Posts Tagged ‘Henry’

On our holiday last week we stayed at historic Gurney Manor — sometimes called Gurney Street Manor — in Cannington, Somerset.

It is a very special place.

Rescued by the Landmark Trust in the 1980s, much of the fabric dates to before 1400, with substantial additions in the mid-to-late fifteenth century.

Because it largely came down in the world after the seventeenth century, many of its ancient features, including the fifteenth century covered passage across the inner courtyard linking the old kitchen to the hall, have survived.

Unsurprisingly, it proved quite a good hunting ground for names, which are almost text-book examples of the typical names through the centuries, demonstrating fluctuations in fashion both generally, and across the social spectrum.

The original owners — and the family who gave their name to the manor — were a branch of the baronial family of Gurney, the founder of which came to England with William the Conqueror. Only a few names are known from this earliest period, emerging from the fog of remote history; a RICHARD de Gurney, flourished in 1243, when he put in a claim on the mill, then in possession of his “kinsman” WILLIAM, son of PHILIP.

Richard had a son called ROBERT.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the property appears to have been owned by JOHN de Gurney, who was alive in 1327.

The last of the line at Gurney Manor, and probably the one responsible for much of the parts of the hall dating to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, was HUGH, who succeeded to the estate in 1358. Either he, or a son of the same name, was there in 1401, with a wife called BEATRICE.

He had no son, and so the manor passed to his daughter JANE — an unusual name at the time, when the usually feminine form of John was Joan. She married ROGER Dodesham.

Responsible for most of the fifteenth century additions was their son, another WILLIAM, who was a lawyer as well as a landowner.

William had sisters called JOAN and ELEANOR, and on his death in 1480, the Gurney Street Manor passed in trust to Joan’s daughter, AGNES, wife of WALTER Michell, who died in 1487. Agnes and Walter had three sons, who each succeeded in turn, WILLIAM, JOHN, and THOMAS.

Thomas, whose wife was called MARGARET, died in 1503, when the manor passed to his son, another THOMAS. He also had a daughter called ISABEL.

Thomas made a number of improvements and refinements to the house, adding fine windows and new chimneys — but it all came to an abrupt end on December 13, 1539, when he murdered his wife JOAN and sister-in-law ELEANOR, seemingly at Gurney Manor, before killing himself.

He had two known children, another JANE, and another RICHARD.

Richard, who married an ELIZABETH, died in 1563, leaving the manor to his son, TRISTRAM.

Tristram, meanwhile, died in 1574, when the manor passed to his brother, Sir BARTHOLOMEW.

On Bartholomew’s death in 1616, his lands were split between his daughters, JANE and FRANCES. Gurney passed to Jane, wife of WILLIAM Hockmore.

William had considerable property elsewhere, and Gurney’s owners no longer lived there; the house and its acres was let to tenants, so that by the late nineteenth century, it was regarded as just a (large) farmhouse.

The names of most of these tenants is lost, but we still know the names of the house’s owners, and their families.

Jane and William Hockmore, for instance, had six children, SUSANNAH, GREGORY, CHARLES, WILLIAM, FRANCES and RICHARD, not all of whom lived to adulthood.

Gregory, married to MARY, inherited in 1626, dying in 1653, when the estate passed to his son, also called GREGORY (he also had a daughter called JANE).

Gregory II, married to HONOR, also had two children, a son WILLIAM, and, quelle surprise, yet another JANE.

William, who inherted sometime between 1676 and 1680, married another MARY, and had three daughters, MARY, JANE and HONORA; only Honora survived to adulthood, becoming William’s heiress on his death in 1707-08.

She married DAVIDGE Gould (his mother’s maiden name was Davidge) around 1713, and had five children who survived to adulthood: Sir HENRY (d.1794), RICHARD (d.1793), HONORA (d.1802), WILLIAM (d.1799) and THOMAS (d.1808).

