St Asaph and Rhuddlan place names

St Asaph and Rhuddlan place names

The city of St Asaph has an unrelated name in Welsh: Llanelwy. “Llan” denotes an area of land enclosed by a wall, in which a church was normally the main feature. The “Llan” prefix is common in Wales and is usually followed by the name of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. However, in this instance the suffix is the name of the river, Elwy, on the west side of the city.

The -wy in Elwy refers to water and is common in Welsh river names. The El- element could have come from a word meaning “swift”. Another theory is that it could denote that the river had many bends.

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A 12th-century document records that the monastery and church in Llanelwy were founded in the sixth century by St Kentigern, who settled here after being exiled from Strathclyde (in Scotland). St Asaph, who had served Kentigern, became his successor as abbot-bishop. He is commemorated by the English name for the city, as well as the names of nearby villages such as Pantasaph and Llanasa.

Rhuddlan means “red bank”, referring to the colour of the banks of the river Clwyd here. Rhudd is a Welsh word for red or crimson. Glan = bank. The name was recorded as brudglann in the 10th century, Ruthelan c.1191 and Rodlan in 1291, soon after the castle was built.

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