The Farnborough Explorer
Interesting Things Around Farnborough

Cockadobby Hill

On the Queen's Roundabout in North Camp, behind the war memorial, you will see a little hillock, overgrown with trees, this is Cockadobby Hill, one of only two ancient roundbarrows remaining in Farnborough. It probably dates to around 800 BC. Contrary to some published information, the name does not derive from a Saxon word for "goblin", the word "Dobby" is of a much later date and means an elf not a goblin.

Dobby: a benevolent elf or sprite that performs household duties in secret . Earliest dating is from J. B. S. Morritt's 1811 letter to Scott 28 December, published in J. G. Lockhart's Life of Scott, "She became a ghost under the very poetic nom de guerre of Mortham Dobby."

The Saxon for a goblin is Nihtgenge (nightwalker) or Puca (from which we get Puck). The earliest etymological dating for Dobby as an elf is nineteenth century and too late (though it is certainly the derivation of Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter!), we know that Cockadobby was already in use in 1790 (See Article: Stand and Deliver) and therefore "Dobby" must derive from another word and meaning in this case.

Likewise, the word "Cocka" is said by some published articles on the hill to derive from Cockney "My old Cocker", meaning "Boss", thus creating a definition for the hill's name of "Boss Goblin" or "Hobgoblin". The only problem with this argument is that the East-End expression "Me old cocker" is a derivation of the expression "Me old cock-sparra" meaning cheeky person and is mid 20th century, again too late.

In Saxon times, barrows were associated with one of two things: ancient burials and dragons guarding treasure hords (for example, see Beowulf). In all likelihood, Cocka derives from Saxon "Cofa" meaning an under-hill cave, while dobby is probably a corruption of the saxon word "draca", meaning dragon. It is most probable that the Saxon name for the barrow was Cofdraca cnolla, meaning dragon cave hill.

Cockadobby hill was originally on open heathland, with four paths approaching it. As civilisation encroached upon it, the paths became roads, a war memorial was cut into the North side of the barrow and eventually it became isolated on the Queen's Roundabout, having a large chunk removed from the East side and a brick wall to stop the remainder of the earthwork sliding onto the road.

In comparison to the number of barrows in England, very few have names, especially names of Saxon origin and those that do have names appear to have held some special importance in Saxon times. Considering that Cockadobby hill was sited at the junction of four paths, in all likelihood, this barrow was used in Saxon times as a 'Knab Parliament'. These were community gatherings where laws were made, disputes were settled and crimes were tried. In  Saxon times they were also known as 'Thing Moots' although such gatherings date back to pre-Roman times and were well documented by Tacitus. A 'Knab' (or in today's language, a 'Knob' or 'Knoll') is Saxon for a small round hill, usually a barrow. The most complete Knab Parliament in England is Cuckhelmsley Knab on Beacon Hill in Berkshire, although the Knab itself was badly damaged by Victorian Archaeologists.

More interestingly, one Knab Parliament still functions today, the Tynwald on the Isle of Man. Tynwald derives from Thing-Vollr, 'Vollr' being the Viking word for Moot. Every  year on the 5th of July, the Parliament of the Isle of Man holds the Tynwald outdoors at its original location, a tiered hill called 'Cronk-y-Keeillown', where any member of the public may watch the governmental process in action – both literal and metaphorical 'Open Government!' The Tynwald is recognised to be the oldest operating parliament in the world and is believed to date back as far as the 900s. It only differs today from the Knab Parliaments in that it no longer tries criminals.

In a Knab Parliament, the council of the local elders (called the 'Wittan') would gather at the Knab to promulgate edicts, swear in officers for the shire who were called 'Gerefa' (pronounced yerefa, from where we get Shire-gerifa or 'Sheriff'), hear petitions, then hold trials of crimes brought before them.

Usually in front of the knab, there was a stone or monolith from where evidence was given and cases were stated by those who had a grievance. This stone was known as the 'Moot Point' from which the expression derives. The presence of such a stone would confirm Cockadobby as a Knab Parliament, but in all likelihood evidence for it was destroyed by the war memorial.

The barrow, now forgotton to all but a few Farnborough residents became a scheduled monument in 1950 and is now scheduled as national monument 12155