Why one Welsh city has 26 different spellings
Monmouthshire - Nestled in the rolling Welsh countryside, it is possibly the hardest place in the country to find.
That is because the village of Trellech, in Monmouthshire, is spelled at least 26 different ways. Drivers, tourists and postmen must navigate their way to the village using a bewildering series of inconsistent road signs, each using a slightly different historic spelling from the past 1 000 years.
Maps, books and internet search engines also use different spellings. Road signs call the village Trellech, Trelech, Trelleck, Treleck and the Welsh version Tryleg, while signs on barns and old maps spell it Treleck and Trylegh.
Villager Stephanie Poulter, 72, a horse breeder, said: "Sat-navs, Google Maps and Royal Mail all use the unofficial spelling of Trelleck. No wonder people get lost."
"It really is very confusing to an outsider. The Met Office uses the unofficial Trelleck, as does the Royal Mail. We sign off our letters with whatever spelling we want. It’s fun."
Husband Alan, 73, said: "A tea towel on sale in the village proffers 22 options, including Treleeck and Trillet. A local book, Trellech 2000, published to celebrate the millennium, suggests 23. The Trellech United Community Council website raises this to 26. There may be over 30 – who knows?"
Trellech is believed to be the only village in Britain that has at least four spellings still in use. It is thought the Welsh name Tryleg means ‘conspicuous stone’.
Professor Hywel Wyn Owen, a former director of the Place-Name Research Centre, said: "Although it was quite common for places to have many historical spellings, Trellech stands out because of the way the locals have preserved these variants. It is very unusual to have four spellings still in use in 2018. In fact, I don’t know any other place like it."
Experts say the village, which was one of the largest towns in Wales in the 13th century, developed its confusing spellings as the name was historically spread by word of mouth.
Dylan Foster Evans, head of Cardiff University’s School of Welsh, said: "Between the 13th and 17th centuries, there was simply no need to write words down in a consistent manner. Even common English words could have hundreds of different spellings, so leg might have been written legg or legge. There was no impetus to agree. Undoubtedly, there is confusion."
"The current English spelling (Trellech) seems very Welsh, until you realise the double “l” and the “ch” are not pronounced the Welsh way."
"It is not so much the number of spellings that makes Trellech interesting, but the history and interplay of languages behind them. It’s a little window on to how people thought of the village and I’m sure locals are proud of the variety."