Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Ashover & the Origins of Needham's

1. Ashover family updated. Bigger job for tree. Will be a couple of days yet
2. origins of Needham
GM wrote:

My wife is a Needham whose family also came from Sheffield (in her case via Chesterfield and Castleton).  But, she was born in Burley-in-Wharfedale.

You write:  If you find something amiss or you are willing to add to the information in the site then please contact me

So, I have a question.  I may pester you with more, so tell me when I should stop.

On the origin of the name, you write:  The name Needham is thought to have come from the Olde English pre 7th century elements 'ned' meaning need, with 'ham', a homestead or village; the name indicating a place that provided a poor living.

This is certainly what was thought by Reaney, et. al.  However, there are alternatives to present.  For example, this website for Needham,. MA in the US has an intriguing theory.  Naturally they’re writing about Needham in Anglia, not Derbyshire.

The word “Needham” comes from the Anglo-Saxon, and means “Lower Village” (Germanic nieder– = nether or lower, and –ham, signifying a village or hamlet).  See http://needhamhistory.org/features/articles/needham-name/.

The word “Needham” comes from the Anglo-Saxon and means “Lower Village,” with nieder being Germanic for nether or lower, and ham signifying a village or hamlet, according to the Needham Historical Society.  See http://needham.wickedlocal.com/x481250485

I find this interpretation especially appealing because of the common use of Nether in place-names in both Hallamshire (Nether Hallam bierlow) and in Hartington Parish itself (which had upper, middle, town, and nether quarters).

While one of these alternate theories may or may not be true, both seem to be valid contenders, unless you have facts to the contrary.  Should both be presented?

NN reply:

Thank you for your mail and the well argued view you have put.

You are quite correct there are at least two basic views on derivation of the name and where the Needham family originated.


'The OS map has three places in England with Needham in it: Needham , Derbyshire; Needham, Norfolk, and Needham Market in Suffolk. It has always been thought in the UK that the Needham's  originated from Derbyshire and took the family name from High Needham/ Needham Grange. But the two places in East Anglia; Needham in Norfolk and Needham Market in Suffolk might dispute this. However, it is apparent from the history of Needham Market published by the Needham Market Society that it has no connection with the Needham family but the same cannot be said of Needham in Norfolk.The Norfolk village of Needham is mentioned in the Doomsday book and it is clear that people there subsequently adopted the family name Nedham/Needham ..

So I've concluded that Needham Market has nothing to with the family. This means that either:
1.the Needham family name either came from one of  two places Needham in Norfolk or Needham Grange or
2. these 2 places were named after the Needham family

Before the 12th century virtually no one had a surname or family name. These started to be used from the middle end of the 11th century when King  William wanted to know who on owned what lands and who owed him money. see attached document. As a consequence the name structure we use (Christian name(s) followed by a surname) came into being and surnames began to be used. See attached

So I've concluded that the Needham family name came from the place Needham not the place of Needham being named after the family. In fact most of the references to Needham's from the 11th century to the 16th century are called xxxx de Needham or xxxx de Nedham ie xxxx from Needham or xxxx from Nedham

So why is village/place of Needham called Needham; where does the name originate?

When I wrote the website section on the origins of the name I was, as you point out, conscious that there were two basic schools of thought. The one you allude to appeared to me to originate in N America and be based on the assumption that the Needham's came from East Anglia (ie Norfolk or Suffolk). My view is that the Needham's originate from Derbyshire. So why do I say this:

1. If you look at the distribution maps of where Needham's live few if any live in East Anglia. The highest concentration is around North Derbyshire
2. The history books of Norfolk and Suffolk claim nothing about the origin of the Needham family.  In the official history of Needham Market it states there is no link between the Needham family and the town/village but the source you quote appears to be that associated with the name Needham Market not the Needham family
3. The main family lines all lead back to High Needham/Needham Grange in Derbyshire

So i wrote the section based on this premise and used what I thought was the accepted derivation of the name (in the UK I should add). As an aside I should say that I respect the work of Reaney immensely. However, I should for the sake of balance give the alternative view(s) and give my reasons for dismissing them. I had been thinking of doing this but now you have raised it I'll push it up the priority list

Can I thank you for your well argued mail. I'm always happy to be challenged in what I've done. It's the main way to improve.

Could I ask a favour of you. Would it be possible to get a copy of or gain access to your wife's family tree. I'm intrigued to see the Needham's moving around so much

GM  countered;
In Grass Roots of English History, in the Chapter on “Villages, Hamlets and Farmsteads”, David Hey noted that one came guess the linguistic origin of placenames by their common suffixes.

On p. 68 he noted that a ton/tun was an Anglo-Saxon suffix for a farmstead that (often) grew into a villages surrounded by arable fields.  I note that one close neighbor of Needham Grange and High Needham in Derbyshire is Cronkston Grange.  Was this an Anglo-Saxon name?   
Buxton, the nearest large town was of the same construction.
If they are Anglo-Saxon, Needham might be as well.

Both interpretations (need a home and nether hamlet) seem to assume that the suffix in Needham means home or the related term hamlet.
Hamlet can be of either French or Norwegian origin.  https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hamlet.  So it could be Norman, Viking, or even, perhaps, AngloSaxon??
Home is more clearly Germanic,  having parallels in Frisian, Old Norse, Danish, Dutch, German, etc. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=home.  So it was more likely Anglo-Saxon or Viking??

In any case we have a mix of possible origins. 

Even English “nether hamlet” could have morphed into Needham, IMO.

Moving into speculation, to try to create a theory that could be proved or disproved:

If Needham was the Nether Hamlet, one needs to ask, where was the Upper/Larger Hamlet?
Francis Needham, in his website on Needham Grange asks a possibly related question, “Why was Nedham not in Domesday despite having an Anglo-Saxon name?  Perhaps because it was a farmstead rather than a settlement?”

If Needham means nether hamlet, then Francis is right to guess that Needham was a part of a larger “settlement”.
At a guess, that might have been Cronkston Grange. 
Cronkston Grange was apparently gifted to the Cistercian monastery of Merevale.   If you draw a circle from the Cronkston Grange, with a radius equal to the distance from the grange to the Crockston Lodge, and Cronkston Low, the circle would include “high” Needham  (or the Nether Hamlet of Cronkston Grange).  Could this be the origin of the name.

This is clearly only a wild theory.  But it might be possible to confirm or reject it with evidence.
If so, we’d have to find this in the records of the Cronkston Grange, if any exist, before or during the Cistercian ownership of the grange.

and then:

Brainstorming here:

  • If the needham name means “someone who needs a home”, then it was a surname first, not a place-name.  (People need homes, places don’t.  By the time they are in a “place”, they have a home.)

  • But, I think below, you concluded Needham was a place-name first, because the early uses of the name were [a given name] de [needham or a variant spelling].  This makes sense to me.

  • The interpretation “nether hamlet” better fits this place-name first conclusion, because “nether hamlet” describes a place, not a person.
I intend to change the Origin section on the website.

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