Christmas card lists: just names and addresses? Well, names can be fascinating, and a very personal heritage in their own right. Fashions in deciding what we are called are often influenced by historical happenings. So, which events occurred locally, and how did Middlewich names change over time? All these people resided here before us… Some may even be your own ancestors.
Prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066 names were mostly Old English. Landholders of this district included Godwine (Kinderton and Croxton), Gruffydd (Newton), and Almaer (Sproston). Very Anglo-Saxon. With the influx from Normandy came a vogue for Richards, Hughs, Williams, Alberts, Johns, Rogers and Roberts. These have lasted nearly a thousand years! New Norman lords in our area were Gilbert de Venables (Kinderton), Richard de Vernon (Bostock), Hugh Delamere (Byley) and William Malbanc (Sproston).
The ‘de Middlewich’ French form was still used in later medieval times. In 1310 William son of Thomas de Middlewich granted premises to his daughter Amice. Nowadays that sounds like a real touch of class. Hugely influential changes began with the Church of England in the 16th century. Translations were made into English of both New and Old Testaments. Effect? A wider variety of Biblical names on offer, many with contemporary appeal of having no Roman Catholic associations. This long trend extended to 19th century Middlewich, as glimpses at local records reveal.
In 1850 Moses Reid was a nursery-man on Pepper Street. Maybe this is apt: his name refers to ‘pulling out of water’. Caleb Simcock ran the Wheatsheaf pub on (since demolished) Lower Street, below St Michael’s Church. Caleb is Hebrew for ‘bold, impetuous, whole-hearted’. Also on Lower St, Absalom (Old Testament ‘Father of Peace’) Clayton ran the Horse and Jockey. Master of the Grammar School at Newton was Ebenezer Newman. ‘Ebenezer’ was popular with Puritans, alluding to a stone set up to commemorate help.
‘Isaac’ apparently invoked laughter. Isaac Wood of Newton Hall was Archdeacon of Chester from 1847 -1865, probably very solemn though. In 1874 Mr Ezra Harthan, listed under ‘gentry and private citizens’ lived at Newton Bank. His Hebrew name meant ‘helper’. Noah (of Ark fame) had three sons, one of whom was Shem. On Wheelock Street in 1892 was butcher and cattle dealer Shem Darlington, another butcher was Elijah (incorporating the Hebrew name for God) Webb, whilst Abraham (‘exalted father’) Sant ran refreshment rooms there. Quite a set!
One final (curious) address… In 1939 town official Albert Sheckleston was the Water Inspector – living at Sewage Cottage. Yes, names are fascinating.
Julie Elizabeth Smalley