LOVAT (Part Two)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 17th November 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 LOVAT?
(Part Two - Ed's Note: sadly I missed the edition with Part One in)

In the preceding article (Lovet) it was submitted that whatever associations that surname might have with Scotland, they were rather too ambiguous to allow for any positive comment. But this is not the case with Lovett. Slight though the difference may be, it furnishes a surname with at least a dozen permutations - but all with a single source. That single source is the Latin name for wolf which is Lupus. It passed into Norman-French as "lou" (male) and "louve" (female wolf) along with the diminutive forms "lovel" (cub) and "louvel" (female cub). Out of which have emerged numerous surnames, many of which can be found in the local directory.

Why should the wolf be so strongly represented? As a starter it is to be noted that during the Middle Ages wolves roamed widely on our island. They were so much in evidence that it is hardly surprising that their name was widely adopted as personal names, and eventually surnames. Up to the 1300s its use as a nick-name can readily be identified from the frequency of the definite article as in "Robert le Love" (Cambridge, 1279). (The "Love" here is from the French "louve"). As a personal name it was widespread. Where the influence of the Norsemen was felt, the name "Ulf" was popular as in Westmoreland where mention is made of "Ulf of Appelbi" (1163). Note its appearance in place-names such as Ulverston and Wolverhampton. Continental forms are easily recognised as in the case of the musician Mozart (Wolfgang) and the theatrical family "Lupino" (from the Italian "little wolf').

Remembering that wolves were roaming at large, encountering them was always a hazard. They were at an advantage in the dense woodland which covered the greater part of the country and so the clearing of the trees was an important task. Here in the Peak District one family held land on condition that it kept wolf packs under control. It is said that a Welsh prince undertook to render tribute of 300 carcasses of wolves to the English King, Edgar, (959-975) - a job he did so well, it seems, that after 3 years he said he couldn't find any more! Certainly later records assert that the last wolf in England was killed during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). In Scotland the beast was exterminated by 1743 and in Ireland some 25 years later.

The literature of the period indicates that the wolf was certainly feared for its ferocity but also grudgingly admired for the cunning it showed when hunting in packs. Special tribute was paid to she-wolves for the determination and courage demonstrated when protecting her young. So the name of the animal was not only widely used for identifying many men, but "son of the wolf" passed to their sons. The Latin for "wolf-cub" was "lupellus" and this was regarded as an acceptable alternative to other forms then currently used as "-son" or "Fitz-" In fact these terms were frequently duplicated - as in the name of Henry of Branxholm in Scotland of (1183) and of Willelmus of Oxford (1206) whose names are recorded as being either "Lupellus" or "Lovell".

Similarly constructed surnames can be found all over the Island. Far south in Devon was Baldewin Lovel (1272) and way up in Scotland, lived Morice Lovel, a priest in Roxburgh. Similarly, William Lovet lived in Northampton in 1086 and Willelmus Lovett is mentioned in the records for the West Riding (1379).

The Domesday Book (1086) records innumerable spellings of the two surnames which have now more or less settled on Lovell and Lovett. It is now very difficult to separate them out and it would be tedious to enumerate the many varieties.

In only one instance is it advisable to exercise caution. Most of the names will eventually reveal some association with "Wolf" but a few of them might have developed from the site-name "Low" which means "hill" or "Small eminence". Families with Irish connections can take it that their surname was imported from England or Scotland. Briefly "Lovett" is special to Kerry and "Lovell" to Kilkenny.

An interesting instance of the adoption of the name "Lovell" occurs in the folk story concerning a child, abandoned in a forest and reared by a wolf. It was named "child of the Wolf" or "Lovel" by his finders. And just as "Kitty" is understood today as the generic pet name for a cat, so also was "Lovell" employed for a dog during the Middle Ages!

Curiously enough, in spite of the universality of forms of the surname, no "headliners" appear in the Standard Biographies. Indeed only one place-name of much significance can be located: Lovell in Wyoming.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 17th November 2003.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page: https://names.gukutils.org.uk/Lovat2.shtml
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library