This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 31st May 1999, 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 CLEMENTS?

The "Peak Advertiser" has been asked about "Clemson" but that is only one of the variations of "Clements" (of which there are about 100 altogether in the local directories) and so it is thought preferable to display the more familiar surname as a heading. Even if one discounts the foreign imports such as "Clementi" (Italy) and "Clemenceau" (France) there are over 30 permutations, from the straightforward "Clement" to "Climpson".

Whatever form the surnames take, they are all derived from the personal name "Clement". He is generally believed to have been mentioned in Philippians: CH. IV; 3 and who went on to succeed St. Peter as Pope from 88-95 A.D. Much theological writing was attributed to him but his authorship is now questioned. He is supposed to have met martyrdom by being flung overboard to drown with an anchor round his neck. Other narratives make it an anvil which has led to him having a special standing with Blacksmiths - see "Great Expectations" Ch. XII. He is the Patron Saint of Tanners since the tradition is that he followed that trade.

He was so highly regarded that 14 Popes took the name as their Papal Title and in England nearly 50 churches were dedicated to him. The best-known is that in London (Strand). The site is thought to have been that of an old Danish burial-ground - hence the name "St. Clement, Danes". It is particularly celebrated in the English-speaking world on account of the nursery rhyme, "Oranges and lemons/Say the bells of St. Clements". Readers may observe that "Clements" and "Lemons" don't really rhyme and this introduces an interesting point on pronunciation. We have a habit of dropping the letter `T' both in speech and writing. Examples are "mortgage" and "listen" and in speaking we often say "I dunno" for "I don't know".

In the case of "Clements" the sound modulated in "Clemen" and was reproduced in writing as "Clemens" as early as 1153. The Latin form "clemens" (see further) may also have influenced both spelling and pronunciation. Still, whatever happened, it provided children with a perfect rhyme. In passing it is worth mentioning that the tradition of getting church bells to say things evolved freely all over England. Here in Derby, for instance, the children used to sing "At two they will throw/says St. Warbo". (i.e. St Werburgh, Friar Gate). So in the case of St. Clements it was simply a spontaneous and ready-made rhyme with "lemons" and all those fanciful explanations involving carriage and trade in citrus fruits are spurious!

The name is related partly to a Latin adjective "clemens" which means "mild" or "humane" and partly to a noun "clementia" which signifies "good nature" or "gentleness". Out of them both boys' and girls' names evolved: During the intervening centuries, the masculine form "clemens" appears to have emerged as the feminine "Clemence" whereas the Latin noun in the feminine gender, "Clementia" has passed over to become the boy's name of "Clements". The girl's name "Clemence" has also been joined by "Clementine". On passing it may be noted that the fruit which is called "Clementine" was the result of an accidental hybridisation occurring in 1902 and how it came to be so-called is not known.

In the case of boys, the name "Clement" was one of the most popular names among our medieval ancestors, especially during the 13th century. As usual it took on "pet" or "hypocoristic" forms such as "Clem", "Klim" and "Climmie". The most celebrated bearer of such a name was an outlaw in Cumberland called "Clym of the Clough" (i.e. Clement of the Cliff). His exploits slightly pre-date those of Robin Hood but are remarkably similar. He is said to have dwelt in Englewood Forest, near Carlisle. The name, in whatsoever form, remained as a well-favoured baptismal name until the Reformation, and then, no doubt because of its Papal Connotation (Clement VII:-1523-1534 and Clement VIII:-1592- 1605) it went quite out of fashion. However, in the 1840's the trend towards Medievalism led to much interest in the early Church and Saints' names were revived, amongst them, "Clement".

Naturally in the guise of surnames the name had survived and had been sufficiently well-established to have generated some 30 permutations. The most common development was to indicate parentage. So, as it were, in answer to the question, "Whose kid is that?" came the reply "Clements" or "Clemson" or "Clemmons". Forms made by adding "-son" included "Clementson" "Clemison" and "Climpson". In Scotland "Climie" was widespread and we encounter a George Clemy in Glasgow (1553) and a John Clemison in Leadhills (1737). In Ireland it never took on and existing surnames are reconstructions of the Gaelic "MacLaghainn" or "MacLamond".

It is regrettable but there really is not sufficient space to comment on all the forms this surname takes!

In a few cases a name picks up a place-name into which it has been incorporated as, for example, here in Derbyshire, there is Clemonseat Plantation (near Pilsbury), dating from 1415. A resident from "Derbyshire" is registered as "Clemence" in Winnick (Lancashire).

Curiously enough, in spite of its extensiveness, there are only a few entries in the standard biographies and none is exactly a "headliner". One variation provides a distinguished exception. It relates to Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910) the American author, much better known as "Mark Twain" and the creator of "Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer".

The name, under "Clemson" has been especially asked for on behalf of Miss Sharron Clemson of Rowsley whose marriage to Tom Rosling of the Post Office in Bakewell is dated 12th June and to whom the "Peak Advertiser" extends its Good Wishes for a happy and prosperous future.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 31st May 1999.

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