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Pits of all kinds became place-names

Posted in British Countryside, British Towns, Historical articles, Interesting Words, Language on Sunday, 30 October 2011

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This edited article about place-names originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 851 published on 6 May 1978.

C18 coalpit, picture, image, illustration

A eighteenth-century coalpit by Harry Green

Do you live in Fallapit?

Or in any other place with a name ending in pit? If so, your town or village could have been the scene of industry or the capture of wild animals.

This is because the places bearing this name were originally beside a sawpit, where trees were sawn into logs, a coalpit, where coal was mined, or a pitfall.

A pitfall was a trap for wild animals, which could have consisted of a pit covered with bracken. An unwary creature on the prowl could have fallen into such a pit and provided the occupants of the village with a meal.

Woolpit in Suffolk got its name from a wolfpit that was dug near an early settlement. And Fallapit in Devon derives its name from a falling-into pit.

A story is told of the discovery of an abandoned baby in one of these pits. It was given the name of Pitt because it was found in a pit.

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