Digweed – origin of the surname

Researching the Digweed side of my family has been much helped by Jenny who had already done so much before I even got started. She has also been a wonderful source of family photographs, something which adds so much to the stories of our ancestors.

What I hadn’t realised, until I started to look at my Digweed ancestors, is that the surname isn’t a Yorkshire surname. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Family Names, Digweed, and its variant Digwood, is a locative surname. Their presumption is that it comes from Thickwood in Colerne, Wiltshire. At some point -weed was substituted for -wood.

The dictionary also provides some information about early bearers of the surname, the earliest of which was Thomas de Thikwode, found in Colerne, Wiltshire in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls. So far, I have traced the Digweed line back to probably my 8th great grandfather William Digweed, possibly born about 1600 in Thatcham, Berkshire; a place about 43 miles from Thickwood. Interestingly the dictionary mentions a record for Guilelmi Digweed 1683 in Kingsclere, Hampshire and two records in Thatcham: Thomas Digweed 1691 and Ann Digwood 1764, which could be relevant to my research.

Unfortunately, the only available on-line parish records for Thatcham are transcriptions with the earliest baptism an unnamed Diggwid dated 16 March 1627, earliest marriage John Digweed/Digwood to Mary Norcutt on 30 November 1612 and earliest burial of John Diggwid on 16 August 1629. When I looked at a small selection of the Thatcham parish records, I found the following additional surname variants: Diggweed, Diggwidd and Dugwidd. A trip to consult the originals at the County Record Office is now on my list.

My Digweed ancestors continued to live near the parish of Thatcham, probably until the middle of the 18th century, when they next appear in the parish records for Hampstead Norris in Berkshire. William (1739-1823), my 4th great grandfather, married his wife Sarah Shackler (1739-1796) on 10 March 1765 in St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris (see following photograph).

St Mary the Virgin, Hampstead Norris

William and Sarah’s 6th son, John (1791-1855), my 3rd great grandfather, was baptised on 29 May 1791 in St Mary’s Church, Hampstead Norris. He married Rachel Hilliear (1793-1851) on 26 August 1811 in St Michael and All Angels Church, Inkpen. They had at least eight children which included seven sons and one daughter. The family initially lived in Inkpen and had moved to Ham by 1817 when their second son was born. John was recorded as a farm labourer living in the village of Ham in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses. It was largely an agricultural area as described in Lewis’ 1848 topographical directory of England:

Lewis’ 1848 Topographical Directory of England – Ham

Rachel and John remained in Ham until their deaths in 1851 and 1855 respectively. The following OS map dated 1877 shows the relative locations of Ham and Inkpen and the arrow indicates that Hungerford was about 4 miles north of Ham.

Extract from OS Map Berkshire XLI dated 1877

John and Rachel’s youngest son was my 2nd great grandfather Thomas (1836-1910). He was baptised on 1 May 1836 in Ham parish church and, at the age of 14, was recorded as an agricultural labourer in the 1851 census in Ham.  Thomas married Mary Ann Tuttle (1837-1900) on 1 May 1959 in St Mary’s Church, Reading. The family were living in Sherfield upon Loddon, Hampshire by the time my great grandfather Francis (1873-1959) was born.

Francis was only recorded with his parents in the 1881 census. By 1891 he was a boarder in a household in Hayes, Middlesex, where he was described as a “groom domestic servant”. At some point he moved to Yorkshire where he married my great grandmother Violet Kate Richardson (1878-1971) on 16 October 1900 in St Helen’s Church, Stillingfleet. By 1901 they were living at West Marton near Skipton where Francis was working as a “coachman domestic servant”.

It is likely that the family had moved to Escrick, near York, by 1905. In 1911 Francis, Violet and six children where living at Escrick Park with Francis described as a “coachman domestic”. He continued to work for the Lawley/Forbes-Adam family and in 1939 was described as a “Chauffeur”. The following photograph shows him with the car he drove:

Great Grandfather Francis Digweed

Francis and Violet continued to live in Escrick Park until their deaths in 1959 and 1971, respectively. The following photograph is of Francis and Violet’s grave in St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick.

St Helen’s Churchyard, Escrick – Francis and Violet Digweed’s gravestone

I am interested in knowing more about the origins of the Digweed family on the Berkshire/Wiltshire/Hampshire borders. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.

Note: the map used in this blog has been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the following creative commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ and sourced from the NLS maps site https://maps.nls.uk/.

Bibliography

1939 Register. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/  : accessed December 2021.

Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/  and https://findmypast.co.uk : accessed December 2021.

Census Records. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/  : accessed December 2021.

Ham. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/WIL/Ham : accessed December 2021.

Hampstead Norris (Hamstead Norreys). https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/BRK/HampsteadNorris : accessed December 2021.

Hanks, Patrick et al. (2016.) The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Inkpen. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/BRK/Inkpen : accessed December 2021.

Lewis, Samuel ed. (1848) A Topological Directory of England. London: Lewis. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/england : accessed June 2021.

OS Maps. https://maps.nls.uk/ : accessed December 2021.

Thatcham. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/BRK/Thatcham : accessed December 2021.

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