This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 31st January 2000, 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 WAINING?

The previous article dealt with "Wain" and concluded with a promise to a reader in Bradwell that "Waining" would follow. In his letter the reader had acknowledged that "it is an unusual name and seems to come from nowhere in particular". In fact, there are very few entries in any directories. Only one in London, a few, near Sheffield, and three, spelled "Waning" in Cumberland - all within about 10 miles of Carlisle.

It is unfortunate that there are no early records of the name, so when it evolved and how it might originally have been spelled is obscure. It is not included in any of the standard biographies. Furthermore it is not reproduced as a place-name, so anything advanced as to its source and meaning can be put no higher than inspired guess-work.

However, "Waining" (and that will usually include "Waning") is concentrated within two regions with a long history of lead mining and that does suggest that it could have limited connections with that industry. Had there been a more general meaning, corresponding surnames might very well have been more widely distributed.

It is pretty certain that "Waining" originated in Derbyshire and was carried into Cumberland. There is evidence that movement between the two areas took place. A possible point in time could have been around 1080 when the annual income from the Derbyshire mines had fallen considerably while that in Cumberland was rising to unprecedented levels. It could follow that miners from Derbyshire moved north where employment prospects were better.

It could be significant that the first appearance of the unit "wane" occurs some 200 years after "wain" is recorded. Does this mean that the Derbyshire "wain" was modified into "wane" following its introduction into Cumberland? Supporting evidence lies in the fact that the surname "Wane" is mentioned as being special to the north-west.

Furthermore, as a unit in place-names, "wane" cannot be traced, whereas "wain" occurs several times in north Derbyshire. This implies that the word was introduced into Cumberland rather too late to have furnished the basis of any place-name.

This now leads to speculation as to what "Waining" or "Waning" could have meant. Both certainly appear as words in their own right but it is extremely doubtful that they were the source of either surname.

"Waining" first makes an appearance in 1585 which is far too long after the development of surnames to be involved here. In any case it is explained as being "ye turninge at ye landes end where one furrowe endeth and another beginneth". Even that definition is advanced rather hesitantly and it would be difficult, in any case to see how it could have evolved into a surname.

The expression "waning" is a variation on a dialect term which signifies "a dwelling". It can be traced in writing as far back: as 960 A.D. The Anglo-Saxon Bible, for instance, renders the reference to "rooms" in Genesis VI:14 (Noah's Ark) as "wununga". This would certainly have been promising, but, like "waining" it has not given itself to any place-name from which a surname could have been derived.

The construction of the two surnames leads to a presumption that they could have been applied to a site or location, not in the sense of "habitation" but certainly some recognisable area - rather like the modern use of "site" in the expression "building-site" and in such a place where "wains" were involved.

Here it is helpful to note that lead mines were not always worked by small groups of miners but were often highly organised with numerous auxiliary workers such as candle-makers, charcoal-burners, wood-cutters, smiths etc. It is perfectly conceivable that there were groups of workers whose occupation it was to look after the two-wheeled carts on which the lead, as ore or as pigs, would be borne.

The place where vehicles in need of repair or overhaul would have been assembled could very well have been called "The Waining". As a location it was precisely situated, and would have been shifted according to convenience and as the work in the mine progressed. Just as today, for illustration "Parking" can be correctly applied to a purpose-designed council facility and just as correctly to the temporary use of a field for visitors to a car boot sale.

Had an original "waining" been more permanently situated, it might have evolved into an identifiable settlement. As it was, the few operatives who worked there might have been loosely identified as "those guys at the Waining" and from that designation a local surname emerged. The notion of there being assembly points for "wains" is certainly given some support by reference to corresponding place-names. There is "Wainstalls" near Hebden Bridge which means "the place where wains are assembled" and also "Waingroves" near Ripley to which a similar meaning might be attributed.

During the investigation into this name it was seriously contemplated that it might be related to an old word "wainage". This occurs in Magna Carta and signifies, very broadly, "a small- holding providing a livelihood". It was very seductive but the expression was still current as late as the 16th century and would most certainly have generated surnames which would have been more widely distributed.

So, in the absence of any better information, it is submitted that persons called "Waining" or any of its variations can claim ancestry in either Derbyshire or Cumberland and inherited their name from somebody whose occupation it was to oversee the condition of the wagons used in the lead mines.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 31st January 2000.

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