Placename - Background Torpenhow


The place-name Torpenhow in Allerdale was said by the seventeenth-century historian of Cumberland, John Denton, to be made up of three elements – ‘tor’ meaning hill (Saxon), ‘pen’ meaning hill (British) – and ‘how’ meaning hill (Old Norse) – so the whole name meant Hill-hill-hill!

The Place-Names of Cumberland. Part II (Cambridge University Press, 1950), p. 325-6, interpreted 'tor' as British, though it later becomes a loan-word into Old English, meaning a peak - plus 'pen', also British - thus meaning 'peak head' - to which was then added the Anglian word 'hoh', meaning a heel or projecting piece of ground.  The English Place Name Website suggests the 'torr' element is Old English for a rocky peak, added to the Primitive Welsh word 'penn' for a head, height or hill, while they agree the final element is the Old English 'hoh'.

Whichever way you look at it, though, it still seems to more-or-less be saying 'hill' three times!

Text by Bill Shannon

Photo Geograph Images, David Brown