Henry, married ELIZABETH, and had two daughters, another ELIZABETH, and HONORA MARGARETTA. Elizabeth married TEMPLE Luttrell; Honora Margaretta, who died in 1813, married General RICHARD Lambart, 7th Earl of Cavan.

And Gurney passed through her to the Earls of Cavan.

(Temple Luttrell was an interesting character; an MP, he was reputedly also a smuggler, and built a folly, called Luttrell’s Tower, at Eaglehurst near Southampton. On his death in Paris in 1803, Luttrell’s Tower passed to the Earl of Cavan too. By pure coincidence, Luttrell’s Tower is also now owned by the Landmark Trust.)

Richard and Honora Margaretta had five children:

  • SOPHIA AUGUSTA (1787-98)
  • RICHARD HENRY (b. and d. 1788)

George, who died before his father, married the simply named SARAH, and had five children:

  • ALICIA (d.1913)
  • JULIA (d.1897)
  • OLIVER GEORGE (1822-98)

Frederick John William’s wife was CAROLINE AUGUSTA, and they also had five children:

  • MARY HYACINTHE (d.1933)
  • SARAH SOPHIA (d.1914)
  • OCTAVIUS HENRY (1855-1919)
  • ARTHUR (1858-1937)

Frederick Edward Gould’s wife was MARY SNEADE (Sneade was her middle name — her surname was Olive), and their children:

  • FREDERICK RUDOLPH (1865-1946)
  • ELLEN OLIVE (1867-1945)
  • MAUD EDITH GUNDREDA (1869-1940)
  • LIONEL JOHN OLIVE (1873-1940)

Frederick Rudolph had no children by his first wife CAROLINE INEZ; by his second wife, HESTER JOAN, he had two daughters; the first, ELIZABETH MARY was born in 1924.

The following year, Gurney was sold to its tenants of more than thirty years, the Bucknells, and with it an unbroken line of descent, if not of inhabitation, of at least eight hundred years, was finally severed.

The Bucknells were a thoroughly English Victorian middle class family; the father, a classic “gentleman farmer” was a solid and respectable JAMES, his wife an equally establishment MARY ANN. One daughter was ELIZA HARRIS, the other, OLIVE MARY (possibly named in honor of the Countess of Cavan), and they also had a son, BENJAMIN JOHN.

In 1901, there were also three servants living with them at the manor: FRANK, EMILY and MABEL.

Gurney’s time once more owned by its inhabitants was short-lived; the Bucknells sold in 1934, and by the 1940s it had been subdivided into flats. By the 1980s, it was in a sorry, neglected state, with most of the flats empty, but then the Landmark Trust bought it, and the rest is (more!) history…

No-one lives there for more than three weeks at a time anymore, but it has been fully restored to its medieval glory and I think the place rather likes the variety of ever changing faces coming and going, and basks in their rapt admiration.

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It is twenty years ago today that the United States recognized the independence of the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the former USSR.

Seems like a good opportunity to take a look at what people are calling their babies in the Baltics!

Lithuanian and Latvian are closely related languages — both belong to the Baltic family. Linguists regard Lithuanian as the modern language which most closely resembles Proto-Indo-European.

Estonian, meanwhile, is a Finnic language, related — oddly enough — to Finnish.

Lithuania’s top ten in 2010 was as follows:


  1. Emilija — Emilia/Emily
  2. Gabija — Lithuanian Goddess of fire
  3. Ugnė — ‘fire’
  4. Austėja — Lithuanian Goddess of bees
  5. Urtė — uncertain. Possibly Lithuanian form of Urd — the Norse Goddess of fate (itself from Old Norse urðr ‘fate’ and ‘uncanny’, though there are numerous other suggestions
  6. Kamilė — Camilla
  7. Gabrielė — Gabriella/Gabrielle
  8. Goda — probably arose as a short form of names beginning God-; now is interpreted as deriving from old Lithuanian words meaning ‘dream’ and ‘glory’.
  9. Rugilė — from rugys ‘rye’
  10. Miglė — from migla ‘mist’.


