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About the study

In maintaining and expanding the study of the Hebden surname, I follow several dedicated researchers whose work forms the basis of this study. The pioneering work was done by William Hebden of Halifax, who between the wars researched the medieval family; the Ripon line; and those of Grimwith above Burnsall, Appleton-le-Street/Scarborough and the Hepden family of Burwash, Sussex.

When William Hebden died in 1973, the material he had collected was taken over by John Reid Hebden. In the years following, he was joined by Graham Pratten from the the Braisty Woods branch of the Ripon family and the Rev David Jackson who was also interested in the same family. Much of the written material was computerised and Graham Pratten created a simple but extensive chronological database of Hebden family events, searchable by date, forename and other variables.

John R.Hebden was joined by a previously unknown cousin, Peter Hebden. Sadly he died in 1995 but his daughter, Janet (Jan) took over. She died suddenly in 2005 having created a website with a narrative description for each of the Hebden families known at the time. This still exists and the web address can be found in the links section below. Unfortunately she told no-one her password so her site cannot be edited or corrected in any way.

Stuart Hebden started researching his own branch of the family in 2002 and soon amassed a considerable amount of material relating to other family branches. Correspondence with John Hebden and Janet Hebden developed into an interest in the wider family, and he converted the 25 original hand drawn tree charts into web graphics. This series now comprises 50 indexed charts and is still growing. An additional website ( with improved navigation has been launched, and this may be merged with the original at some stage. The study is ongoing, and we are very interested in any trees or research covering the Hebden family or its variants and welcome any enquiries, comments or suggestions.

Variant names

Variants that have appeared over the years include Hebdon, Hebdin, Hibden, Hepden, Hepton, Ebden, Ebdon and Epton.
Most, if not all the variants come from the way the name Hebden was recorded before the spread of education and literacy produced standardised spelling. Until the latter half of the nineteenth century most formal records were written and kept by the clergy, landords and parish officials. The name was spelt as it was heard and perceived by the person recording the name; - a dropped "H" might result in the name being recorded as "Ebden" and the "o" and final "e" were interchangeable to produce "Hebden" or "Hebdon"
Hibdon is a common variant in the USA, again based on aural perception. The most unusual version, if not a variation of the name is "Webden", thought to arise from mis-transcription of the name "Hebden", where a hand-written "H" has been mistakenly transcribed as "W" and the the mistake perpetuated in subsequent official or ecumenical records. The earliest modern examples appear in the first half of the 19th century, but by the 1930's the name had almost disappeared because of female marriages and early mortality amongst the males.

Name origin

Hebden is a locational surname and comes from the village of Hebden near Grassington in Wharfedale North Yorkshire. Prior to the 1974 reorganisation of local government administrative boundaries Hebden was a district of the West Riding. The name comes from the Old English 'heope,' or '(rose) hip,' and 'denu,' which meant 'valley', and hence 'A valley where Rose-hips grow'.

Historical occurrences of the name

Originally a Manor, the family who held it in in the 11th century became known as de Hebden. The male line died out  in the 15th century, but more than twenty families have been identified, three appearing in Wharfedale in the 16th Century, with families in Ripon and Appleton-le-Street from around the same time. Yorkshire is particularly well covered, but other family branches have been identified in London, Liverpool Shropshire and Sussex. In the last 100 years Hebdens have spread across the world (see distribution), but the foundations of the family still remain in the Yorkshire Dales.

Name frequency

In England, Wales and the isle of Man there were 3,873 People with the Hebden surname or one of its derivatives alive in 2002. This total comprises Hebden (1,097), Hebdon (334), Hepden (188), Hepton (495) Hebdin (<4), Ebdon (858), (Epton (691), and Ebden (207).

Distribution of the name

From medieval times the various Hebden communities were Dales folk, earning a living in sheep farming on the high moors and homesteading in the valleys. At the end of the eighteenth century, the agricultural revolution brought about greater productivity and better livestock management. The effect of this was to depress wage rates and start a gradual decline in rural communities. Many farm workers were forced to leave the land and seek work in the cotton and woollen mills of the rapidly growing industrial towns of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. In the late nineteenth century many families emigrated to the USA, followed in the twentieth century by similar moves to Australia and Canada. Today the distribution of the family is worldwide.


Data held on the Hebden name and its variants include every BMD event in the GRO indexes from 1837 to 2005 (27,900 entries), a timeline of 15,000 dated family events from A.D.913 to 2000, and a series of indexed pedigree charts of the main family lines comprising 8,000 names. In addition there are on-line sources and a considerable amount of archive material gathered over the years.

Family tree charts for 47 branches of the Hebden family and variants can be viewed on the Hebden family website at