Monday, March 16, 2009

Radnorshire Surnames, Part Two

The map shows the distribution of the surname Bufton in 1881. You can check out other names here.

In our sample of surnames taken from Radnorshire marriages 1813-1822, around 24% do not derive from the traditional patronym system*. Not all these names are of English origin, some come from local placenames, Dyke and Hergest for example; while others are what were Welsh speaking families of French origin from Breconshire like Havard and Awbery.

This leaves some 728 individuals with names of English origin. In every parish Welsh names are in the majority , even in the traditionally ethnically mixed border towns of Presteigne and Knighton. At the same time in 25 parishes more than a quarter of the names are English. The most frequent names in our sample are 24 Hamers, 23 Buftons, 16 Bounds, 15 Worthings, 12 Wildings and Ingrams and 10 Sheens.

It would be wrong to think that this English element maintained any separate identity, at least away from the Presteigne area. Indeed we find examples of Buftons, Ingrams, Hamers, Bounds, Bywaters, Hopes etc among the last generations of traditionally Welsh-speaking Radnorshire folk detailed in the early 20C censuses. Over 300 of the 728 individuals have surnames that had been established in the county by the time of the 1670 Hearth tax or even a century before. They had long ago intermarried and integrated with the local population. The same is true of that group of surnames originating in the sixteenth century English plantations in Montgomeryshire.

Whilst the English families moving into Radnorshire integrated with the local Welsh-speaking population, they must surely have helped to increase the extent of bilingualism and bilingualism was the first necessary step in the process of language shift. Later arrivals - by which I mean arrivals in the second half of the eighteenth century and more especially those who looked towards Knighton and Presteigne as commercial centres - would not have needed to learn Welsh to converse with their neighbours.

* Of course the occasional Watson, Wilcox and Moore might have had a traditional patronymic origin just as the odd Jones or Williams might have arrived from England.

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