Source of the name "Chalfont St Giles"

The derivation of the name Chalfont St Giles can be split into two parts. The relatively easy part is St Giles which is clearly the dedication of the parish church to St Giles , a saint born in Athens in 640 AD. This distinguishes the parish from that of Chalfont St Peter.

In the Domesday book of 1086 there are two separate manors of Chalfont, Celfunte and Cedfunte which were two separate land holdings prior to the conquest and were given by King William to two separate people. The first record use of St Giles was in 1237 when it appeared in its latin form of St Edigii.

The more controversial part is Chalfunt. In 1925 the English Place Name Society firmly stated that both syllables were of British celtic origin, the first was a personal name Caedel, said to appear in a charter of 949 AD, and the second was Funta meaning spring.

The derivation based on Caedel as the first syllable now seems to be discredited but there is still a controversy. That name is now more realistically assigned to Chadshunt in Warwickshire. The most recent book I have is Gelling, M. and Cole, A. 2003 "The Landscape of Place names". The authors are not even consistent. Ann Cole who contributed a section on Chiltern place names puts the derivation as "calfs spring" although her rationale is not strong. Margaret Gelling who contributed most of the book says it is based on "Chalk spring" although in an earlier book of 1978 she favoured "calf's spring".

The original source of Caedel is said to go back to an Anglo-Saxon charter of 949 AD. This was a charter of King Eadred granting Reculver in Kent to Canterbury Cathedral ( See ) It was the only charter he granted that year. I have looked at the on line copy at Canterbury cathedral but can see no reference to Caedel. Looks like one of those plausible myths that are almost impossible to eradicate. There is also suspicion that this charter is a forgery.


CONTRIBUTION From Greg Edmund.

I note from the English place name society the name "Caedel" appears in relation to the parish of Chadshunt in Warwickshire, which might be the origin of the Chalfont connection as the early spelling is (Caedelsfunda). However were "Ceadel" the etymology of the prefix in Chalfont, I would expect the hard "d" to be represented like it has in 'Chadshunt'. I feel a more likely etymology is to be found in a boundary estate description for "Pinesfeld" recorded in a 12th Century transcript purporting of a Land grant in AD796. Whilst the date raises obvious suspicion, the use of language is accurate comparable to other known early 9th century documents so it would appear quite reliable. Pinesfeld descends to us in Pinesfield Farm and Pynesfield Lake near Rickmansworth, so we can also be confident of the location described, particularly with other direct references to the River Colne. In the account it records "on Cealcfuntinga gemaerhagan" translated as "to the boundary enclosure of the people (inga) of the chalk spring (cealc funta)". To me this name "Cealcfunta" more closely associates with the earliest reference to Chalfont as "Celfunte" in the Domesday Book. The chalk of the chiltern hills also provides a very logical connection. Although it is possible that a personal name has provided the prefix to the current name, I favour the topographic route as the origin of the name.

Just thought I'd let you know my own thinking, to see if it will generate a debate!

------------------------------------------   May 2015

REFERENCES. Unless otherwise specified, all references given above refer to catalogue references at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies at Aylesbury. (County Record Office)

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