What’s in a name?

Talking about place-names, it will surprise many people to know that Bedford has a special name in the Welsh language, reported the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 19 November 1915. ‘According to Johnston’s “Place names of England and Wales,” the Welsh name of Bedford is “Rhydwely,” which, being interpreted, probably means “Ford on the torrent,” and is said to be connected with the Welsh word “gwelgi,” but what that means our Welsh-speaking friends are best able to tell us. We asked one of them the other day to suggest a name for Bedford in Welsh, and he said “Pontgwely,” or something to that effect. On our suggesting that “pont” was a bridge, he said it was a word that would do for any way of getting across a river, and therefore would represent the “ford.” If “ford on the torrent” is the Welsh description of Bedford, it is surely a very ancient name, for we should have to go back to the Glacial period to find a torrent in the river Ouse.’

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