Home Forums Devon The name ‘Lana’ in NW Devon

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    In the parish of Black Torrington there is a farm called Lana. Like many local farms it is isolated, on a ridge of dry land between the River Torridge and one of its tributaries. Other farms nearby have names, like Blackley, and Coham.

    About 3km north-west, there is a Lana Cross at Bradford and 12k west of this, near Pancrasweek, is a hamlet called Lana. About 7km south of Holsworthy, near Tetcott, is another Lana hamlet and 6km north-west of here, near Poughill, is Trelana Farm.

    So at least five Lanas, clustered on the Devon side of the Tamar, without (to my knowledge) many elsewhere? To my untutored ear Lan suggests the Welsh Llan, and, more broadly, something Celtic and my Cornish dictionary has ‘Lan’ as ‘enclosure, especially a religious enclosure’. Hence, for instance, Launceston and Lanteglos. But none of my Lanas, as far as I can see, is associated with an old church (although my third Lana happens to have a lovely non-conformist chapel which Pevsner/Cherry deem the most attractive in Devon). And, with the modest exception of Trelana, they are very unimaginative names: just plain LANA, with no explanatory prefix or suffix.

    Are these names the echoes of pre-Saxon settlements/churches/cemeteries? Or what?

    Please excuse me if this is well-trodden ground but I am new to this. Thanks, Roger


    According to The Place-Names of Devon (by Gover, Mawer and Stenton, 2 vols. 1931) it just means “Lane” (as in road, track). The one near Tetcott is described as deriving from Lucas atter Lane (1330 SR); Trelana probably derives from John atte Lane (also 1330 SR), with an explanation of Tre- being given as follows (on page 146):

    Tredown … was the home of Richard atter Doune (1330 SR). i.e. ‘at the down’. Tre here represents ME atter = OE … ‘at the’ (fem). “atter doune” being later wrongly divided as “at tredown”. Cf. Trelana, Treleigh … This development is very common also in East Cornwall, but there it may have been influenced by the numerous Celtic names beginning with “Tre-”.

    (1330 SR) refers to the Lay Subsidy Rolls.

    The Tetcott Lana is also listed in The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names (Watts, 2004), where it says “This is thought to be the place from which Lucas atter Lane was named 1330; ‘atter lane’ represents OE .. ‘at the lane’. OE ‘lanu’.”

    I hope this helps. I’m just reporting what’s in the books – I have no expertise of my own!


    Thank you so much, Wistman (and what a great user name).

    Yes, ‘Lana’ as ‘Lane’ would be logical, although rather disappointingly prosaic. And describing Lucas as ‘the bloke who lives just down the lane’ would be a bit unhelpful as just about everyone lived somewhere down a lane!

    I’ve now come across a book by Valerie Belsey called ‘Exploring Green Lanes’ and she takes her reader to the third of my Lanas, where she says: ‘The Dumnonii, resisting the Anglo-Saxon invasions, used the name -lana to refer to a burying ground for their tribesmen’. This would be a lot more exciting than the ‘lane’ explanation but that doesn’t necessarily make it true.

    Thanks again


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