This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 13th January 2003, 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 GOODRIDGE?

There are about a dozen variations on this surname in the local directory. The most strongly represented is Gutteridge. The form Goodridge has been specially requested. Goodrick and Cutteriss are also listed. Variations in the spelling are not significant.

This surname, however spelt, originates in the personal name Godric. It was extremely popular at one time with our mediaeval ancestors. It combines two Old English words, god and ric. The meaning of this first word is "good". There are some grounds for thinking it could also signify "one who rules". It was pronounced with a long "-o-" as in "good". Here it may be of interest to note that in spite of the present similarity between "good" and "god" the two words have different origins. Thus, a belief shared by many early civilisations (especially northern) was that there were pervasive forces which might successfully be approached through invocations, or, the attention of which might be attracted through the ceremonial pouring out of liquids (libations).

These observations are introduced because the word "god" is derived from forms of the ancient work "gheu" (Sanskrit circa 2000 B.C.). The meanings attributed to these forms signify, respectively, "to call upon" and "to pour out". Thus when our Teutonic ancestors were introduced to Christianity they merely retained their general name for these mysterious powers as they had formerly conceived them and simply adopted it as a specific title for the new Christian notion of a supreme being, namely "God".

By a slight extension of meaning, the unit "god-" hints at supremacy and might very well signify something akin to "chief" or "leader".

Naturally, among our unsophisticated forebears, these esoteric meanings tended to be displaced for a more readily perceived understanding of the unit "God-" as signifying "good" - in the sense of "worthy". It should be noted that in the early Middle Ages "good" (i.e. god-) bore a less extensive meaning from today. It described items wherein everything that was needful to secure perfection had been assembled. The old word for "assemble" was "geodor" and this is related to the sources that give us the word "good".

The second unit "-ric" has taken on the familiar form, "rich". Its principal meaning now is adjectival and indicates having extensive possessions and money. To our ancestors it would have been applicable to a person whose moral and physical standing was a measure for others to follow. This meaning became obsolete round about 1550.

So, concentrating all the foregoing, the personal name "Godric" might be interpreted as "he who stands beyond all others through being well-endowed with all that is good.

The name is frequently encountered in the Middle Ages. Probably its most revered bearer was St. Godric whose day is 21st May (1065 - 1170). He was named after his godfather, which places the usage of the name well before the invasion (1066). He is associated with Finchale, a site about four miles north-east of Durham on the River Wear, and where he set up a hermitage. Its later frequency may be attested from references to the Abbot of Winchcombe in Gloucester and to the Sheriff of Berkshire, both of the same name and date (1070). Later we encounter Ambrose, son of Godric in Cambridge (1273).

A celebrated historical instance arises in connection with Henry I (1106-1135). His Anglo-Saxon subjects must have had some understanding of the significance of the name because they nick-named him "Gaffer Godrich" on account of his preference for speaking English instead of France talk, for adopting English manners and for proclaiming a charter which, in a way, anticipated Magna Carta (1215). But strangely enough the name began to go out of fashion. Various reasons have been advanced. It is suggested that it might be that Henry was fanatically devoted to hunting and dispossessed whole communities to make room for his hunting grounds, and this later overshadowed his otherwise good qualities. Or, that "Godric" became confused with other names. For example, there was a similar name of "Cudric" (the first unit meant 'famous'). It has generated the surname "Cuttriss" which can be found in the local directory.

The earliest example of the surname is "Ralph Godric" of Worcester, (1199). In Colchester (1341) was James Goodrich. The vagaries of spelling are revealed in the name of Elizabeth of Suffolk who is described as "Gutteridge" in 1659 and as "Goodrich" in 1666.

Families who believe they have connections on the Welsh border counties might look to the village of Goodrich - 5 miles. south-west of Ross-on-Wye. It takes its name from the castle originally occupied by a Lord Goderick. An authentic surname derived here is Thomas de Godderigge (Worcester 1275).

There are no outstanding personalities of the name, although students of church history would possibly be familiar with the part played by the Bishop of Ely, Thomas Goodrick (or Goodricke) during the English Reformation. Viscount Goderich was Prime Minister for a few months 1827 -1828.

In the United States, there are nine settlements named after bearers of the name and there is a "Goderich" in Canada (Ontario).

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 13th January 2003.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page:
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library