  1. Matas — short form of Motiejus — Matthew; matas also means ‘measure’
  2. Lukas — Luke
  3. Dovydas — David
  4. Nojus — Noah
  5. Kajus — Gaius
  6. Jokūbas — Jacob
  7. Dominykas — Dominic
  8. AugustasAugustus
  9. Mantas — of uncertain origin; possibly simply mantas ‘treasure’, or from manta ‘property’, ‘goods’, or mantus ‘friendly’, ‘clever’, ‘beautiful’
  10. Gustas — either Lithuanian form of Gustav, or a short form of AUGUSTAS. Also gustas ‘taste’ and ‘desire’.

Latvia’s looks like this:


  1. Sofija — Sophia/Sophie
  2. Alise — Alice
  3. Viktorija — Victoria
  4. Anastasija — Anastasia
  5. Marta — Martha
  6. Anna — Anna/Ann(e)
  7. Evelīna — Evelina/Evelyn
  8. Emīilija — Emilia/Emily
  9. Laura
  10. Katrīna — Katherine


  1. RobertsRobert
  2. GustavsGustav
  3. Markuss — Mark/Marcus
  4. Maksims — Maxim/Maximus
  5. Daniels — Daniel
  6. ArtjomsArtemius ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Artemis; the name of a saint venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Russian form is Artyom (it is also the source of the boy’s name Artemis, made famous by Artemis Fowl)
  7. Aleksanders — Alexander
  8. Ričards — Richard
  9. Ralfs — Ralph
  10. Artūrs — Arthur

And lastly, but not leastly, Estonia. Rather harder to pin down, but apparently, these were the most popular names in June 2011:


  1. Laura
  2. Mia
  3. Sofia — Sophie/Sophia
  4. Maria — Maria/Mary
  5. Alisa — Alice
  6. Milana — could be an adoption of the Slavic Milana, feminine of Milan < mil ‘gracious,’ ‘dear’ and ‘beloved’, or an Estonian take on Melanie, or even Magdalene (Malin is a Finnish name derived from the last).
  7. Aleksandra — Alexandra
  8. KertuGertrude
  9. Annabel
  10. Darja — Daria


  1. OliverOliver
  2. Rasmus — Erasmus
  3. Maksim — Maxim/Maximus
  4. Romet — modern name of uncertain meaning; possibly deriving from rõõmu ‘joy’
  5. Daniel
  6. Daniil — Daniel
  7. HenriHenry
  8. Karl — Charles/Karl
  9. Sander — Alexander
  10. Markus — Mark/Marcus

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Tonight sees the première of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. As I write, the stars are arriving in Leicester Square, London, and greeting the thousands of excited fans, who have been gathering all day (well, in truth, all week) in the hope of catching a glimpse of the faces we have come to know so well, the physical manifestations of J. K. Rowling’s magical characters.

And what better way to mark the occasion than to take a closer look at some of the Harry Potter names?

It would be impossible to start with anything other than Harry — the boy wizard who takes on the most terrible wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort — and wins. Harry is the Traditional English vernacular form of Henry, which has been in use as an independent name since the Middle Ages. Harris and Harrison are two surnames which derive from it, both now used as first names. J. K. Rowling’s Harry is not the only fictional Harry Potter caught up in magic;  The hero of the film Troll (1986) was also called Harry Potter.

As for Henry, its roots lie in Dark Age Germany. It is a combination of the Old German haimi ‘home’ and ricja ‘ruler’ and its earliest known form was Haimirich. This was Latinized as Henricus, from which the French Henri and Anglo-French Henry later evolved. Harry is very popular in the UK, in 3rd place in 2009. Given the popularity of the books and films in the US, it is surprising that it is in 658th place over there — and falling.

