Returning to the S.W. side of the parish, we must mention the name of River, which occurs in the large wood of a hundred acres and the adjoining farm. It is a good example of the topsy-turveydom of place names because it means “hill”, and not “river”. It comes from the old English word “yfre”, meaning a hill. Rivers Wood crowns a small hill which rises sharply from the low surrounding meadows. Even so late as the 19th century, Rivers Hill is mentioned in the Highway Surveyor’s Accounts. The famous River Hill near Sevenoaks is another instance of the same development of the word “yfre” – the “hill” is added because the meaning of the first word has been forgotten. We should hardly call it “hill-hill” if we knew.

There are no very early references to River. The earliest at present forthcoming dates from about 1470, and is contained in the Cowfold Churchwardens’ book. It is a note that the reeve of Slaugham has made a meadow of seven acres in Ardingly called “Reveres Mede” for “my Lady”, and gives the cost of the work. It is not certain who “my Lady” was, but probably she was Alianora, heiress of Sir Richard Poynings, and widow of Sir Henry Percy, third Earl of Northumberland, d. 1461. For further particulars see Sussex Notes and Queries, No. 1, 19.

Place Name Index