A study of the early distribution of the Gawthrop surname reveals that, from at least the thirteenth century, there are two main geographical concentrations of the surname, one in Yorkshire, and the other in East Anglia. The name does occur elsewhere, but with lesser frequency, and it may be that these branches of the name are offshoots from one of the other centres. The geography of these early clusters, gives strong clues as to the origin of the surname, centered as they are on the villages of Gawthrop and Gawthorpe in Yorkshire, and the manor of Gowthorpe, in Norfolk.
Surnames developed in mediaeval England, as a means to identify individuals in an expanding population, and these additional names could have a variety of origins. They could be patronymic, such as Johnson, indicating that a particular man was the son of John. They could be descriptive, such as Fairhead, indicating someone with blonde hair. They might be locative, such as William De Gawthorpe, meaning simply ‘William of Gawthorpe’.
Gawthrop is a small village, some 11 miles South East of Kendal, on the Western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Gawthorpe is a village on the outskirts of Ossett, some five miles to the South of Leeds. The manor of Gowthorpe, also sometimes called Galthorpe or Gouthorpe, is part of the village of Swardeston, in Norfolk, on the southern outskirts of Norwich. The surname Gawthrop would seem to have developed as a locative marker, indicating that an individual originated from of the three mentioned villages.
The use of ‘thorpe’ (pronounced ‘throp’) in place names is Danish in origin, and means ‘outlying farmstead’. The earliest spelling of the two Yorkshire villages is Gaukethorp, which means, ‘the farmstead of Gauke’, with Gauke being the name of the settlements founder. The origins of the surname in East Anglia will be dealt with seperately.
In ‘Yorkshire Inquisitions’ edited by William Brown, one of the earliest occurances of the surname exists, in the form of a reference within the inquisition of Baldwin de Insula, Earl of Devon, in the manor of Harewood near Leeds. Dated 1263, this inquisition states that John de Goukethorp held seven bovates of land and that he carried out foreign service and suit of court. This may be the same John de Goukethorpe, whose daughter, and co-heir, Matilda, married William Gascoigne of Harewood, later lord of the manor at Gawthorp.
Following this, the ‘de Gouekthorp’ surname occurs on manor rolls throughout Yorkshire with increasing frequency during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and is especially prevalent in the town of Ossett, which lays just to the north of the village of Gawthorpe.
In 1274 there are two separate references within the Wakefield Court rolls, to Henry (also spelt Hanne) de Goukethorp at Ossett, when he gave two shillings to take a bovate of land in ‘Sothyll’ from the Earl, which had previously belonged to Henry de Chydeshyll, to hold for himself and his heirs for ever. A year later, also at Ossett, we find ‘Jordan, son of Robert de Goukethorp, and Robert, his brother’, when they are ordered to be arrested if found, for being Earl natives, living in Snaith and Rawcliffe, to the East of Gawthorpe, which is to say outside the Earls manor.
Adam de Goukethorp first occurs in the Wakefield manor rolls in 1298, but after this with some frequency. He is said to be the son of Henry de Goukethorp. In 1307 he sued William Hirnying for 2 ½ bovates of land in Ossett and Goukethorp (Gawthorp), stating this to be his inheritance after the death of his brother, Geoffrey, whose heir he claims to be. Adam was fined 2 ½d however for lodging a false claim, after it was found that Geoffrey had been convicted as a felon and hung, after which the land had escheated to the lord, whereupon Deft had paid the steward 20/- for entry to the land in question. He was married by 1314, when his daughter Johanna is mentioned in court rolls, and he is also known to have had a son, also called Adam.
In 1327 Hugh de Disceford was indicted for the death of Adam de Gaukethorpe, his goods seized and given into control of the Ossett bailiff, pending his trial in York. The exact circumstances of Adam’s death are unknown, but Hugh was eventually acquitted before dom Geoffrey le Scrope, and his goods returned.
Adam, son of Adam de Gaukethorpe continues to make appearance in the Wakefield court rolls, following his father’s death. In 1331 he was fined 12d for the escape of nine pigs, and a further 4d for escape of cattle without grazing rights. In 1332 he was ammerced for digging an iron mine in the bond lands of the lord, without licence, and in 1333 he launched a suit against Agnes del Dene, and her daughter Joan, for trespass upon land that he claimed belonged to him. He claimed that a messuage of 16 acres in Gawthorpe, upon which Agnes and Joan were dwelling, was his according to the customs of the manor. He stated that the two woman had no right to the land, save by a demise which Adam’s kinsman, Henry Marghou had made to Richard del Dene, Joan’s grandfather, which had now expired. However, the court ruled that since Joan was under minimum age and claiming minority, and Agnes her mother, claimed nothing of the said tenements, then there was no case to answer.
In 1333 a William de Gawthorpe surrendered 9 ½ acres of land in Padiham, Lancashire, in which village there now exists Gawthorpe Hall. Gawthorpe Hall was built as the home of the Shuttleworth family, and according to Ughtred Shuttleworth, family tradition states that the Hall was named for the family, as meaning ‘home of the Cuckoo’ and has no specific association with the Gawthrop’s. While it is true that no Gawthrop’s have dwelt in the Hall, the fact that William de Gawthorpe was a landowner there in the fourteenth century, suggests the origins of the halls name, may have been inherited from an existing title on the land that it was built upon. In 1379, a William de Gawkthorp was listed on a subsidy roll at Dent in Yorkshire, and there is a possibility that this may be the same William who earlier surrendered the land in Padiham.
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