This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 27th October 1997, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

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 CAUDWELL?

This name is only one of some forty variations. The basic form is "Caldwell" which is widely distributed across the British Isles. However "Caudwell" has been selected as the heading of this article because the local directories contain about 100 entries, whereas for "Caldwell" there is but a handful.

Why this particular rendering should be concentrated in this region would be an interesting line of research. It is probably linked to the peculiarities of the Derbyshire dialect. People who study the development of the English language have noted that words in the middle of which there is a letter "l" often undergo a change. The "l" stops being pronounced and is absorbed by the letters in front. Familiar examples are "half' and "talk". In written English, standard spelling has tended to preserve the "l" but where corresponding words occur in dialect, it often disappears entirely. The Scots form of "old" - i.e. "owd" may be noted and the process is particularly visible in place-names which incorporate the unit "cold" (of which "cald" is a variation). Apart from "Caudwell" in Derbyshire, the "l" has also disappeared from the name "Chadwell" in both Leicestershire and Essex. (It is appropriate to mention that the "Chad" in these cases is most definitely not identifiable with St. Chad of Lichfield).

So it can be established that the unit "Caud-" together with all its permutations is based on the Old English word "cald". This means exactly what it seems: Cold. It has more or less identical counterparts in most languages and can be traced to the Latin word for "freezing cold" which is "gelidus".

The number of items in place-names to which "cold" is attached is considerable, but the commonest is "well". Today this is restricted in meaning to a purpose-built catchment, but in earlier times it was used to designate any source of water which emerged from the ground. Hence the name "Wells" (Somerset) and also the "Wells" associated with Tunbridge and Llandindrod. In Derbyshire we find "Caldwell" just 4 miles south of Burton-on-Trent and in Yorkshire, 10 miles west of Darlington. There are two "Chadwells" in Essex. Apart from "wells", other water- courses are identified, such as "Coldstream" on the Borders, "Colebrooke" and "Coleford" in Devon, "Colburn" near Richmond, Yorkshire, and "Colbeck" in Cumberland. Since a regular water-supply is a fundamental requirement towards the establishment of any community, it follows that our ancestors tended to settle in the vicinity of springs and wells. They frequently referred to them as the "Cold Wells" and, no doubt, those members of the tribe who lived close by would have been identified as "those people who live by the cold well". It is, indeed, possible that the task of supervising and maintaining the arrangements on behalf of the other inhabitants might have been undertaken by them and this helped to establish their name.

A question that presents itself is: "There's a great many "cold" wells. Aren't there any "warm" ones?" Only one! It is called "Warmwell" and lies about 5 miles south-east of Dorchester. But exactly what there is "warm" about it is something of a mystery. Suggestions have been made that "warm" is a corrupt form of somebody's name, like "Wyrma" or "Waermund" and that it is really their well - i.e. "Wyrma's Well."

Another question is: "Why should there be so much insistence on wells, streams, brooks, burns and becks all being cold?" The answer is that until about 300 years ago, our ancestors had no proper understanding of Physics and entertained the most fanciful ideas as to the nature of heat and cold. Put very simply, they believed that hotness, coldness, dryness and wetness all had an independent existence - they were a sort of entity which was to be found "floating in the air"! Everything that existed was the result of two of them coming together. Whereas today we know that the combination of two parts of Hydrogen to one of Oxygen creates water, our predecessors concocted their own formula, and held that when coldness and wetness came together, there was Water! Similarly, they thought that Fire was a union of dryness and hotness! So, the unit "cold" in place-names was not included so much as a reference to temperature but to what people thought was an essential physical requirement. That goes a very long way towards explaining why location-names all tend exclusively towards "cold" and there are no references to "warm". The latter was not in any way an essential characteristic of water and was simply excluded.

Caudwell and its innumerable variations from Caldwell to Colbourne, is scattered throughout the Kingdom and Ireland. In the case of Derby, the earliest record is dated 1195 and refers to an "Adam de Caldwella". Strange to say, though, even among so many derivatives, there appear no beaters of the name who "hit the headlines". A possible exception might be found in the Explorer William Colbeck (1871-1930) who is highly regarded by those who involve themselves in matters relating to the Antarctic and after whom several geographical features in that region have been named.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 31st October 1994.

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