Origins and locations of the Witheridge/Wetheridge name
WITHERIDGE - where does it come from, what does it mean, and how did our families
come to bear this fascinating name?
The word itself is Anglo-Saxon, but there has been some dispute about its meaning.
Ridge presents no problems, meaning an elevation deep in proportion to its width
and height and generally having sloping sides. The first part of the word has
been said to mean either willow or castrated ram - quite a difference there!
There are quite a few locations linked with the name Witheridge:
- The town of Witheridge in mid-Devon, England, recorded in the Domesday Book of
1086. At that time it was a small hamlet with a population of 11, but the Hundred of
Witheridge, which covered some 61 villages, hamlets and settlements, had a total
population of less than 750
- The ancient manor of Wederige, near Plympton, Devon, also recorded in the
- Witheridge Wood on Witheridge Lane, Knotty Green, Buckinghamshire, England
- Witheridge Farm, at Exton, Somerset, England.
- Witheridge Hill, north-west of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England
As most Witheridge/Wetheridge families can trace their ancestry back to Devon, many
thought that we all came originally from the town of Witheridge in mid-Devon. However,
looking at the map showing where Witheridges had settled, it seemed unlikely that
people would have moved across the dangerous tracks of Dartmoor to reach places like
Wembury, Ermington, Kingsbridge and Plymouth. Our joint founder, Kim Cook, had a hunch
that there was another place called Witheridge somewhere in South Devon.
The story of that hunch, and the subsequent search for a missing Domesday manor is
too long to be told here, but it is known that the manor of Witheridge stood on the
cliffs above Jennycliffe Bay, between Plymouth and Wembury. The manor has long since
gone and, ironically, the original Anglo-Saxon name has changed over the years to the
more elegant Withyhedge. If you look at the 6-inch OS map of the area, you can still
see a field bearing the name Withyhedge Brake.
There are many other places linked with Witheridge-Wetheridge families which do not
necessarily have any locality bearing the name. Ancestors of various branches of the
family settled all across north Devon, with the Combe Martin family being particularly
prolific. Other branches settled across the area of south Devon known as the South
Hams, between Plymouth and Kingsbridge. Early in the 16th century, many Witheridges,
particularly seafarers, sailed in and out of the port of London, and settled in the
city, with some eventually moving out to surrounding villages, now suburbs. Another
branch was in Chatham, Kent in the late 17th century, and descendants of this branch
moved to the Birmingham area and have since spread throughout the Midlands. Descendants
from all these branches are now scattered throughout the UK and the world, and we have
members in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. We are also trying to locate
known descendants in South Africa.
Although the manor of Witheridge near Plympton has long since disappeared, probably
through coastal erosion, the town of Witheridge, Devon, still bears the family name.
Here, most of us have, at one time or another, stood by the signpost to have our
photograph taken! During Witheridge Day 1997, the Society?s 10th Anniversary, a party
of some 45 Witheridge descendants took a coach tour visiting some of the Witheridge
ancestral homes. Our first stop was at Witheridge, where we were welcomed by the Town
Crier and his wife.
Here we have a few sources for our surname, which suggests that we come from quite
different families. But were those families ever linked in any way, and if so can
we prove it? That's another challenge!
Some of the Devonshire towns and villages in which our Witheridge ancestors
- Barnstaple Among the earliest Witheridge records in Barnstaple are the marriage
in 1582, of William Witheridge to Dorothy Welshe, and the baptisms, between 1583 and
1596, of eight children born to them.
- Berrynarbor In 1553, a Nicholas Witheridge married Mary Somer (Summer) in
- Bideford Bideford, and the nearby hamlet of Littleham by Bideford, have a number
of early references to Witheridge. William Wetheridg, son of William, was baptised in
1557 in Littleham.
- Combe Martin
- Ermington Registers for the parish church of St Peter & St Paul (noted for
its leaning spire), date from 1603, and one of the earliest records is that of the
burial of Lyon Witheridge in 1606. A year later, Arthure Wetheridge married Joane
Edgecombe, and many direct lines of descent from this couple survive to the present
- Ilfracombe An entry in the Ilfracombe registers for 1627 records the marriage of
James Witheridge (believed to have been born in 1604, in the nearby village of
Fremington, to Joan Moule.
