Caerwys place names

Caerwys place names

Caerwys is the smallest town in Britain with a Royal Charter, which it was granted in 1290.

According to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, Caerwys means “fortified place”. The name appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Cairos”. Caer means fort. The fortification is generally believed to be associated with the mound in a field called Erw'r Castell 'castle acre'.

The suffix “-wys” denotes “a place characterised by” (in this case a fortification). The fort may have been insignificant by the 11th century and the village may by then have been known from the prominent mound which had clearly been a fort at some earlier stage. Caerwys is always pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.

Another explanation suggests “-wys” comes from “gwys”, meaning fair or beautiful, but that would almost certainly lead to the stress being on the second syllable.

To hear how to pronounce Caerwys, press play: Or, download mp3 (16KB)

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society