Hermione, on the other hand, has never made the top 1000 names in the US, though it has been used in the English-speaking world since at least the 18th Century. In the UK in 2009, it was place 370th — and climbing. While Harry is a firmly Germanic name, Hermione’s is Classical. In Greek mythology, Hermione was the daughter of Menelaus, King of Sparta and the infamous beauty, Helen of Troy. Her life, in contrast to her parents, was considerably less eventful. She married her cousin Orestes (after he murdered his mother as punishment for her murdering his father, and had a spell being chased around Greece by the Furies) and not much else is know about her. Her name, however, has rich meaning. It is formed from the name of the Greek God Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Most people know he is the messenger of the Gods, but his role goes far deeper than that. He conveys the souls of the dead to the underworld — a role arising from the fact he is also a God of boundaries, making him a male counterpart of Hecate. And the similarities don’t end there. There are distinct hints of magic about him, from his ‘magic wand’ – the caduceus – to his associations with the night. He was seen in ancient times as a protector of those on the fringe of society, both those who were only temporarily in that position (namely travelers) to those who resided there permanently, i.e. thieves, prostitutes – and Witches.  A very apt name, then, for a witch.

Ronald takes us to the Celtic fringe and medieval Scandinavia. It derives ultimately from the Old Norse Rögnvaldrregin ‘might’ and ‘counsel’ + valdr ‘ruler’. It has been used continually in Scotland since medieval times, and in the 19th Century, it became popular elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The pet-form Ronnie was popular as a name in its own right in the first half of the 20th Century — and then, of course, there’s Ron. Among the many real-life bearers is the Historian Ronald Hutton, well-known for his books on Paganism and Witchcraft. Ronald was in joint 848th place in the UK in 2009, along with such varied names as Abel, Armani, Cairo, Dewi, Hunter, Hussein and Stanislaw, though Ronnie was up in the 131st spot. In the US, Ronald was 342nd in 2010.

Albus is Latin and means ‘white’ — specifically ‘dead white’. It was regarded as a symbol of good fortune. Although now it will be forever associated with Albus Dumbledore, it has actually been in use since at least the 19th Century.

Severus is also Latin, unsurprisingly meaning  ‘serious’, ‘sober’, ‘strict’ ‘stern’ and ‘austere’. It has actually been used as a genuine name since ancient times; three Roman Emperors alone bore the name: Lucius Septimius Severus (145-211 CR), Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus (208-235 CE) and Flavius Valerius Severus (fl. 306-07 CE). There are also a number of saints called Severus. It was first used as a given name in the English-speaking world in the 16th Century, though it is more widely used in Italy and Spain in the form Severo.

Sirius is well-known as the name of the brightest star in the sky. Bearing the scientific name Alpha Canis Majoris, Sirius is also known as ‘the Dog Star’ because of its place in the constellation Canis Major – one of the hunting dogs of Orion. It is the Latin form of the Greek seirios ‘the scorcher’, which comes from the verb seiraô ‘to be hot’ and ‘to scorch’, acquiring the name because it first rises at the hottest time of the year.  It, too, has also seen genuine first name use — the first examples appearing in the 19th Century.

Remus is an important figure in the legendary history of Rome. He and his twin brother Romulus were the founders of that famous city. Twin sons of Rhea Silvia and the God Mars, they were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf as babies — making it a good name for a werewolf. The brothers quickly fell out over which of them should give their name to their new city; Romulus settled the matter by killing Remus. In fact, both of the brothers’ names derive from the name of the city, rather than the other way around. Remus has been used as a real given name since the early 18th Century. Another famous literary Remus is Uncle Remus, the central character in Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation (1881), which is very much a thing of its time. Remo is used in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Nymphadora is the feminine form of Nymphadorus – a genuine Ancient Greek male name. A shorter form of it – Nymphas – occurs in The New Testament. It comes from the Greek numphê ‘nymph’ and the verb didômi ‘to give’ – i.e. ‘given by a nymph/the nymphs’.

Bellatrix — such a good name for a bad witch! In Latin bellatrix means ‘female warrior’, and is the name of a star in Orion. In use for real since the late 19th Century.

Well, that’s all for now, folks. I plan another Harry Potter themed post to mark the cinema release next week, so watch this space!

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