Herons or Eagles?

by Alice Cave

Eagles in Sherwood Forest...

Whoever you talk to, the name Arnold seems to have something to do with birds.  A careful look at the geography of the place would indicate that the commonly held derivation is mistaken.  It isn't the kind of country where eagles would come to nest, with their preference for tall trees or high cliffs.  Maybe it is conceivable that when the boundaries of Sherwood Forest swept this far south, eagles once soared above Robin Hood and his merry men?  As these birds prefer mountainous terrain, it's hard to think so. 

Photo:Front Street, Eagle Square

Front Street, Eagle Square

Digital Image copyright © North East Midland Photographic Record. All rights reserved.


In "The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire", Gover, Mawer and Stenton trace the name Arnold back to Ernehale, first recorded in 1086.  They then define earn(a) h(e)ale as "eagle(s') nook or corner". 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Arnold' page
A more sensible definition would be to accept that the word refers to a large bird, probably a heron.  This is a much more likely choice given the surrounding habitat.

A Roman Standard 

Captain Roy Peters, in "Ancient Life and Placenames in Nottinghamshire" pursues the eagle idea, but suggests it might have referred to a banner or standard, on which an eagle would have been a prominent Roman symbol.  With a known Roman encampment up at Dorket Head, those wanting to preserve the link between Arnold and eagles might find this a more believable story.

This page was added by Alice Cave on 08/12/2010.

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