Pennocrucium

Attested:  AI iter 2 Pennocrucio;   a charter of AD 958 has in loco famoso qui dicitur Pencric

Where:  Roman settlement at a road junction on Watling Street at SJ90251071 in Staffordshire, near Water Eaton, in an area with several Roman forts and camps, plus a successor name Penkridge 4 km away.

Name origin:  Welsh pen ‘head, principal’ plus crug ‘hillock, barrow’ are usually claimed as parallels, making the name mean something like ‘chief mound’ or ‘headland tumulus ’, but there are big problems with that idea.  For a start the settlement is in generally flat land, with no sign of a tumulus, though (Gelling & Cole, 2003:159) noted that a tumulus formerly existed 1 km away on Rowley Hill across the river Penk at SJ90251180.  Secondly, for Celtic words like pen “all attempts to identify a PIE root have proven futile” (Matasovic, 2008:177), and the claim that it meant ‘head’ in Roman times rests largely on circular logic, from Pennocrucio and from a reluctance to admit that penis could enter into ancient personal names; derivation from PIE *bend ‘protruding point’ seems most likely.  Thirdly, much the same holds for crug, because the ancient word *cruc fundamentally meant ‘circle’, as explained in great detail by Allcroft.  The best explanation of the name may begin with PIE *pen- ‘swamp’ (which led to the English word fen) because the excavated site that corresponds to AI's Pennocrucium and looks like a Roman road station was on ground only a few metres above the river Penk and its tributaries.  (Hence the modern name Water Eaton nearby.)  Then the *cruc may refer to the ring embankments that were archaeologically excavated there, serving as a mild fortification of the settlement after the army moved on, like what would be called a rath in Ireland, or like the embanked mansio complex or “coaching inn” excavated at Alfoldean.

Notes:  This analysis does not exclude the possibility that a non-military ringwork (henge, amphitheatre, etc) has been lost nearby.  Indeed, a mediaeval moot probably did gather around a sacred marker on a hill in that general area, as discussed under Eltavori.  Two other places, Pentridge in Dorset and Pentrich in Derbyshire, are candidates to derive from an original *Pennocrucium; if correct, that would slightly tip the balance towards Pen- meaning ‘point’.  On the other hand, *pen ‘swamp’ may be the root of the rivers Peene in Germany and Pant in Essex, both marshy areas, which have been explained as related to Russian пенаand other Slavic words for ‘foam’, and Welsh pant ‘valley, hollow’, respectively.  Peenemunde lies in part of the Baltic where Tacitus wrote that some people spoke like ancient Britons.  A good parallel exists in Ptolemy's Κρουκιατοννον, a πολις of the Ουενελλων, which was probably at or near Carentan, in the Cotentin peninsula of Normandy, a region that is rich in megaliths and tumuli, with the mound at Vierville closest to Carentan.  That name has many parallels in England, from Creighton to Crookbarrow, meaning essentially ‘moot hill’, but it puzzles Celtic experts who take the Cruc- part as referring to a mound (Lambert, 2005:244) not a gathering.

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Last Edited: 25 February 2017