Saturday, 7 April 2007

The Origin of the Surname

Taken from The Wedgwood Pedigrees

"As to the origin of the name Wedgwood there are three prevailing theories. All are agreed that the family takes its name from the farm-house near Brindley Ford; [Staffordshire] but the place itself has derivations according to taste. The romantic school, by analogy with the Wednesfield and Wednesbury (pronounced Wedgbury) derive us from the [Norse] god Woden. The geographical pedants, bearing in mind, perhaps, the trench-map outside Ypres, consider the original "wood" was shaped like a "wedge". This too, some discard, for there were then no maps. Most suppose that it was just the "wood" by the "way" - the way that crossed the Trent at Brindley Ford. Yet I do not believe that the "g" was ever hard, as in the German "weg"; and Prof. Weekley writes, "The pronunciation of the name seems to point to Wedgwood, from the shape of the wood. As you know, small woods are often named after common objects which they resemble in shape, - Plogstaert, i.e. plough-tail, is a famous example."

The name has been spelt precisely 198 different ways, from Weadgewode to Wegvud, from Widhewoode to Widgett, and the Widgett cousins I have not sought to trace. People who would permit such a degradation are better forgotten. The "d" first crept in about 1535. The squire adopted it. Then the squire, perhaps the first Wedgwood that could write, dropped out the "e" 1568-1588. Our pottery branch and the New Englanders never varied in the spelling since 1616, always Wedgwood.

But many of the Yorkshire colony (which left Staffordshire about 1650) insist on the second "e"; and the Darlington clothiers are still "Wedgewood & Sons"; and I am told that the stove-makers of San Francisco puts "Wedgewood" on his otherwise excellent stoves, yet he is supposed to derive from the Aaron Wedgwoods of North Staffordshire. The senior branch of Harracles varied from father to son. After the squire's death they generally carried the "e" till they died out in 1756; but under the inspiring influence of Oxford and Heraldic Visitations they sometimes dropped the "d" also and became ice more flatly "Wegewode". To the lack of orthographical precision in our name we may no doubt attribute the lack of such pedantic precision in the daily correspondence of the modern representatives. Why should Wedgwoods spell correctly?"

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