Godolphin again

The King’s Garden, Godolphin House

First, many thanks to Sidney Wood for his comment on yesterday’s post and the information therein. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, the site Sidney refers to is to be found here. My response to Sidney’s comment looked as if it was going to be quite long, so I decided to do a separate post.

The first problem with the name Godolphin is that early forms of the name are very variable. Padel (A Popular Dictionary of Cornish Place-names, Penzance: Alison Hodge, 1988) lists the following: Wotholoca (1166), Gludholghan (1186), Wulgholghan (1194), Woldholgan (1201), Godholkan (c.1210) and Godolghan (1327). However, all these early forms have some sort of velar consonant at the beginning of the final syllable. This seems a good argument against Pryce’s (via Bannister) suggestion of fenten (“springs”) as the last element. Presumably the spelling <gh> stood for something like a velar fricative, either x or ɣ. The change to a labiodental fricative is not very surprising, given words like cough, laugh, trough.

The entry preceding that for Godolphin in Bannister’s book is for GODOLGAN. It’s not clear to me that this refers to the same name, but one of Bannister’s suggestions for this name come from Powhele’s History of Cornwall, 1806, where the final element is related to the Welsh word alcan, meaning “tin”. Maybe this is the source of the meaning “tin-stream”, given for Godolphin in Craig Weatherhill’s A Concise Dictionary of Cornish Place-names, Cathair na Mairt: Evertype, 2009.

Padel does not mention this possibility, so presumably doesn’t think much of it. However, it is true that the Godolphin family made their fortune out of tin-mining and the land there is very rich in tin ore. Apparently, the Godolphins were the first, or amongst the first, to use gunpowder in their mines.

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