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About the study

It is now 6 years since I started my research into the surname Halkyard. Something that I thought would be easy has turned out to be quite difficult and I’ve certainly had a steep learning curve and one that continues to rise upwards! The most notable aspect has been the discovery that, rather than being the original, Halkyard is a variant of Hawkyard.  Because I have focused on the Halkyard name most of my research has been on this. 


Variant names

Halkyard is a variant of the surname Hawkyard. Other variants are Hawkard and Halkerd

Name origin

Originally I used the information supplied by the Internet Surname Database which provided the following information: "an, interesting and unusual surname is of topographical origin from one of two possible origins. Firstly it may derive from the Old English pre 7th Century "healf" meaning half and "gierd" a yard; hence it refers to someone living on a "half-yard" of land. In Great Waltham (Essex) land was measured in "yerds" (30 acres) and divided into halves and quarters. It may also be composed of the old English elements "hafoc", a hawk, a bird or prey and "gierd" an enclosure, and refers to a yard or enclosure where hawks are kept, either to breed to train.
Strangely the database does not include any information on the surname Hawkyard.
The very recently published Oxford Dictionary of Family Surnames in Britain and Ireland however provides the explanation that Hawkyard is a locative surname originating in an ancient hamlet in Saddleworth Yorkshire called Hawk Yard. Halkyard is described as being the variant. As I’ve never been able to find a more compelling explanation for the Halkyard name I accept this. In addition I feel that the greater number of Halkyards shown in census and other records can be explained by the fact that they are predominantly found in Oldham in Lancashire. Given the “explosion” in the population of Oldham in the first part of the 19th century due to industrialisation, there is a great likelihood that Hawkyards moved from the surrounding areas (including Saddleworth) where the surname became Halkyard. Indeed I have found this to be the case in several of the reconstructed family trees that I have in my study.
I also need to acknowledge the help given to me by David Halkyard and Neil Burrows of the Saddleworth Historical Society. Both drew my attention to the Subsidy Rolls (Poll Tax) for the year 1379.) David says, “The Saddleworth Historical Society - which is where I unearthed this - suggests that Hawred became Hawkyard. As we know, Halkyard is one of several spelling variations of that. My gut feeling is that this is correct. The often bizarre spelling variants that show up as we go further back into history - the Dictionary shows a few of them - suggests that this isn't wild speculation.”

History of the name

Research so far shows that Halkyards were very much a part of domestic system of cloth manufacture that existed in Lancashire and Yorkshire before the Industrial Revolution. Parish registers show that the majority of Halkyards were weavers and spinners by occupation. One exception to this was the family of Alfred Halkyard who,although born in Leicester in 1892, had his family roots in Oldham.He was admitted as a Solicitor in 1916 and was commissioned in the 4th Battalion, The Leicestershire Regiment in the same year. He served in France and Belgium from October that year to May 1918, when he was taken prisoner of war and remained in Germany until December 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross in May 1918. In the post war years Alfred joined the Territorial Army where he had a distinguished career. Following his demobilization in 1940, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Leicestershire in 1942. He continued in local government and was appointed High Bailiff of Leicester for the year 1955-1956. In 1956 he served as Lord Mayor of Leicester.

Name frequency

According to the British Surname Atlas, in 1881 the surname Halkyard ranked 8954 with a total of 343. The British Surname data base shows that the ranking of the name is now 14125 with a total of 255 people.

Distribution of the name

Historically, this name is peculiar to Lancashire and Yorkshire. My research so far shows me that there were Halkyards living in Huddersfield and Saddleworth in Yorkshire in the 17th and 18th centuries. By 1841 there were no Halkyards living in Huddersfield and the majority resided in Oldham,Ashton under Lyne and Rochdale in Lancashire and Saddleworth (3.7 miles from Oldham), in Yorkshire. By 1881 the majority of Halkyards could still be found in Lancashire the majority (317 out of 343)living in Oldham.


I am in the process of reconstructing family trees; using the 1841 census as a baseline. I have ave almost completed the existing online parish records available. At the moment my research is concentrated on the UK but I am aware that, like almost all families, there are Halkyards in other parts of the world. I have begun to collect data for Halkyards living in the U.S, Canada,Australia and New Zealand.


Lancashire Online Parish Clerks Project

Lancashire BMD

Cheshire BMD