This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 3rd June 2002, 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 HATCH?

A local reader has been promised this name. The word "hatch" (northern counterpart "heck") still has several meanings but the one giving rise to the corresponding surnames is no longer in current use. It once described secondary entrances providing access to enclosed fields and woodlands. There was also an alternative expression in "wicket" but this is still is use.

Whereas the origin of hatch is uncertain, wicket can be traced to Germanic sources and can be detected in modern French as "Guichet". This seems to be a minor point but it is really important because there is a tendency to confuse "wicket" with "wicker". The frequent references to wicket- gate are misconstructed as being equivalent to "a gate of wicker work". The comparatively light weight constructions associated with woven twigs hide the fact that the "wicket gates" and, by necessary association, the "hatches" of our ancestors were decidedly more robust than the dainty garden gates of a later generation.

In passing it may be noted that the concept of a well-made door or gate was carried into the game of cricket. The first "wickets" were symbolic entrances designed to be violently assailed. They were first an assembly of only three units, representing two door posts and a lintel. The third, or middle wicket is a modern addition, c 1750.

Returning to hatch (or heck) although recorded as early as 11th century, it was already being described as antique by 1440. In 1688 a writer who needed to mention hatch, doubted that by then his readers would understand the allusion and enlarged upon it thus: 'A diminutive field-gate, only to let a single beast in and out of the field and also for milk-maydes to go in and out safely without climbing or going over stiles'. The reference to a single beast may be significant since it suggests that fields given over for accommodating livestock were provided also with a wider access for when herds were passing through. For if only one animal was involved it was more convenient to use the smaller hatch. Such facilities were not confined to pasture land. There is evidence that they were a feature of woodlands, orchards and some enclosed arable lands (or closes). Thus, while the main gates could be thrown open for vehicular traffic, single passengers would find it just as convenient to slip through a side entrance.

It has also been suggested that since hatch could also describe a flood gate or a sluice, the corresponding surnames of Hatcher or Hatchman would have been occupational names naming a person employed to regulate the flow of water.

This is not entirely so. Along with "Hatch" and "Heck" they are principally location-names belonging largely to the south-eastern counties - though strangely enough "Hatch" is listed as being special to Somerset!

These surnames were once sufficiently widespread to confirm the universal distribution of hatches and hecks. Also they took on forms which reveal that the bearers were identified as living in the vicinity and not necessarily following a related occupation. So in Cornwall (1279) we find Walter ate Hacche; up in York (1219) there was John del Hek; across in Norfolk (1221) was Adam de Hach and down in Essex (1185), Gilbert ad Hacce. It is interesting to speculate that because the surnames described the bearers as dwelling alongside "hatches" or "hecks" they tended to disappear. Hence they were no longer available to be lived "near" or "by" and so with few exceptions the surname faded from use. This probably accounts now for its comparative rarity.

Until then some hatches might have been well-known features in their district and around them settlements grew up, taking the name "Hatch" or "Heck". They would be smallish communities and unable to support many inhabitants. Many would be obliged to move away to seek a living elsewhere. They would have been identified among their new neighbours as "the folk from Hatch", which in the fullness of time, became their surname.

Apart from the evidence of surnames which could refer to a hatch or heck almost anywhere, a few can be located from their survival in place-names. Some appear merely as field- names such as "Hatchways" near Hartington but others have evolved into sizeable habitations. Mention may be made of an assembly in Somerset - Hatch Beauchamp, Hatch Park and West Hatch in Somerset (6 miles south of Taunton). In Wiltshire there is a site 6 miles north-east of Shaftsbury. In Bedfordshire the place named as "Hatch" is interesting because here it refers to a sluice. (1 mile, south-west Sandy). There is also a "Hatch" about 2 miles east of Basingstoke (Hampshire). The form "Heck" is less frequent but two can be traced. One 6¼ miles south of Selby in the West Riding and another just across the border in Dumfries and 2 miles west of Lockerbie.

How the surname made its way into our county is not known but its most celebrated bearer was Edwin Hatch (1835-1889) who was born in Derby. He was a very distinguished scholar who made valuable contributions to church history.

As a place-name it has crossed the Atlantic and will be found in Utah and New Mexico.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 3rd June 2002.

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