Origins and locations of the Witheridge/Wetheridge name
WITHERIDGE - where does it come from, what does it mean, and how did our families come to bear this fascinating name?
The word itself is Anglo-Saxon, but there has been some dispute about its meaning. Ridge presents no problems, meaning an elevation deep in proportion to its width and height and generally having sloping sides. The first part of the word has been said to mean either willow or castrated ram - quite a difference there!
There are quite a few locations linked with the name Witheridge:
- The town of Witheridge in mid-Devon, England, recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. At that time it was a small hamlet with a population of 11, but the Hundred of Witheridge, which covered some 61 villages, hamlets and settlements, had a total population of less than 750
- The ancient manor of Wederige, near Plympton, Devon, also recorded in the Domesday Book
- Witheridge Wood on Witheridge Lane, Knotty Green, Buckinghamshire, England
- Witheridge Farm, at Exton, Somerset, England.
- Witheridge Hill, north-west of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
As most Witheridge/Wetheridge families can trace their ancestry back to Devon, many thought that we all came originally from the town of Witheridge in mid-Devon. However, looking at the map showing where Witheridges had settled, it seemed unlikely that people would have moved across the dangerous tracks of Dartmoor to reach places like Wembury, Ermington, Kingsbridge and Plymouth. Our joint founder, Kim Cook, had a hunch that there was another place called Witheridge somewhere in South Devon.
The story of that hunch, and the subsequent search for a missing Domesday manor is too long to be told here, but it is known that the manor of Witheridge stood on the cliffs above Jennycliffe Bay, between Plymouth and Wembury. The manor has long since gone and, ironically, the original Anglo-Saxon name has changed over the years to the more elegant Withyhedge. If you look at the 6-inch OS map of the area, you can still see a field bearing the name Withyhedge Brake.
There are many other places linked with Witheridge-Wetheridge families which do not necessarily have any locality bearing the name. Ancestors of various branches of the family settled all across north Devon, with the Combe Martin family being particularly prolific. Other branches settled across the area of south Devon known as the South Hams, between Plymouth and Kingsbridge. Early in the 16th century, many Witheridges, particularly seafarers, sailed in and out of the port of London, and settled in the city, with some eventually moving out to surrounding villages, now suburbs. Another branch was in Chatham, Kent in the late 17th century, and descendants of this branch moved to the Birmingham area and have since spread throughout the Midlands. Descendants from all these branches are now scattered throughout the UK and the world, and we have members in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. We are also trying to locate known descendants in South Africa.
Although the manor of Witheridge near Plympton has long since disappeared, probably through coastal erosion, the town of Witheridge, Devon, still bears the family name. Here, most of us have, at one time or another, stood by the signpost to have our photograph taken! During Witheridge Day 1997, the Society?s 10th Anniversary, a party of some 45 Witheridge descendants took a coach tour visiting some of the Witheridge ancestral homes. Our first stop was at Witheridge, where we were welcomed by the Town Crier and his wife.
Here we have a few sources for our surname, which suggests that we come from quite different families. But were those families ever linked in any way, and if so can we prove it? That's another challenge!
Some of the Devonshire towns and villages in which our Witheridge ancestors lived include:
- Barnstaple Among the earliest Witheridge records in Barnstaple are the marriage in 1582, of William Witheridge to Dorothy Welshe, and the baptisms, between 1583 and 1596, of eight children born to them.
- Berrynarbor In 1553, a Nicholas Witheridge married Mary Somer (Summer) in Berrynarbor.
- Bideford Bideford, and the nearby hamlet of Littleham by Bideford, have a number of early references to Witheridge. William Wetheridg, son of William, was baptised in 1557 in Littleham.
- Combe Martin
- Ermington Registers for the parish church of St Peter & St Paul (noted for its leaning spire), date from 1603, and one of the earliest records is that of the burial of Lyon Witheridge in 1606. A year later, Arthure Wetheridge married Joane Edgecombe, and many direct lines of descent from this couple survive to the present day.
- Ilfracombe An entry in the Ilfracombe registers for 1627 records the marriage of James Witheridge (believed to have been born in 1604, in the nearby village of Fremington, to Joan Moule.
