This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 6th September 1993, 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 VARDY?

The name "Vardy" is familiar in this Area because it appears so often on "For Sale" notices outside dwellings being handled by the well-known Estate Agency, Wilkins-Vardy. It is even better known to students of English Literature under its variant "Varden" - from "Barnaby Rudge" by Charles Dickens. Gabriel Varden is an honest old blacksmith and he, in turn, has a daughter, Dolly Varden, who has given her name to a style of head-gear, once very fashionable, but now only to be found in the hazy recollections in the memories of some of our older lady readers. There are several variations on the name including Vardier, Verdon, Vardey and Verdier: and of the name "Vardy" itself, there are some 100 or so entries in the local directories.

This is hardly surprising since it is, in fact, an occupational name and particularly appropriate to this Region - especially around Nottingham. After the Norman Conquest, the King and His successors established Royal Forests for hunting deer and Sherwood was one of them. Men were engaged to patrol them and supervise them and, most particularly, to track down outlaws who sought refuge in their dense foliage. They lasted several centuries. Even in the time of Henry VIII they were described as "surveiying of Woodes in ye Parkes, Forrestes and chases."

Taken almost literally the name "Vardy" means "a man in a green uniform." It is based on an old French word "verdier" which in turn was derived from the Latin "viridis" meaning "green." The object of the green uniform was to enable the patrolmen to approach poachers and outlaws without being easily detected. Such wrong-doers were always on the alert for the "man in green" but that task was rendered (hopefully) more difficult since his green uniform was designed to blend in with his surroundings - they knew all about camouflage even in those days. Legend has it that the celebrated outlaw, Robin Hood, clothed his followers in "Lincon Green" but whether he got the idea from the "verdiers" or whether it was the other way round - who knows?

Although the Royal Forests have long ago ceased to be Royal Hunting-Grounds, the job of a "verdier" still survives in name in some parts of the country as, for example, the New Forest District - though it is now written "Verderer" This confirms one in the notion that to have been a "verdier" was to hold an important position and to have been known as "The Verdier" counted for something in the Communities of the time. From being the title of the a job it became a name in its own right and examples date from as far back as 1279.

Sadly, not every person called "Vardy" or one of its variants can confidently claim that he had an ancestor who patrolled the Royal Forests. The name can also be traced to another source - decidedly less romantic! There is also the old French word "verdier" which in this case describes a person whose job it was to tend an orchard.

Well, looking after fruit and vegetables might not have been as exciting as running through Sherwood Forest and chasing Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, but it was certainly less hazardous!

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 6th September 1993.

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