This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 28th July 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 HALLAM??

There are about 240 entries for this surname in the local directory. This is not surprising because there are two local sources which provide it. One is the adjacent settlements near Ilkeston; the other is the historic neighbourhood name associated with Sheffield. While the Derbyshire sites can be clearly delineated, that of Yorkshire is indeterminate. It originated as the Manor of Hallam which encompassed the present City of Sheffield and the neighbouring localities. It has now no exact boundaries. The original manor was owned by Waltheof (the last of the Saxon barons) in 1075 and then eventually passed to the Dukes of Norfolk who are still associated with it. The name is familiar from such usages as Hallam Moors, the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and as a parliamentary constituency.

There are two other sites but their involvement in the formation of the name is doubtful. In the village of Wonersh (B 5218/Surrey) there is a local farm called by this name and recorded as 'Hallehames' in 1418. A former occupier is recorded as 'John atte Halhamme' (1322). Because employees on farms and on large estates frequently adopted the name of their place of work as an identity, it is just possible that such a worker, having emigrated north, and then finding the name already in use here simply absorbed it. Such a connection would make a most interesting story for a family historian, but it would be very difficult to verify.

A more likely link may be forged from over the border in Nottingham. On the outskirts of Southwell there is a small settlement called 'Halam' (pronounced 'Hay-lem'). The spelling certainly differs from the Yorkshire/Derbyshire sites but does not affect the meaning. The Nottingham habitation is so very small it is tempting to suggest the more prominent Southwell would have given men who moved away a more identifiable surname than 'Halam'. There is no record of a surname from the period, yet Henry de Sothwell is mentioned in the legal records for Nottingham in 1360.

Although it is comparatively easy to identify the locations which have provided the surnames (however spelled), it is much less easy to say what exactly they mean. The basic word upon which they are all constructed is the Old English expression 'Halh' but unfortunately it is a general term and has no precise application. This is because it occurs in place names all over the country and because they are set in the midst of differing scenery, local understanding of the word varies considerably. It is related to the modern word 'hollow' and so the only common factor shared among places incorporating 'halh' is that the relevant site is sunken. But while even a modest depression which would appear significant in level terrain, a similar feature would pass unnoticed in more hilly country. In fact some settlements incorporating a form of the unit 'halh' are so very slightly depressed that were it not for the information which precise geophysical surveys can provide, the presence of low levels in some places is made apparent only in the rapid descent of fog over through roads - Shifnall (ie. Shifa's halh) in Shropshire is a notorious example.

Here it is useful to make a linguistic point. The word 'halh' is described as 'Old English' and that is the form as spoken up to the Conquest. It differed greatly from the language as it later developed. Many words, especially nouns and pronouns, changed their spellings according to how they were used (rather like modem German). A few such forms are still preserved as when 'I' becomes 'me' and 'she' becomes 'her'. The noun 'halh' was similarly affected because it changed its form when it followed words which meant 'to' or 'by'. It changed to 'halum' or 'hallam' (in place names it is very easy to confuse it with 'hall').

Although the meanings of place names does not affect their transition into surnames they are interesting.

The site in Derbyshire first appears as 'Burkhalum' which means 'the cottage in the nook' ('Burh' is Old English for cottage). The date in this case was 1011 but by Domesday (1086) it was recorded as only 'Halum'. When a new settlement was later set up in 1230 it was desirable to differentiate them and hence evolved 'West Hallam' (1230) and 'Kirk Hallam' (1234). Not surprisingly, the first record of the name is found in Derby as 'Richard de Halom'. (1327). At that date 'Kirk Hallam' was spelled as 'Halom' which pinpoints his place of origin.

Over the border is the diminutive 'Halam' (Nottingham) which owes its name to its standing in a valley. Out of it rises the road to Southwell (Halam Hill). No corresponding surname seems to been generated.

Firstly the name 'Hallam' (West Riding) indicates, to quote an eminent authority, its place amidst 'the dramatic broken country west of Sheffield'. Naturally the earliest reference is local: Adam de Hallam (1297) but it soon travelled afield as far as Whalley in Lancashire - John de Hallam (1328). In a recent survey it was revealed that Hallam is among the most desirable places to live in the country.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 28th July 2003.

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URL of this page: https://names.gukutils.org.uk/Hallam.shtml
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