wucki, Wukki, Wuki, Wkk and Wk. So today, the people of Workington are the Wukki of Wukkitn the Wk of Wkn.
Here are the names for our town: 1100 Wirchington; c1125 Wirkynton; c1130 Wirchintuna; c1150 Wirchinghetona; 1150 Wirchingetona; 1150 Wirchintona; c1150 Wirchintuna; 1160 Wyrchynton; c1180 Wirkintun; c1180 Wirkintuna; c1200 Wirkyngtona; 1190 Wirkeinton; 1200 Workinton; 1211 Wirketon'; 1240 Wirgington; c1202 Wyrkintun; c1200 Wirkingtun; 1275 Wrykinton; 1277 Wyrkingthon; 1277 Wyrkyngtona; 1278 Wyrkinton; 1278 Wyrkyngton; 1279 Wrykington; 1297 Wyrkington; c 1250 Wurcingtun; c1300 Wirkingtona; 1298 Wirkington; 1299 Werkenton; 1300 Wirkinton; 1300 Wirkyngton; 1350 Workyngton; 1405 Werkyngton; 1512 Wrykynton; 1564 Workington; 1565 Wyrchyngton; 1566 Wurkington; 1568 Wurkinton; 1569 Woork-kington; 1569 Woorkyngton; 1573 Wynkinton; 1576 Workinto; 1576 Wyrkenton; 1611 Werkinton; 1625 Werkington; 1638 Warkington; 1691 Wirkintonae; 1720 Warkinston; 1772 Workenton; 1778 Workintou; 1860 Wyrekinton; 1869 Wurki'ton; 1876 Workiton; 1901 Wyrekenton; 1901 Wyrekington and Wokington. Online today: Wuckington, Wukington, Wuckinton, Wukinton, Wukintun, Wukiton, Wukitun, Wukintn, Wukkitn, Wukkiton, Wucki'n, Wuki'n, Wukki, Wuki, Wkntn, Wktn and Wkn.
A variety of contemporary definitions of the word wuk can be found in the Urban dictionary. This suggests that the word wuk is not only important to people throughout West Cumbria, but has a more racy meaning for other English speakers.
The presence, at the end of the first part of the name (Work), of either 'ch', 'g', 'c' or the 'k' sound, strengthens the argument against the town being named after the River Wyre. In 1533, John Leland believed the town derived its name from the River Wyre. But, the River Wyre has its origins at Ellerbeck, Hunday and Distington(6) and actually enters the Solway at Harrington In 1688, William Camden quotes Leland, writing that the Wyre '…falls into the Derwent at Clifton…'(7), but it does not.
The most up-to-date text spellings like Wktn and Wkn have no need of the vowels. The letter sounds of Wkn are now the essence of the original Anglo-Saxon Weorcingaton, but unlike the other spellings we have looked at, this three letter word may not change in the next thousand years or more. If this proves to be true, it suggests that the evolution of 'Workington' as an Anglo-Saxon place name may have reached a conclusion. Whether this proves right or wrong, for the people of Workington that suggestion alone makes 'Wkn' a very important way of spelling our name.
Weorcingatun to Workington to Wkn
Research work on the evolution of Weorcingatun (Workington) as a place name is ongoing. Further work is needed to validate dates, dates of transcription, quality of 'online' sources and identify and acknowledge 'online typos'. This is because the text from some digitised sources may have been automatically generated, using an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and may contain mis-spelt words.
These spellings are special keys, with which to unlock our past and present. As historic texts become available electronically (online), we will learn more.
What sort of new sources should we anticipate becoming available? We should expect literature not just from Britain and Europe but from around the world: census returns, newspapers, and records from royal courts, civil courts, civil municipalities (village, town or city), religious institutions, shipping (ship registers, sailors' and ships' logs, port records), trading, school and university, charities and foundations, as well as personal diaries and correspondence.
If you are searching for family from Workington (Cumberland or Cumbria in England) you may wish to try a search using one or more of these 90 alternative spellings of 'Workington'.
West Cumbrian Place-names
If you are researching the history of another West Cumbrian place-name, use the web links to our list of alternative words for 'Workington', because they sit in texts, and on maps laced with the old names for all of our neighbouring settlements.
To Everyone You do not need permission to use, or adapt, any of the material on this site. Please feel free to make use of it as you wish. But if you do find it useful... just tell people where you found it... and if you get time, let us know how you used it.
If you are an artist and decide to use this page as inspiration, we'll post a photograph of your art in an appropriate place. It will help brighten up the text. School student's work welcomed.
This really is fascinating with excellent documentary evidence... I welcome this site and congratulate you on it. Dr Paul Cavill, Principal Research Fellow, Institute for Name-Studies, School of English Studies, University of Nottingham (October, 2009)
I created this web page and have posted a personal selection of findings from my own research. Therefore, I take full responsibility for all errors and/or omissions. Please feel free to comment on both the site's content and presentation.
Andy V Byers (email@example.com)