Monday, August 16, 2010

A Name Saga

Part One
L.G.C. Smith

My parents are great, but I'm giving them a bye this
week in favor of going to back to our previous topic, names. I've always loved names of all kinds. Place names. Personal names. Surnames. Saint's names. Names of gods and goddesses. Made-up names. Porno names.
Hi Mom, Hi Dad.

When I was eight or nine, I looked up the meaning of my names. Lynn: Boring and common, but redeemed by being a Celtic water word. Llyn in Welsh is a lake or pool. Linn in Northern England and Scotland is a pool at the foot of a waterfall, a waterfall, or a steep-sided mini-gorge in a stream course. Gail: For my aunt. Since I liked her, that was good, plus it can be construed as a variant of 'gael,' which supports the Celtic theme nicely.

Then there's my surname. Coddington. (Smith is my husband's name, and I only use it as a pen name.) Other than identifying it as an English place
name, I didn't get very far with figuring it out until I made it a part of the trip prep for my family's first Gene Pool Tour of England in 2002. My parents, one of my sisters and I decided to visit some of the Coddington parishes as a means of getting us off the usual tourist runs.


We didn't know if our line of American Coddingtons had come from one of these parishes. We were pretty sure we came from an ancestral line out of Surrey -- from Bletchingley and Dorking, a proud pair of English place names, not quite rude, but definitely yuk-it-uppers. Not that English people necessarily find them so. I once asked a guy who lived in Reigate, smack between Dorking and Bletchingley, and who had just told an off-color tale from his Yeoman Warder days if anyone joked about those names. "Oh." His eyebrows beetled thoughtfully. "Because of dorks. No, not really."

Both my parents have ancestors who came from Dorking in the 1500s,
raising the ugly specter of in-breeding. Gah.

Eventually, DNA analysis confirmed that though we have a gap in our genealogical paper trail in the late 18th century in New York State, our immigrant ancestors are indeed Stockdale Coddington, barber-surgeon of Bletchingley, and his son, John, whose mother came from Dorking. They showed up in Massachusetts in the 1630s bringing their name with them. If they brought any stories about where it came from, they didn't get passed down along with the nearly static y-DNA haplotype.

My attempts at sussing out the meaning of Coddington (or Cuddington, as they're the same name in different guises due to spelling vagaries, sound change and vowel rounding issues over time) invariably resulted in a definition along the lines of "the settlement of Codda/Cudda's people." The -ing means 'the people of' in Old English (OE), and the -
ton denotes their farm or settlement. This was neither helpful nor exciting.

More interesting, although not very flattering, was the interpretation offered by Reaney & Wilson in "A Dictionary of English Surnames." They posit the root codd as coming from an unattested Anglo-Saxon personal name or nickname, probably Codda. The meaning, they claim, is obscure, possibly coming from OE cod(d), which means a bag. Alas. Slang being nothing new, you know where this went. Codpiece. Cods. Charming. R&W write that the name might have been used for a man with a belly like a bag, and that doesn't improve matters. Especially since we have several of those in my branch of the Coddingtons. It appears that many other Coddingtons have escaped this self-fulfilling name curse. We have not been so lucky.

Some Coddington men. My dad says his Uncle Merrill's nickname was Uncle Barrel.
Uncle Merrill has been gone for decades, but the body-type continues.

Still, I was willing to accept this somewhat disappointing derivation. I dutifully reported my findings to my family, who all thought it riotously funny and appropriate. From my perspective, as the barrelliest of the bunch, the upside was that we were not named after codfish. If anything, the fish appeared more likely to have been named after our bag-bellied ancestors.

The age of Coddington as a place name was the first thing to surprise me (in a good way) and prompt me to look more closely at whether we had been named for our stomachs, or other bag-like appendages. (Ew.) Domesday lists several Coddingtons, spelled variously. There is Cotintune in Cheshire. Cotingtune in Herefordshire. Cotintun and Cotintone in Nottinghamshire. Cuntitone (that one seems to have gone the opposite direction of the male cods) in Cheshire. Codintone in Surrey.


These correspond to the contemporary parishes or villages of Coddington, Cheshire (east of Farndon); Cuddington, Cheshire (west of Malpas); the other Cuddington in Cheshire, in the map above, west of Northwich; Coddington, Herefordshire (north of Ledbury); Coddington, Notts (east of Newark on Trent); and the almost vanished Cuddington, Surrey. In addition, there's a Cuddington in Buckinghamshire (west of Aylesbury); a Kiddington in Oxfordshire between Woodstock and Chipping Norton that used to be called Coddington or Cuddington, I don't recall which; and a defunct Coddington parish in Derbyshire that has been long absorbed into Crich.


