Friday, 11 August 2017

Road to royd

Moving seventy-five miles west has taken me to a new pool of distinctive surnames and place names.

It is a number of years since I posted about surnames with clear origins and frequency in Lincolnshire.  The particular examples then were Blades, Capes and Leggett, along with Motley and Riggall.  Examples I’ve noted since include Jacklin, Haith, Hannath and Mumby.  Each time I suspected a new one, I was able to test it on a website which gives the distribution of the surname in the 1881 census arranged by modern postcode areas (the link then no longer works, but this one does); one knows the surname is local where it shows a high frequency in one area, a lower frequency in some mainly neighbouring areas, and an almost nil frequency in the rest of the country.

So far I’ve stumbled on Emmott, Jowett, Tempest, Toothill and Robertshaw  as surnames with an apparent West Yorkshire origin, each with a much higher frequency in the modern BD (Bradford) postcode area or, for Robertshaw,just a touch further south with the greatest frequency in the HX (Halifax) postcode area.

Meanwhile, local place names also have a different character.  The Old English elements of names for a people (-ing-) and for clearings and enclosures (-ley and its variations, -burgh and its variations and – worth) remain: I’ve moved to near Keigh-ley from near Brad-ley, to near Stan-bury from near Stall-ing-borough, and now travel to the local Cathedral through Cull-ing-worth rather than through Fald-ing-worth (although the very immediate dominance of –worth endings may relate to being in the valley of the River Worth).

But the frequency of the Old English –den ending (for hill – there are more of them here than on the North Sea coast) is striking.  And the almost  total loss of the standard Old Norse settlement endings  –thorpe and –by (Sowerby is the only local occurrence) seems to indicate that later Scandinavian invaders either did not penetrate to the Pennine spine of the country or found little newly claimable (and thus newly nameable) productive land when they did so.

One feature of this lack of productive land turns out to be the frequency of the word royd, most often as a field name (or a consequential road name) than the name of a settlement as such.  The first local history talk we went to included a demonstration of the tools needed for the painstaking work of making a small section of moor into a cultivatable field.  Royd turns out to be the local word for such a clearing.

So I explored this with a visitor with both a West Yorkshire name and a royd address and he made the suggestion that I test on the website surnames ending in –royd.  And there they all are: Ackroyd (and Acroyd and Ackroyde), Boothroyd (but not Boothroyde), Holroyd (and Holdroyd and Holdroyde), Murgatroyd and Oldroyd all show up with 1881 occurrences tightly packed into West Yorkshire and all were largely unknown elsewhere at that time; evidence of the backbreaking pioneering work of an ancestor being carried around in a surname today.

The picture is taken above the West End Quarry on Penistone Hill, where we explored yesterday for the first time despite it being only twenty minutes walk from Haworth church.  You can see in the distance how far up the sides of a valley the cultivable fields have been established and then straight line boundaries with the unproductive moor.

1 comment:

Joy Davis said...

Thanks for the Surname link Peter, very interesting , have spent quite a while searching!

I recently had my Ancestry DNA results with some interesting findings, but as expected my main DNA genepool is 'Midlands and the North' so have been chasing up various surnames...great fun