Attested: Coccuveda (or Cocuneda or Coccimeda) at position 186 in the Ravenna Cosmography; Bede Cocuedi fluminis
Where: Thistleyhaugh NZ129984, near Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland, where the Roman road known as the Devil's Causeway (Margary 87) crossed the river Coquet where it is easy to ford.
Name origin: Coccuveda begins like Latin coccum and Greek κοκκινος ‘scarlet’, a word derived from plant-gall dye technology developed in the ancient Middle East. It ends like Latin vadum or Old English węd.
Notes: Both Richmond & Crawford and Rivet & Smith identified the Coquet, but:-
Their “red porphyritic debris” idea is feeble; at best a few local rocks are flecked with purple or pink.
Coccuveda cannot refer to the actual river, since when the Cosmography means a river it explicitly says so.
The road's crossing of the river has been obvious on Ordnance Survey maps since the 1800s.
Ekwall (1928) wrote that “the water is not red, nor is there any suggestion of red in the banks”.
Rothbury, the biggest town on the river, has a name that begins like red.
It would be simple to jump or to walk a plank bridge over the river Coquet near the Chew Green fortlet and camps, which are in rather bleak country compared with the lush arable land downstream, where river crossing needs to be taken more seriously. Placing Coccuveda upstream would impose a very unlikely backtrack on the Cosmography's sequence of names leading to Bremenium. Presumably a local central place friendly to the Romans occupied the promontory fort in the river bend of the later Brinkburn Priory. And Alwinton on the river Alwin looks suspiciously like another descendant from Alauna commonly applied to small rivers, hinting that the main river name did not become Coquet until lower down.
So why was the river *coccu red? The answer must lie in the rich supplies of iron ore, coal, limestone, and timber in the Rothbury area plus a hypothesis that in Roman times there was an active iron-working industry that foreshadowed what sprang up in the 1840s. Rivers tend to get names based on ‘red’ after geologically recent disturbance of iron ore deposits (often by human mining activity) puts iron in their water. Early miners would of course exploit easy pickings from seams at the surface, but did they also use coal in Roman times?
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