This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 30th June 1997, 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 RENDER?

A reader living near Darley Dale has approached the "Peak Advertiser" for any information about her name which is "Render". This, and its variation "Binder" are distinctly hyperborean and "Render" has prevailed in Yorkshire for at least 700 years.

It is an occupational name and refers to a tallow-maker. However it is the form of the name which is particularly interesting. Words which indicate "doing something" (verbs) sometimes end in "-er" as, for example "slumber" and "chatter". So also do a great many more which describe the "doer of that something". Hence, "Baker", "Farmer"; etc. A few words exist where the two endings have been tagged on, not always logically, such as "caterer". "Cate" is an old word for food or provisions. It began as "to cate" and naturally, one who performed the action was a "cater". Then this became the verb form and "cater" moved along into "caterer". The evolution of "render" has been brough about in a similar but not identical way.

The oldest records of the name indicate that the word "rend" had passed throrough the stages of "render" and "rendered" by the 14th Century. After that period "Renderer" seems to have reverted back to "render" and remained so ever since. The most likely explanation is that it came under the influence of the Scottish and North Country equivalent "Binder" for which the extended form "Renderer" had not evolved - at least it doesn't appear in any accessible record.

The word "rind" is identical with "rend". In 1540 a Scots Law enacted that "ne manner of Man take upon himself to Rind, barrell or melt tallowe..." And as late as 1844 a popular work on housekeeping drew on two expressions thus: "As long as the suet is fresh, it should by rynded (or rendered) as it is termed".

The word certainly bore this meaning in English. Of course, "to rend" could refer to the melting down of a great many more things than fat. In 1340 it was used in an early translation of the Old Testament with reference to the melting down of graven images. A list of household goods, compiled in 1558 includes "ij grate cakes of rendered tallowe worth xxxiijs and iijd" (i.e. two cakes worth 33shillings and 3pence - i.e. £1.51p.).

Although the very oldest record of the names is "John le Render" in York for 1276, a century later it appears to have modulated into the "Renderer" form, judging by such entries on the Registers as "William Rendrour" John Rendrour" and "Matilda Renderer".

The difficulties formerly expressed as to the exact significance of "Render" seem to nave arisen from the fact that it was not appreciated that it was a sort of regression on "Renderer". Apart from that "rend" has a multiplicity of meanings - so many in fact, that it is possible for an odd isolated exception to occur. However people who lay claim to such exceptions must pursue their own enquiries.

For instance the term "render" certainly describes the cutting of wood along the grain to make laths and could, possibly, be an occupational name to describe a make of laths. However this explanation suffers in that the expression dates only from about the middle of the 17th Century and where it does appear, it is as "lath-render".

Most decidedly it cannot have been applicable to the occupation of a "renderer" in the building-trade - that is, one who covers stone and brick-work with cement or plaster. This meaning did not come about until the Eighteenth Century by which time surnames had become well-established.

An interesting solution, once much canvassed in the past, is that "Render" was a "status-name" and described somebody who held lands under an old Common Law scheme call "grant and render". Such a holder enjoyed much higher status than a villein or a peasant and was called "the Render" - in much the same way as we now use "mortgagor" or "tenant". The idea secured much credibility through the fact that such holdings seemed to be fairly common in Yorkshire and that a remarkably similar corresponding system prevailed in the adjacent county of Westmoreland" where "Tennant" occurs as an early form of surname.

While a few instances might be traced it is submitted that the practice of "grant and render" was already under way at much the same time as surnames were rapidly evolving and it would be strange if the identity of a person involved in an important legal affair would be identified so loosely. So people who are called either "Render" or "Binder" may take it that their original ancestor was engaged in melting down or "rendering" fat for the manufacture of tallow and related substances.

There are about a dozen entries in the Local Directories, but the name is concentrated in those for Yorkshire. Otherwise it is fairly evenly distributed across the Country. The name has not been borne by any "head-liners." Curiously enough the only person mentioned in the Reference Books was a German; William Render (dates uncertain, but flourished in the 1800's). He came to England and was a pioneer in the study of the German Language, especially in the form of phrase-books.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 30th June 1997.

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