Chadwick – What does this name mean?

I don’t know if there are many Chadwick-s in the USA. The French are very amused, especially my wife who is French but took my surname on marrying me. She merely explains to friends that the name is about as common in England as Lefebvre or Dubois in France. I once speculated that, the last syllable being “wick”, it had something to do with candles or lamps. After all, many English surnames reflect occupations back in the mists of time. A butcher in my native town Kendal has to be called a meat purveyor because his proper name is W. Butcher. He must have come from a long line of men in the same trade from way back, from the days they pole-axed cattle in the Shambles.

The Chadwick surname has its roots in two English towns of this name. One is in the parish of Rochdale, Lancashire, and the the other is in the parish of Broms, Worcester. Most of us originally hail from the northern town in the county of black puddings and the Lanky twang. For the etymology, the two syllables are split up. The first, Chad, is the name of a seventh-century Irish archbishop called Ceadda in Old English or Cedda, Ceddae in Latin. He was a pupil of St Aidan in Lindisfarne. Chad was Archbishop of York and then Bishop of Mercia. He established the Diocese of Lichfield. The feast of St Chad is celebrated on 2nd March. There was the holy bishop Chad, but there must have been many other Chads up and down the country in the middle ages. On this page about Chad as a Christian name, we find a long list of known men. It was an extremely popular name in the USA in the early 1970’s, and is still often given to boys.

The wick part actually has nothing to do with candles. It comes from the Middle English wicke or weke, the Old English wice or wēoc(e), the Middle Dutch wiecke and the Old High German wîch. The Latin word for village or estate is vicus. The Latin and Anglo-Saxon traditions both point to the notion of home, the place where a person belongs, either the village or the person’s house.

It is fascinating to see the number of Latin words also deriving from vicus. The most striking is vicarius with its notion of replacing (in a place) – vicarious atonement or the vicar as a priest in a diocese taking the place of a bishop in a particular parish. Villa also contains the same idea, that of a particular type of house, but it is a little further away as a word. The word Wick also designates a town in Scotland, and forms a part of the towns of Wickham (Hampshire), Norwich (“north wick”), Greenwich (perhaps a farm at one time). Before becoming an international airport serving London, Gatwick was a goat farm, and Chiswick was a place that made cheese.

chadwick-armsSo, the name Chadwick would mean Chad’s home. The traditional motto of the Chadwick name In candore decus, meaning honour in sincerity, is indeed a high ideal to live up to. There is a coat of arms, but I’m not sure I would have the right to use it according to English rules of heraldry. The shield is red with a small white shield in the centre, and a varying number (mostly eight) of white doves against the red part. This is an example of a generic coat of arms corresponding with the surname, taken from a website. I do not claim these arms to be the proper ones of my family.

My sister occasionally finds time to research into our family history on my father’s side (which bears the name). Restricting myself to just the direct lineage of my father, born in Scarborough (Yorkshire) in 1928. Frederick William Chadwick (1901-1980), born in Scarborough. Frederick William Chadwick (1859-1939), born in York. Isaac Samuel Chadwick who seems to have been a Methodist minister in the Bradford – Shipley area of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Perhaps she will get beyond the nineteenth century, but on the whole, we seem to have been hard-working folk in business and shipping. We might have made the transition from Lancashire to Yorkshire at the beginning of the nineteenth century, perhaps a little earlier.

There are dozens of Chadwick families looking for their roots, and it is all quite bewildering. We must all be related in some way, but the genealogist would have to go back a very long way to find common ancestors. I prefer to think of myself as coming from solid Yorkshire roots, even though I was born in Westmorland (exactly one hundred years after my great grandfather). I am definitely a northerner, even though my mother’s roots were in London.

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