There are various opinions about the meaning of the name but it seems that the earliest known names for the town were "Aesc Tun", then "Eston" and later "Estonbury" and "Assheton".
It is usually supposed that the first element of the name refers to ash trees nearby. Ash trees were of religious significance to worshippers of the god Woden, so the name could indicate that Woden was worshipped here before the arrival of Christianity.
The elements "-ton", "-tun" and "-bury" signify settlements, such as a farm, small village or large house, with the first two often meaning a fortified settlement.
So, the name "Ashton" and its historical variants probably derived from a farm, homestead or settlement close to some ash trees.
There is some confusion over the origin of the "Lyne" element. A number of sources suggest that it refers to the place being under the line of the nearby Pennine hills. However, the name has only been spelt this way in modern times so this explanation seems unlikely.
One document of 1422 refers to the town as "Ashton sub Lima". Ashton later became known as "Ashton under Lyme". The name seems to have become changed to "Ashton under Lyne" by the time of the Victorian era.
It would seem, then, that "Lyne" has been corrupted from the word "Lime" or "Lyme". According to various sources, a likely origin of this "Lyme" element would seem to be from the ancient forest of Lyme, which at one time covered the uplands to the east of Southern Lancashire and Cheshire. The word "lyme" meant area of elm trees, and this would also be a likely origin of the names of Limehurst, Limeside, Lyme Park and even Newcastle under Lyme.
However, the word lime or lyme was a name given in Roman times to the area of former woodland that had been stripped back on each side of a Roman road. The major Roman road between Manchester and York ran through Failsworth, Hollinwood and Hathershaw, close to the present Limeside, then on through Cross Bank at the northern extremity of what became the parish of Ashton. So the use of this word in connection with Ashton could be a reference to its proximity the the Roman road.
Other sources suggest that the "under Lyne" elements come from latin words meaning "within the boundary", indicating that Ashton was just within the boundary of Lancashire and before that Northumbria.
Historian Winnifred Bowman believed that the name of Limeside had nothing to do with the Roman limes but originated from the lime pits and lime springs that were found in the area and which were considered to have health-giving properties, so Ashton's suffix could be derived from its closeness to these lime pits.
So, there is not one clear answer to the origin of the name, but it could well be the town takes its name from a house near some ash trees in a forest of elm trees!
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