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be laid down as an axiom that all ancient names of places, however unmeaning many of them may now appear, are significant in the language of the people who imposed them. 2. We should endeavour to find out how the word was anciently spelt and written.' Without this precaution our labour must often be in vain, and we shall be in continual hazard of justly incurring the ridicule so generally cast upon the local etymologist. Many names of places, transmitted through successive generations of people ignorant of the language of those who bestowed them, have at length become so disguised and corrupted, that scarcely any of their original elements remain."
Sunderland not being mentioned by Ptolemy, neither in Antonine's Itinerary, the Notitia, nor in the anonymous Ravenna's Chorography of Britain ; and as no lettered stone has ever been found disclosing the secret, we have no means of ascertaining its name, nor by what legion or cohort it was garrisoned during the Roman period of our history. As before observed, we have good reasons for believing the port was known to the Romans : that warlike people had an eye to maritime situations, and the banks of the Wear possessed such local advantages as they were sure to lay hold of. But however this may be, certain it is that the harbour at the mouth of the river Wear, “ Wiramuthan,” or “ Sundorlande,” as Beda calls it, was well known in the Saxon ages, at which time it must have been much frequented, both on account of the maritime conveniences it afforded to the small craft which then navigated the coast, and of the celebrated monastery which occupied its northern bank.
For the earliest” notice of the“ district” now occupied by that densely populated portion of our important and
enterprising borough forming the “modern parish of Sunderland," we are indebted to Venerable Beda the celebrated writer and historian, whose birth-place it was. In that most pleasing of all his works, “The Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow," Beda informs us that Benedict, or Bennet, Biscop, the pious founder and first abbot of the monastery at Wearmouth, on his return from his (fifth journey from Britain but) sixth and last pilgrimage to Rome, “ among a great variety of other valuable things, brought two cloaks all of silk, and of incomparable workmanship, in exchange for which he obtained from King Aldfrid and his council, three hides of land—terram trium familiarum-near the mouth and on the southern bank of the River Wear.” This was about the year 686. Although not mentioned by name what other construction can be put upon this passage than that the land here alluded to is identical and co-extensive with the parish of Sunderland ? The quantity of land given, three families or hides, which we have no doubt was the extent of Sunderland in Beda's time, seems to place this matter beyond dispute. According to a survey made by Mr. Joseph Wilson and other officers of her Majesty's Board of Ordnance in the year 1855, the land and water area of the parish of Sunderland was two hundred and thirty acres, three roods, and fifteen perches. But in order to make assurance doubly certain, let us refer to another of Beda's works, that upon which his fame chiefly rests—his “Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation," wherein Sunderland is mentioned by name, and under circumstances to which we respectfully beg to draw the attention of our readers, as upon the passage about to be quoted, some grand mistakes have
been made. At the conclusion of his “ Ecclesiastical History” (book v., chap. 24), our venerable author gives a short biographical account of himself, and, after informing us that he was mass-priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow, adds, he was born at Sunderland of the same monastery ;' or, as King Alfred the Great has it in his valuable Anglo-Saxon version, “Wæs ic acenned on Sundorlande thæs ylcan mynstres."* It is only proper to add that the word " Sundorlande” is omitted, and “ territorium” substituted, in all the existing Latin copies of Beda's “ Ecclesiastical History” (not one manuscript of which, however, can be said to be in the historian's handwriting, nor even satisfactorily proved to be coëval with his time), and only found in Alfred's version. Whence the omission arose we cannot tell : if we were permitted to give an opinion, we would suggest it may perhaps be accounted for by supposing that some early scribe copied from a transcript, or perhaps original manuscript, which, through age, or from some other cause, had become partially illegible or obscure ; but, from the general tenor of the sentence, perceiving that Beda was born in some place belonging to the united monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, substituted the word “territory” for its name, thus passing it over as a thing of little or no importance : hence succeeding writers have transmitted the error down to us. But however this may be, certain it is that the word " Sundorlande” has given rise to much discussion, and led some to believe that it is nothing more than a just and proper translation of the Latin “territorium,” thus meaning any part of the monastic posses
• “Wheloc's Beda," p. 492; “Smith's Beda," p. 647.
sions : and as Professor Wheloc, in his edition (folio, Cambridge, 1644), has printed the word with a small initial, it has been inferred that he at least understood it in that sense. The Rev John Smith, S.T.P. (who was SMITH.
Rector of Bishopwearmouth), notwithstanding his local advantages, in his excellent edition of “ Beda's Ecclesiastical History" (folio, Cambridge, 1722), has also used a lowercase initial ; and Lye, in his “AngloSaxon Dictionary," and, more re
cently, Bosworth, has defined the word, “ separate or privileged land, territory, freehold land." The Rev. Joseph Stevenson has also failed to identify the Sundorlande of Alfred with our enterprising borough: speaking of the birth-place of Beda, he says, “ When Benedict Biscop returned from his journey to Rome in 672, he obtained from Ecgfrith, king of Northumbria, the gift of a large tract of ground lying on the north side of the river Wear, upon which he forthwith proceeded to erect a monastery. "The territory of this monastery,' as Beda himself expresses it, was his birthplace."* This passage is so rendered by King Alfred in his Anglo-Saxon version, as to have led to the supposition that the present town of Sunderland was the exact locality which Beda had expressed so vaguely. This supposition is a natural one ; and the temptation to
.... “natus in territorio ejusdem monasterii,” .... which is thus rendered by King Alfred : .... "wæs ic acenned on sundorlande thæs ylcan mynstres.” This term “sundorlande," as its etymology shows, means land set apart, or sundered from the rest for some particular purpose, as this district was for the use of the newly-founded monastery.-STEVENSON.
hazard it is certainly very great. The present town of Sunderland stands within a short distance of the spot on which the ancient monastery of Wearmouth was erected, and the similarity of the name to that mentioned by Alfred might at first sight appear conclusive evidence of identity. Yet the theory is attended with difficulties too weighty to be rejected. The present Sunderland stands on the south side of the river Wear; whereas the spot on which Beda was born was on the northern bank, as was the whole district granted by King Ecgfrith. King Alfred, moreover, as is obvious from the sentence in which it occurs, uses the word “Sundorland;' not as a proper name, but as a close rendering of Beda's Latin
territorium'; and other instances occur* in which these terms are explained the one by the other. We cannot, therefore, advance beyond the information which Beda himself has given us; and we must be satisfied with knowing that he was born somewhere to the north of the river Wear, and probably at no great distance from the present port of Wearmouth.”+ Now, if the words “ territorium” and “ Sundorlande” were synonymous terms, as alleged by Mr. Stevenson, might we not reasonably expect to meet with the same words in other passages of Alfred's version ? But are there any other parallel passages in that translation ? Mr. Stevenson himself acknowledges that " no other instance of the use of this
* Lye quotes two passages from an ancient glossary in the Cottonian MS. Julius A. ii., fol. 5 and 152, in which Sundorland is rendered by “separalis terra, prædium, fundus, territorium.-STEVENSON.
† Stevenson's Preface to Beda, in “ The Church Historians of England, i., 5.