Thus on that first GPT, we had Herefordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire Coddingtons on our To Visit list. We made them all. We didn't make the Surrey Cuddington, the most likely candidate for our ancestral origins, because I hadn't found it yet. Later I learned that Henry VIII took it over to build Nonsuch Palace and have a hunting ground that made a continuous run from there to Hampton Court. He razed the church and village and sent the incumbent Coddington off to Ixworth, Suffolk with a fine priory recently liberated from the Church thanks to the Dissolution. The Surrey Cuddington parish persisted somehow as an odd, almost lost thing for many years, though they have a church now in Worcester Park.

Our visits to the Coddington churches showed that these parishes were older than the entries in the Domesday Book, which was done in 1086-7 AD. Considerably older. In the churchyard outside All Saints Coddington in Herefordshire stands a Saxon preaching cross. The church history leaflet claimed it was seventh or eighth century. The Coddington in Cheshire appears to have been founded in 627 AD through a charter out of Canterbury under Archbishop Honorius. This is shockingly early for an Anglo-Saxon minster. The Cheshire Cuddington near Northwich was established under the aegis of Archbishop of Canterbury Theodore. His term of office began in 668 AD. The Surrey Cuddington is mentioned in the charter documents for Chertsey Abbey in 674 AD. The surviving charter is probably a forgery replicating earlier documents that had been lost or damaged, but it's generally thought to be fairly accurate in confirming the abbey's known lands.


When we visited these parishes, I didn't know that there wasn't much of an Anglo-Saxon church in the early seventh century. The parish system was centuries in the future. English minsters were only beginning their development. There was an established British Church in the early seventh century, but Augustine and his Roman successors in Canterbury didn't typically get on well with the British bishops and clergy. When the two factions did talk they argued about precedence -- Roman or Celtic authority was at stake -- and how to calculate the date of Easter. This was a sticking point that seems to have represented tensions between the traditional Celtic liturgical calendar and that used in Roman observance. It was nominally straightened out at the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD, but not fully settled in actual practice for many decades after that. By 700 AD, the Anglo-Saxon Church had grown tremendously with minsters, or monasteries, all over what was slowly becoming England. These places called Coddington were already old, established sites within this framework by the time Bede was a boy.


It's unlikely to be a coincidence that so many of the places called Coddington were established as such early religious centers for the emerging Anglo-Saxon Church. All these years later, almost 14 centuries, that history and a common name link them. I couldn't find any known links anywhere, so I started looking harder. There's more here than a random bunch of fellows named Codda or Cudda for their bag, er, bellies, leaving their names across the landscape. For one thing, they don't have the same kind of distribution that many other common -ington names have. There are none in Northumberland. None in Devon. They make a ring around the Midlands.

At this point, I'm going to break off. I'll resume this tale when my next turn comes around in two weeks.

10 comments:

quantumtea said...

Nice to read so many place names I recognise! I lived in Guildford and worked in Leatherhead, driving through Dorking, Effingham, Fetcham and Bookham (yes, those are real next-door villages) on my way.

Another Joan said...

Crich?? My mother's Gran came from Crich! And Two Weeks 'til the next instalment?? Arrgg!

Sophie Littlefield said...

wonderful, wonderful - i could never grow tired of this, LGC! You make that part of hte world come alive. Someday I hope you will be my tour guide for real instead of just on the page. And those coddington men are darling. :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Incredible post as always! Whenever I read these, though, I have a special yearning to book a flight to England and beyond!
BTW -- loving those peaches ;-)

Adrienne Miller said...

So, you Coddingtons are a ballsy bunch, eh? Love it. Love it!

Love these posts, and I don't want to wait another week. Is there any way we convince you to do a Saturday special for us? oh, please.

L.G.C. Smith said...

I thought I posted a response earlier today, but Blogger ate it. Oh, well. The gist was: quantumtea, I love those Surrey place names. I never noticed how they sound together -- probably snorking too much over Dorking. English place names are a gift of eternal delight. Joan, Crich is a wonderful place. Someday I shall go back to the tramway museum there. Also, very close to Chatsworth. Sophie, I don't think anyone has ever called Coddington men 'darling' before. Stout and sturdy, yes. My father looked stunned and appalled when I relayed your compliment.:) Julie, glad you're enjoying the peaches. Adrienne, I'll try to get the next bit out Saturday. First priority, however, goes to finishing my revision.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Lynn!!! you weren't supposed to TELL them!!!!! {blushing terribly}

L.G.C. Smith said...

Sophie, he read it himself after I told him. Then he forwarded it to various relatives. Besides, he wasn't really appalled. That was a little artistic license on my part. And he was only a little stunned.

Rachael Herron said...

HA! That's funny about the stunned response to "darling." And I also think Uncle Barrel sounds like a name Sophie would make up.
:)

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