BALDOCK

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 13rd January 1997, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called BALDOCK?

There is a story told of an earnest clergyman, who, sermonising on the mysterious dispensations of Providence, exhorted his congregation to note how Providence frequently caused a river to begin flowing through large towns for the benefit of the inhabitants. Had he been a little less earnest and more thoughtful it would have occurred to him that the rivers has been there long before the town was established and that its very presence had led to that choice of location.

Even more fanciful explanations were contrived to account for the foundation of many major settlements. Readers of the "Pickwick Papers" will recall Dickens's whimsical rendering of the discovery of the healing springs which led to the development of the City of Bath. (Chapter 36). And the legendary history of the Founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus is so much a matter of commonplace learning as to need no comment.

A very attractive story attaches itself to one great Eastern Capital City. The celebrated Capiph Al-Mansur (712-775) was once encamped in Mesopotamia (new Iraq) at the point between where the Tigris and the Euphrates flow closest together. It was there that he encountered a Hermit who described how it had been revealed to him that a man, who was to be called "Moclas" would establish a Great City upon that very same spot where he then found himself. The Caliph was amazed because, as he explained to the Hermit, as a boy he had coveted a jewel and attempted to make off with it. He was detected and ever afterwards those about him, especially his Nurse, dubbed him "Moclas" which was the name of a wellknown Robber. Whether "Moclas" was ever a real person or belonged to legend is not known.

Neither is it known how he stood in the Eastern Tradition: whether he was a Brigand, like Bulla Felix, or a folk-hero, like "Robin Hood." In passing it might be mentioned that Caliph Al-Mansur wasn't short on sobriquets. His skill in administering the Finances of the Caliphate and careful husbanding of resource caused him to be known as "The Father of Farthings"!

Anyway the Caliph confessed to the Hermit that he was the "Moclas" of his revelation and, acting upon it, set about building the City. The date is given as 762 A.D. and he is said to have employed 100,000 workers. It was surrounded by fortifications, including 360 Towers and, although it was nearly two miles in diameter, it soon proved too restricted and steadily expanded until by the time of the famous Caliph Harun al-Rashid "Arabian Nights") it was robably the largest City in the World.

The name of the Hermit is understood to have been "Dat" and with selfeffacing modesty, Al-Mansur named the City after him, calling it the "City of Dat" which in Arabic is "Baghdad."

Its connection with the surname "Baldock" arises within the history of the Knights Templars. They originated with a number of volunteer men-at-arms who undertook to protect Pilgrims as they journeyed through and to the Holy Land (1118). Gradually the organisation expanded all over Western Europe and, leaving out a very great deal of fascinating intermediate history, they weilded considerable influence. Lands were presented to them and upon which they conferred distintive titles to identify them with their work in Jerusalem and elsewhere. In London, for example, overlooking the Thames there is still one such site, known even today as "The Temple".

Further afield, in the County of Hertfordshire, a similar gift was made of a Manor, and, in accordance with their practice, the Knights Templars linked it with another place in the Middle East - this time with Baghdad, which, in Norman-French was rendered "Baldac".

This spelling of the name went through various stages, as for example, "Baldace" (1140) and "Baldac" (1163) but by the time of Shakespeare it had settled on "Baldock."

Apart from the name, however, it is understood, from the available Guide Books, that there are now only fragmentary remains of its association with the Templars.

As might be expected, the first use of Baldock as a surname is directly connected with the place: in the Records of near-by Bedford there is mention of a Templar, a "Hugh de Baldoca" (1185). Later references for the same area occur in 1331 to "Robert Baldec" and in 1460, "William Baldocke". In spite of the verified antiquity of the name, persons of interest only to specialists have borne it - as, for example, Sir Robert Baldock (c. 1620-1691) a High Court Judge who was slightly involved with the affair of the "Seven Bishops" (1688).

The name is fairly evenly distributed across the country with possibly a slight heaviness around Nottingham and Northern Kent. There are about a dozen entries altogether in the Local Directories, and, strange, to say, very few indeed for Hertford! Even so the name has some significance for us here in Bakewell on account of it being the surname of Andrew and his wife Barbara, who have come over from Merseyside to the Newsagency in Rutland Square.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 13rd January 1997.

URL of this page: http://names.gukutils.org.uk/Baldock.shtml
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