- Modbury References for Witheridge/Wetheridge families in Modbury are spasmodic, and it has so far been impossible to produce a connected family tree for this branch. The earliest references in the parish registers relate to the baptisms of Thomas Witheridge (1617), son of John and Christian Witheridge, and Christian Witheridge (1619), daughter of Edmond and Alice. It may be that John and Edmond were brothers, but as yet there is no confirmation of this.
- Newton Ferrers This was a very early Witheridge settlement, possibly linked to the Manor of Wederige and the parishes of Plymstock and Wembury. A Degory Witheridge was buried in Newton Ferrers in 1617. However, in 1619 survey of South Devon mariners, a Christopher Witheridg of Newton Ferrers, was said to be aged 58, suggesting that he had been born around 1561-2, and another Christopher Witheridge of Newton Ferrers, was said to be aged 20. The younger Christopher may have been the grandson of the older one. The younger one is believed to have married in Plymstock
- Plymstock The earliest known record of a Witheridge at Plymstock was in the Devon Muster Roll of 1569, which lists William Wetheryge of Plymstock as an harquebusier. In 1620, William Witheridge, son of Christopher and Frances, was baptised in Plymstock. This may have been the Christopher Witheridge who in 1619 had been a mariner, aged about 20 in Newton Ferrers. There was considerable movement between Wembury, Newton Ferrers and Plymstock, and in 1753, Joseph Witheridge of Wembury married Elizabeth Boon of Plymstock.
- Tavistock In the early 19th century, families from various parts of Devon were drawn to the Tavistock area, some the mining and quarrying work available locally, and some for agricultural opportunities. Among the earliest events here were the births of John Philips Witheridge (c 1805) and George Witheridge (c 1812), both sons of Richard Witheridge, who had been born in Kilkhampton, and had married Mary Philips of Tavistock.
- Wembury Of all the Witheridge settlements, Wembury is the nearest to the original Domesday manor of Wederige, located in Plympton Hundred, near Jennycliffe Bay. The earliest surviving parish registers of Wembury date from 1611, but there is evidence to suggest that by then Witheridges had already been living there for some time. A Subsidy Roll for 1544 and a Patent Roll for 1548 both refer to a John Wetheryge, while a Muster Roll for 1569 lists William Witheredge of Wembury as a pikeman. The first recorded Witheridge marriages there are of Temperance Witheridge to Edmund Rous on 17 January 1627, and Moses Witheridge to Margaret Strapp on 10 June 1628.
From the Doomsday Book:
- Witheridge Wirige riga: King's land, formerly Countess Gytha. Large market place, the site of fairs since the 13th century.
- Some of the Towns in Devon where our families originated
- Berrynarbor Hurtesberie / beria: Walter de Douai. 200 sheep, 83 goats. Near the church, manor house, c.1480, of the Berry family
- Bradworthy Brawordine / Braor / Bravordina: Ralph de Pomeroy. 40 cattle, 30 unbroken mares, 120 sheep. Remote; a large central square
- Combe Martin Cumbe / Comba: William de Falaise. 21 cattle, 140 sheep. Once known for lead and silver mines.
- Ermington Ermentone / -tona / Hermentona: King's land, formerly Asgar the Cramped. Salthouse. On the Saxon plan; church with a leaning spire.
- Modbury Mortberie / Motberia / Motbilie / -lia: Richard and Reginald from Count of Mortain. 30 goats. 16th century Exeter Inn.
- Tavistock Tavestoc / stocha: Tavistock Church; Ermenald, Ralph, another Ralph, Robert, Geoffrey and Hugh from the Church. Mill. Cob, 26 cattle, 200 sheep, 30 goats. Market town, originally a prehistoric settlement, then a Saxon site with an abbey in the 10th century; one of the 4 stannary towns after tin was discovered in the 13th century.
- Wembury - Of all the Witheridge settlements, Wembury is the nearest to the original Domesday manor of Witheridge, located in Plympton Hundred, near Jennycliffe Bay. The earliest surviving parish registers of Wembury date from 1611, but there is evidence to suggest that by then Witheridges had already been living there for some time. The first recorded Witheridge marriages there are Temperance Witheridge to Edmund Rous on 17 Jan 1627, and Moses Witheridge to Margaret Strapp on 10 Jun 1628.