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What's in a Name?

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: Barbara Atack and Keith Stansfield

Monday, 9 November 2015

Nah then, then?

On Wednesday 28th October, a large audience at the Hebden Bridge Local History Society heard a talk from Keith Stansfield and Barbara Atack entitled "What's In A Name?", an insight into local dialects and surnames of the Calder Valley, and the sometimes unexpected historical links between both.

What’s in a Name

Barbara Atack spoke about how, around the 14th century, the surfeit of common Christian names (John, William) in a growing population created the need for surnames, and how in many cases these were derived from either occupation, parentage (e.g. Jim o'Bobs meaning 'son of Robert') a nickname ('Longbottom') or a place name such as Stansfield or Wadsworth.

In the Upper Calder Valley, surnames based on habitat were commonly used thanks to dispersed settlements across the region. But the growing number of names for any given location means that historical records often become confusing or misleading. For instance, Heptonstall Parish Records from 1594 to 1812 show 3,785 entries for Greenwood and 2,946 for Sutcliffe. This does not necessarily imply any blood relation, causing quite a headache for family historians!

Stansfield is a name with 833 mentions in the aforementioned records, and Keith Stansfield's family connections in the area can be traced back many centuries. Mr Stansfield entertained his listeners with an account of lost phrases and idioms ("You've been laiken in't wattergate again" – you've been playing in the river) and reminding them of that everyday greeting of yesteryear, "Nah then, then?" –  to which the respondent would, of course, reply "Nah then…"

In fact accents were often so particular to small regions in the Calder Valley that speakers from one homestead would be unintelligible to those from another. Mr Stansfield spoke of an ancestor, Joe a'Jim o'Bobs, who attended Colden School upon its opening in 1878. In the same year the headmaster wrote in the school log that the pupil's poor spelling was most likely due to local pronunciation; perhaps accounting for why in official documents Earlees, Jim O'Bob's home, was written as 'Yerlees'. Showing, for instance, how a family name based on the long-vanished hamlet of Etough might become a surname such as 'Atack'.

The next meeting of the HBHLS is on 11th November, when Stephen Jagger will conclude his history of Calrec audio company – based in Nutclough, Hebden Bridge – where he was managing director from 1989 until 2009.

Previously, on the HebWeb

The Lost Kingdom of Elmet (1 Nov 2015)

When Oxford University Came to Hebden Bridge (29 Oct 2015)

The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of the Colden (1 April 2015)

Gruelling Experiences - in the workhouse (16 March 2015)

Pre-History on our hill tops (9 March 2015)

Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)

Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)

Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)

Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)

Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)

Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)

Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)

The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)

Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)

History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)

Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)

Yorkshire Life between the Wars: speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Read more (20 March 2014)

Industrialisation and the Calder Valley: Communities in a unique landscape - Talk by Dr Stephen Caunce Read more (3 March 2014)

Quarrying in Calderdale: George Bowers gave a talk on the history of stone quarries in our local area. Read more (15 Feb)

Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)

Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner


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