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19 October 2009

Monday's Word - Cloister-garth

Doesn't this dramatic picture just make you want to sit down and write a gothic tale of romance and mystery?

It's actually the garth of Salsbury Cathedral, or to give it it's full name, cloister-garth, meaning an open courtyard enclosed by cloisters.

According to Michael Quinion in his 'World Wide Words' "there were once many such compounds, such as "apple-garth" (an orchard), "fish-garth" (an enclosure on a river or seashore for trapping or storing fish), "church-garth" (a churchyard), "willow-garth" (a field where willows or osiers are grown), "stack-garth" (a rick-yard, an enclosed space for storing stacks of hay, straw and other produce), "vine-garth" (a vineyard), and "fold-garth" (a farmyard)...

As you will have gathered, "garth" was once a very broad term. It
could mean almost any patch of enclosed ground used for a specific purpose, such as a yard, garden, field or paddock. It appeared in the northern parts of Britain in the fourteenth century and derives from Old Norse "garĂ°r", a yard or courtyard. Through Old Englishit's related to "yard" in similar senses, and also to "garden".

"Garth" is now rare except in British place names or historical or poetical writing. The personal name comes from the same source, as it originally referred to somebody who lived near an enclosure, especially a paddock or orchard."

I've had the good fortune to visit several 'garths', incluidng Strata Florida, near my old home in Wales, which is strictly speaking an old monastory rather than a Cathedral, and was where the Holy Grail, so legend has it, was kept by the monks before being taken to nearby Nanteos Mansion for safe keeping.


*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org