This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 18th December 1995, 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 COLLEDGE?

At first sight it looks as if "Colledge" could be a misspelling of "College" and to be included among such names as "Chappell" and "Castle". People derived these surnames by association - e.g. "One who worked in the local castle". It could very well be the same with "Colledge", but, although as an explanation of the origin of the name, it is certainly feasible, it suffers from the fact that the word "College" or "Colledge" (the variations in spelling ate not significant), when applied to a place of learning, first came into use almost at the end of the 1(6)th Century and by which time surnames had become pretty well fixed.

Research shows that misspellings can create very deceptive leads and it has been suggested that the form of the surname "College" as well, no doubt, of "Colledge", is actually a corruption of the place-name "Colwich" (Staffordshire). Scribal errors in transcription would account for the variation in spelling.

If, however, it is assumed that there is no spelling mistake and the name really is "Colledge" then investigations follow different paths. The trouble is: they all peter out in an undergrowth of speculation! There is no doubt, though, that "Colledge" is a location-name. Unfortunately there is to place that can be positively identified as being the source of the surname. The unit "-edge" appears mostly in neighbourhood and field-names and rarely in those of major settlements. It is based on an old English word "ecg" which provides geographers with a term to describe long low ridges or rocky escarpments. (Local examples include Hathersage and Heage). It is certainly more widely distributed in the Northern Counties than elsewhere.

It might have been possible to narrow down the search if the unit "Coll-" could be localised. But, like "-edge" it is widely distributed and has many meanings. So, unless bearers of the name have some well-authenticated family traditions as to where their ancestors came from, it is well-nigh impossible to provide any positive identification.

The unit, could, for example, mean "cold" and no doubt many early communities would know of fields on the top of ridges where the winds seemed to blow forever and winter snows lay longest. Such sites must have been (and probably still are) known locally as the "Cold Edge". (Hence "Colburn" in Yorkshire: "the cold stream"). On the other hand there is well-attested evidence that a popular name among our earlier ancestors was "Cola" or "Koli". It is of Scandinavian origin and its meaning is now obscure. Such a person could have dwelt on a hill-top which was identified as "Coll's Edge" - eventually developing into "Cooledge" (Hence "Colby" in Cumberland: "The farmstead of a man called Kolli"). Then there is the possibility that "coll" could signify "charcoal", the manufacture of which was important in the Middle Ages. There might very well have been a local site where it was produced. (Hence "Coldridge" in Devon: "The hilltop where charcoal is made").

Taking-up the spelling issue again, we can refer to the River College (or College Burn) in Northumberland. It rises in the Cheviots (Auchope Cairn: 2681ft) and flows due north through a spectacularly steep-sided valley to join the River Glen at Kirknerton. In this case the unit "Coll-" is identified with a Norwegian term which can be interpreted as "Black River". Assuming that the "-ege" element is a variation of "-edge" (and the landscape provides ample support for this assumption) it may be suggested that "College" is a variation on "Coll Edge" and could be rendered as "the ridge overlooking the dark waters in the valley below". (Note: "Blackburn" in Lancashire.) Hence people living on the heights would have been identified as "the folk dwelling on Coll Edge" and eventually as "Col-ledge" and, possible later as "College"(?) It would need some study of local records to determine whether "Col-ledge" (if that form ever existed) was modified through a false analogy with "College".

As a final suggestion, and one which is not advanced with much confidence, if people called "Colledge" can lay claim to Scottish forebears, then possibly they may have connections in some of the Islands, especially the Isle of Eriskay, where there is understood to be a local place called "Colledge" or "College". This is purported to be a variation on the Gaelic "Coileag" which means "beach" or "shore".

As a surname "Colledge" is not very unusual and is fairly well-distributed across the country. There are about SO entries in the Local Directories. The only person mentioned in the Standard References is Thomas Richards Colledge (1796-1789) who was a distinguished doctor. Locally the name is associated with Peter Colledge, the tallest member of that stalwart trio who clean our windows.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 18th December 1995.

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