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Farm where nuns tried to tame the wild woods
NUNTHORPE, on the edge of Middlesbrough, has a name that brings us back more than 1,000 years.
The first thing that strikes us on looking at the two syllables is the final “thorpe”: thorpe is a Viking word meaning farm and it is Nunthorpe’s Viking origins that allow us to be so certain about its dates, for the Vikings only arrived in Britain in important numbers in the ninth century and only began to settle our region in the tenth and 11th centuries.
Nunthorpe, then, cannot be older than the ninth century and probably dates to the Viking settlements of the next generations.
But this is not all that the word has to tell us. Thorpe was often given to farms that were a little off the beaten path: Nunthorpe, then, was reckoned by the Vikings to be out in the sticks.
In fact, we know that it was the possession of a large farming estate that revolved around Great Ayton, once the biggest centre in this part of the world before Middlesborough asserted its dominance.
The first part of the name, Nun, needs far less explanation.
Nun means, well, nun, for this was the Nuns’ Farm.
And, in fact, records confirm that there was a small Cistercian nunnery here in the 12th century.