Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter

Nottinghamshire Surnames

By Clifford Hughes

This is intended to be the first, introductory, article in what I hope (subject to the wishes of the editor) will be a series of articles in this newsletter about Nottinghamshire surnames. The idea is to list surnames which are strongly associated with the county, with some discussion of certain names which appear of particular interest: in this connection I will take the opportunity of writing a few words about those names occuring in my own family tree.

I should add that the series of articles first appeared in the journal of the Notts Family History Society (FHS), and I acknowledge their support during the few years it has taken me to write the series.

I have approached the task alphabetically, and as an illustration of my intentions this article explores surnames beginning with the letter 'a'.

I became interested in the subject because of mine and my brother's work on our family tree, but also because of the number of 'lists' of names included in books I have acquired over the years, as set out below. These suggest that some names historically occurred frequently in the county but less often, or even not at all, elsewhere.

Because of the population movements which have taken place in the last 100 or so years, I have looked at 19th century distributions of surnames. Of the greatest help has been the gbnames website (, which shows the geographical distribution of most surnames for 1881. Even as late as that date, despite the population movements of the Industrial Revolution, some names are limited to Nottinghamshire alone. I also have information from pre-1881 censuses, and access to some 17th century documents provided in electronic form by the FHS.

The lists of surnames I have used to 'feed into' the National Trust site come from two principal sources. The first is the Hearth Tax returns for the county for 1664 and 1674, which, as I understand it, don't include all households - there was evasion and under-recording, and the 1664 returns do not include Nottingham itself or some other settlements. Nevertheless, one has to work with the best information available. The second source I have used is the regimental histories of the county regiments - Sherwood Foresters, Sherwood Rangers, and South Notts Hussars. Most of these include Rolls of Honour, or occasionally the names of all those who served. I am fotunate in having bought, over many years, almost a complete set of these regimental histories. These sources, with various other odds and ends, provide a wealth of names of people living in the county in the past. It may not be a complete list but for a non-academic study like this it will suffice.

Finally, as part of this introduction, I should define what I mean by a surname strongly associated with Nottinghamshire. There are three categories. The first consists of those names which in 1881 were found only in Nottinghamshire (perhaps with a few strays elsewhere). I must say that I was surprised that there were such names, given the small size of the county, its relative narrow shape (so that nowhere is very far from a neighbouring county), and the population movements which had already taken place by 1881. The second category is those names which, although found in other counties too, have their densest concentration in Nottinghamshire. There are many of these. The third category is those names which have their main stronghold elsewhere in another part of the country, but have a secondary concentration in

Nottinghamshire. Such a secondary concentration suggests the possibility that the name could have arisen in two or more separate localities, one of them Nottinghamshire. To make things simpler, I have not included names which most strongly occur in neighbouring counties such as Derbyshire: in these cases Nottinghamshire is merely on the periphery of what could be termed as 'someone else's concentration'.

So as a taster, here is my list of Nottinghamshire names beginning with the letter 'a': ABDY, ADLINGTON, ADWICK, ALLCOCK, A(L)LW00D, ALVEY, ANTCLIFF(E), ANTHONY, ARAM, ARME, ASHER, ASHMORE, ASKEW, ASTLING, ATTENBOROUGH, ATTEWELL.

These names immediately illustrate some characteristics of Nottinghamshire surnames. The first point is that none of this group is restricted to the county. Overall, for Notts, at least, there are few of these 'category one' names. There are several names which are most strongly associated with other areas, but which have secondary concentrations in Nottinghamshire - ABDY, ALLCOCK, ANTHONY, ASKEW, ADLINGTON, ASTLING, ATTEWELL. All the other names occur elsewhere, outside the county, but have the densest concentration in Nottinghamshire.

ADLINGTON and ATTENBOROUGH are interesting for their associations with noteworthy living people. Although David Attenborough was born in Leicestershire, the family name was more common in Nottinghamshire in 1881. This surname is unusual for Nottinghamshire in being a local placename which has given rise to a family name which in 1881 was stronger within the county than outside it. Most surnames derived from Nottinghamshire villages are commoner outside the county than inside it. Perhaps this is the result of the small size and narrow shape of the county. On the other hand, places outside the county have given rise to surnames within it, ADWICK being an example derived no doubt from the settlement of that name near Doncaster.

My maternal grandfather was Ernest ALLWOOD, from Mansfield. His branch of the ALLWOODs lived in Warsop in the 19th century, and William was noted in the parish register as 'sometime a soldier'. I have found military records of two William Allwoods serving in the Napoleonic wars, born in Lowdham,

Hoveringham, or Gunthorpe, but I have been unable to trace these through censuses and neither is 'my' William. Certainly at present I can take this no further. A later Allwood worked for the 'tunnelling' Duke of Portland as a labourer, and, along with others working on the Welbeck estate, was given a tricycle to get around the estate.

My ALLCOCK ancestors lived in Clipstone in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were the ubiquitous agricultural labourers, but also held about five acres as cottagers, a poor class of landholders who possibly descended from squatters on the village common lands. Enclosure was reducing the numbers of cottagers in the 18th and 19th centuries, so the survival of cottagers in Clipstone is interesting, and may reflect the poor quality of agricultural land there.

Much more could be written about the names listed above, but space is at a premium. However, anyone interested and with access to a computer could look at the gbnames website. If permitted, I will write next about surnames beginning with the letter 'b'.