Toponymy is the study of place names, ...their origins, meanings and use... and Etymology is the history of words. 
Using these two branches of research, we began a comprehensive study of local place names and their origins, and 
how their form and meaning may have changed over time.
Reference books on English place-names proved to be about as much help as the proverbial chocolate teapot
and usually 'suggested' possibilities of what names meant; 
"possibly" this, and "possibly" that, ...and "probably" this and "probably" that: 
Random example: Huxley Ches. Huxelehe early 13th cent. 
Probably 'woodland clearing of a man called Hucc'. OE pers. name + Leah.
And so the listings continue... possibly land owned by a man called such and such...  
probably a woodland clearing of a man called such and such... or that of his followers... 
...clearly, the scholars who wrote this stuff have been fumbling about in the dark much of the time, and it is 
doubted that records even exist of these 'probable' men, because, if any of this was known for sure, 
and these authors had obtained proof, say from The Domesday Book, 
then they wouldn't keep using terminology that means by the merest chance, perhaps or maybe. 
If they didn't know the answer, then why didn't they just leave these entries blank? 
but then again, what else would they have left to fill their books? they have to pad it out somehow. 

Well, we're sorry, but those kind of guesstimations are not very satisfactory.

Next, we personally consulted a couple of University academics about the matter and learned more: 
and straight from the horses mouth we had our suspicions confirmed.
We were more or less told that, apart from explanations about obvious terms, such as common 
generic forms in place names like *'Ham' = farm, house or homestead... and that type of thing, 
many entries in popular Place Name Dictionaries were not at all reliable, 
and often merely a matter of speculation and assumption. 
*For your own research you must double check whatever is stated here because 'ham' for example, does not always mean 'farmstead' etc, - there are various possibilities.
Fact is, many place names came into being before official records began, that is why there is so much 
uncertainty amongst today's students of the subject; 
and in the abscence of written evidence, deduction rears it's ambiguous head.
According to local dialect, lots of place names have been spelled in different ways at different times, 
and in different contexts. 
Many have also become corrupted and altered over time.
Folk from pre-Caxton times, (and even in following centuries), tended to spell phonetically, 
as, back then people wrote words more or less how they were pronounced.
Plenty of location titles can be found like this, Old English words formed phontically, and which 
were so-named as a recognition of the previous useage, owners, dwellers etc, 
Even natural landscape features, (which were once held in high esteem by those of pagan communities), 
sometimes played a part in the naming of land areas
...a factor often overlooked by many of today's historical researchers.
Or maybe the truth is, this connection is being deliberately glossed-over by many compilers of 
English Place Name books, as it doesn't fit in with the task assigned to them.
Our Pagan Ancestors lived their entire lives shrouded in superstition, and they harbored a great respect for the earth, 
something that we, in this modern age of scepticism and self-destruction, would do well to learn from.