This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 22nd April 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 PRICE?
Variations: Pryce, Pryse, Preece etc.

Contrary to a widely-held belief, families bearing the name Price or any of its variations, are not necessarily of Welsh ancestry - they could have their origins in the northern counties of Scotland! When the records are consulted and when surnames of apparently Welsh appearance have not only been entered up in places so far distant from that region but also at a time when movement was limited - then truly some alternative explanation for the origin of such surnames ought to be investigated. In Northumberland we encounter Adam Pryse and in its diametrically opposite county of Cornwall (1297) is to be found a Robert Pryse, while over in Essex (1320) dwelt Richard Prys.

In fact the foregoing surnames relate to an occupation and of which the spelling "Price" is self-explanatory. It referred to a person nominated by the authorities in large centres such as Chester, Norwich, Coventry etc. who was required to monitor prices and not to allow them to be increased above the level which it would be reasonable for consumers to pay. An ordinance date 1448 describes the officials as "Ye Prysars or settlers at pryce yn a merket or other placys". It is relevant to the provenance of this surname to note that the office is also recorded in Scotland where we are told that during the Middle Ages "there were publick pricers of flesh in all the Burghs". A name appears as well: "Alexander Wynchester, electit priser of flesshe" (Elgin - 1549).

After a great storm (1362) which inflicted considerable damage, especially in the eastern counties, and many roof-tiles were dislodged, all the pricers kept watch to see that the tilers maintained production and did not create an artificial shortage. They also directed that tiles be sold at the customary price. In 1423 the knifegrinders of London were subject to special limits on their charges. In Chester (1557) the bakers of that city tried to challenge the rates set for the sale of bread and were heavily fined. The butchers joined in sympathy and their leaders were thrown in gaol!

People who have reason to believe that their predecessors journeyed to this country from around the Baltic might investigate accordingly. There was a considerable influx of German workers and merchants following the establishment of the Hanoverian dynasty with George I in 1714. Many of them originated in Prussia. They were so well-settled in the larger cities as to require the building of churches for the Germanic congregations. Not a few of these immigrants adapted their native surnames to the nearest English equivalent and since many of these surnames indicated their place of origin (Prussia) they readily modulated in forms based on "Price".

But of course the majority of families of the name of Price or any of its variations are of undisputed Welsh extraction. Literally the name means "the son of Rhys". It is a personal name, of great antiquity and has long been a favourite in Wales. A great number of historical and mythical personalities belonging to that country bore the name. The earliest form of the name Rhys is believed to have taken the form "Rhita" and it appears in Arhurian Legends as "Rhyence".

In the old Welsh language the name was written as "Ris" and it may be interpreted as: He who fights with fire and fury.

The initial "P-" is a shortened form of "Ap" which signifies "son of -" It has its equivalents in the English "-son" and the Norman-French "Fitz-". In modern Welsh the word for "son" is "mab" but in old Welsh it was "map". Its association with the Scots form by way of "Mac" is readily discernible. While "Mac" frequently abbreviated to "Mc" or even to "M" its Welsh counterpart shortened to "Ap". So the "son of Rhys" modulated into spellings such as Price, Preece, Pryce etc.

The earliest record is dated 1393 and refers to a Jorwerth ap Reys who appeared in the Court of Common Pleas in London. A later example is found in Pembroke and is to John Aprice (1492). It would be interesting to learn what Harry ap Rice did to be awarded 16 shillings from Princess Mary in 1544. Latin and Welsh get mixed up in the case of the Prebendary of St. David's (1502) where he is described as Lodovicus Apprise and Lewis-ap-Rhys.

The name is well-represented locally with about 200 entries under Price in the directory. The Standard Biographies include about 50 personalities who bear the name Price and it would be invidious to single any out. Still, mention might be made of Dennis Price (1915-1973) who entertained us with his film acting as in "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949). He is not to be confused with Vincent Price who frightens us all in his horror movies, nor with Harry Price who is inseparably associated with Borley Rectory and its ghostly manifestions.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 22nd April 2002.

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