What’s in a name?

When you research through the few books that try to tell the complete history of Luton you are told that the name of the town comes from its relationship to the River Lea. So how true is this? Well in a way it is an interesting guess, but then why isn’t it called Leaton ?
The Bronze Age settlement that became a town was in fact named after the Celtic God Lugh. Lugh is said to have drank from the source of the river at Leagrave Common. The river and settlement were both named to honour him. The first known name and spelling was Lughton with the River Lugh flowing through it. The river’s name was changed by Saxons in the late 8th century . However the name of the settlement wasn’t.
Lugh meaning shinning one in Irish (Gaelic) was the Celtic God of the Harvest.
He was worshiped all over Central, Eastern and Western Europe by Celtic people. The celebration dedicated to him was and is at the beginning of the Harvest, on or around 1st August. The first Monday in August is even today a bank holiday in Scotland and Ireland. In Irish the day and the month of August are called Lughnasadh pronounced Loonasa, the time of celebration of Lugh. This is also a day of celebration and ceremony for modern day Druids and other pagans. It is a time of thanking the Earth for its abundant gifts of the harvest.
We don’t know exactly when Lughton, Lugh’s settlement was given its name.
We do know however that it was an important settlement of religious significance around 4,000 B.C onwards. Earthworks for a large ceremonial site still exist on Leagrave Common. There was an enormous wooden henge on the top of Warden Hill. Important burial mounds at Warden Hill and Sharpenhoe Clappers date back to at least 3,500 B.C.
As for Lugh well he is said to have been a mortal before becoming a God. He was said to have been King of the Great Isle (Britain). In Welsh stories he is called Llud(Clud). There actually was a King of Britain called Llud anglicized to Lud from 80 – 60 B.C. Lud was born in this part of England and was a leader of the Catuvellauni Tribe. The name London comes from him as he set up a settlement (city) on Hendon Hill. His capital was probably Lludlomion or Lughlomion which we now call Wheathampstead.
Back to Lugh he is said to have wanted to become part of the royal court in Tara, Ireland. To be accepted he had to prove himself to be the best blacksmith, fastest runner, a javelin champion and great poet.
So what’s in a name? Well in terms of Luton a fascinating, and interesting Celtic heritage that should be honoured and celebrated in harmony with all other cultures.
Neill Sankey, Celtic Historian

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