This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 9th September 1996, 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 GOLDSTONE?

The earliest counterparts to this name both date from 1273. They are Hugh and Michael Goldston of Bedford. One thing is certain: neither were members of a Hebrew Community. The notion that "Goldston" is exclusively a Germanic-Jewish import is mistaken.

In this case, (Bedford) it is a location-name. The spelling has varied over the centuries and it now appears as "Goldington" (On the A248, slightly east of Bedford). The unit "-ton" points to it being an enclosed settlement. The first unit is based on an Old English personal name; "Golda" which might possibly have been conferred upon a man on account of his "golden" (i.e. fair or blonde) hair.

There are several places called "Goldstone". In the neighbourhood of Richborough Castle just north of Sandwich are located Upper and Lower Goldstone. These two actually reduplicate the Bedford Place- name. That signified "Golda's Tun" whereas these two were originally "Goldstan's Tun". That form dates from before 1200 which strongly suggests that "Goldstone" had already become acknowledged as a personal name. It certainly prevails in the Brighton Area and may have been either assumed by early Jewish immigrants (as some archive material in Canterbury Cathedral indicates) or modified from some Germanic equivalent by refugees at a later date.

Nearer home, in Shropshire, about 4½ miles south of Market Drayton there is another Goldstone. Its older spelling (1185) reveals that it means "Golda's Stone". No doubt local historians could tell us exactly what the "stone" was - some sort of boundary- mark perhaps.

The suggestion that "Goldstone" is an occupational name referring to a dealer in precious metals is not convincing. The "Goldstone" used in the trade for assessing the quality of gold and silver was not described as such until the reign of Charles I, by which time the surname had become established.

It may come as a surprise to many people who share the misconception that the frequently occurring units "Gold" and "silver" has a direct bearing on the Jewish involvement with Banking and dealings in precious metals. It is true that Jews have long been associated with Banking but that was simply because in the Middle Ages and even later, all over Europe most Trades and Professions were closely regulated by the Guilds and Jews were not allowed to join them.

The interpretation of the Bible by the Mediaeval Church was to the effect that dealings in money were forbidden to the Faithful lest it imperil their Hopes of Salvation, but because Redemption was denied to the Jews, it was quite all right for them to make loans to Christians. The first Jews in England were brought along to England by William the Norman in 1066 to help him subsidise the Conquest. They remained here until about 1300 when Edward I (1272-1303) expelled most of them. The few who remained had probably converted and acquired surnames modelled on those already evolving among the Gentiles. It was not really until several hundred years later that the characteristic Hebrew-sounding names began to appear.

Towards the end of the Eighteenth Century the beaurocracy of nany States - the German in particular - directed that all citizens be registered under an approved system of names. This policy had already been forced upon the Irish by the English who were forbidden to use their native Gaelic Names. In Europe this particularly affected the Jews. If they had money or influence they were able to devise names on their own account. If they hadn't, they sometimes had to put up with a name concocted by unsympathetic officials. Some of the names were deliberately offensive, as, for example, "Grossmann" on account of the victim's weight problem.

Now, when people are engaged in taking a new name, many factors will influence their choice. Social climbers will usurp "aristocratic" names. Stage Artists certainly adopt names that have a "ring" to them. The Frankenstein Monster wouldn't have scared the pants off anybody if the actor, really called William Pratt, hadn't called himself Boris Karloff! Similar lines of thought influenced the choice of many Jewish families. And, truly, for a People who had composed the beautiful imagery of the Psalms, many elegant and picturesque forms were devised, often based on gold, silver, flowers and precious stones. After all, you aren't going to call yourself "Stinkwood" if you can take up "Honeyblossom" instead!

Hence we encounter Goldburg (Golden Mount) Silberblatt (Silverleaf) Rubenstein (Ruby) and Blumenthal (Valley of Flowers). It might be mentioned that a parallel system prevailed until comparatively recently in Sweden.

During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries there was a steady influx of refugees from Central Europe. Some went further afield to the United States where, since there were fewer traditions in surnames than in England, there was no pressure to change them. In England, though, some of the earlier immigrants translated their names into English. This was easy enough if there were already English equivalents, as, for example, Goldstein to Goldstone, Goldschmidt to Goldsmith and Silberstein to Silverstone. Often a direct translation was resorted to, as, for example, Zimmermann became Carpenter and Schneider became Taylor. By the turn of Nineteenth Century, however, with the public's greater familiarity with Teutonic nomenclature as a result of the Royal Family's many alliances with German Royal Houses, there was more acceptance and less pressure to translate. A leading German printer retained his name, "Ackerman" although it could. easily have been rendered as "Farmer".

No doubt those of our fellow-citizens who still belong to the Hebrew Community or who have had ancestors who were Jews will have investigated their own individual family histories. All the "Peak Advertiser" can do is provide a general survey.

In conclusion, the name, "Goldstone" is well-known to us here in Bakewell on account of the presence of our Mr Michael Goldstone, in whose attractive premises on King Street are displayed the most wonderful antiquities.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 9th September 1996.

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