- Modbury References for Witheridge/Wetheridge families in Modbury are spasmodic,
and it has so far been impossible to produce a connected family tree for this branch.
The earliest references in the parish registers relate to the baptisms of Thomas
Witheridge (1617), son of John and Christian Witheridge, and Christian Witheridge
(1619), daughter of Edmond and Alice. It may be that John and Edmond were brothers,
but as yet there is no confirmation of this.
- Newton Ferrers This was a very early Witheridge settlement, possibly linked to
the Manor of Wederige and the parishes of Plymstock and Wembury. A Degory Witheridge
was buried in Newton Ferrers in 1617. However, in 1619 survey of South Devon
mariners, a Christopher Witheridg of Newton Ferrers, was said to be aged 58,
suggesting that he had been born around 1561-2, and another Christopher Witheridge of
Newton Ferrers, was said to be aged 20. The younger Christopher may have been the
grandson of the older one. The younger one is believed to have married in
- Plymstock The earliest known record of a Witheridge at Plymstock was in the Devon
Muster Roll of 1569, which lists William Wetheryge of Plymstock as an harquebusier.
In 1620, William Witheridge, son of Christopher and Frances, was baptised in
Plymstock. This may have been the Christopher Witheridge who in 1619 had been a
mariner, aged about 20 in Newton Ferrers. There was considerable movement between
Wembury, Newton Ferrers and Plymstock, and in 1753, Joseph Witheridge of Wembury
married Elizabeth Boon of Plymstock.
- Tavistock In the early 19th century, families from various parts of Devon were
drawn to the Tavistock area, some the mining and quarrying work available locally,
and some for agricultural opportunities. Among the earliest events here were the
births of John Philips Witheridge (c 1805) and George Witheridge (c 1812), both sons
of Richard Witheridge, who had been born in Kilkhampton, and had married Mary Philips
- Wembury Of all the Witheridge settlements, Wembury is the nearest to the original
Domesday manor of Wederige, located in Plympton Hundred, near Jennycliffe Bay. The
earliest surviving parish registers of Wembury date from 1611, but there is evidence
to suggest that by then Witheridges had already been living there for some time. A
Subsidy Roll for 1544 and a Patent Roll for 1548 both refer to a John Wetheryge,
while a Muster Roll for 1569 lists William Witheredge of Wembury as a pikeman. The
first recorded Witheridge marriages there are of Temperance Witheridge to Edmund Rous
on 17 January 1627, and Moses Witheridge to Margaret Strapp on 10 June 1628.
From the Doomsday Book:
- Witheridge Wirige riga: King's land, formerly Countess Gytha. Large market place,
the site of fairs since the 13th century.
- Some of the Towns in Devon where our families originated
- Berrynarbor Hurtesberie / beria: Walter de Douai. 200 sheep, 83 goats. Near the
church, manor house, c.1480, of the Berry family
- Bradworthy Brawordine / Braor / Bravordina: Ralph de Pomeroy. 40 cattle, 30
unbroken mares, 120 sheep. Remote; a large central square
- Combe Martin Cumbe / Comba: William de Falaise. 21 cattle, 140 sheep. Once known
for lead and silver mines.
- Ermington Ermentone / -tona / Hermentona: King's land, formerly Asgar the
Cramped. Salthouse. On the Saxon plan; church with a leaning spire.
- Modbury Mortberie / Motberia / Motbilie / -lia: Richard and Reginald from Count
of Mortain. 30 goats. 16th century Exeter Inn.
- Tavistock Tavestoc / stocha: Tavistock Church; Ermenald, Ralph, another Ralph,
Robert, Geoffrey and Hugh from the Church. Mill. Cob, 26 cattle, 200 sheep, 30 goats.
Market town, originally a prehistoric settlement, then a Saxon site with an abbey in
the 10th century; one of the 4 stannary towns after tin was discovered in the 13th
- Wembury - Of all the Witheridge settlements, Wembury is the nearest to the
original Domesday manor of Witheridge, located in Plympton Hundred, near Jennycliffe
Bay. The earliest surviving parish registers of Wembury date from 1611, but
there is evidence to suggest that by then Witheridges had already been living there
for some time. The first recorded Witheridge marriages there are Temperance
Witheridge to Edmund Rous on 17 Jan 1627, and Moses Witheridge to Margaret Strapp on
10 Jun 1628.