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2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

I became intrigued by the Hockliffe surname when the 1881 UK census disks were published and I found to my surprise that there were only 31 people listed and of course this included the wives. At that stage it didn't occur to me to look for alternative spellings or wonder about transcription errors although I subsequently found 5 Hackliffe names indexed.

Hockliffe was just one of the family names I grew up with. 'Grandma' Hockliffe was a formidable character even though confined to her bedroom, and eventually to her bed, during most of the time I knew her.

I grew up in Bedford where Hockliffe's was one of the largest shops, built on the corner of the High Street and Lime Street in about 1885, selling books, stationery and fancy goods. It had a lending library and a separate second hand book shop.

The village of Hockliffe is in Bedfordshire about 18 miles SW of Bedford on the A5, an old Roman road still known as Watling Street, so altogether I was very familiar with the name and hence my surprise at it's rarity.

Variant names

Hockcliffe was, and still is, (just try a Google search) often used to spell the name of the village. In the 17th and 18th centuries alternative local names for the village were Hockley-in-the-Clay and Hockley-in-the-Hole. The road through the village was often impassible in winter with disruption to stage coach services. Once stuck in the clay, the coaches were prime targets for local highwaymen.

So far I have not found any evidence that the Hockliffe surname became Hockley or evolved from it.

Name origin

Did the name originate from that of the village? I have certainly traced more names back to Bedford itself than to anywhere else, but not to the village or to a common ancestor.

Historical occurrences of the name

The earliest occurrences of the name I've found (so far) are Lucy De Hockliff married to Robert Chetwode in about 1261 and Matilda of Hocclive, born c. 1275.

Richard de Hockleve was a witness to a Quitclaim in 1302

Thomas Hoccleve (Occleve), c.1367-€“1426 was a poet and clerk to the Privy Seal who was granted annuities by Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI.

Name frequency

Entries found in the UK census, but still searching:-

1841: 12
1851: 13
1861: 19
1871: 26
1881: 45
1891: 35
1901: 40
1911: 43

Distribution of the name

I have found only one reference for a Hockliffe in the USA, James, in the 74th Regiment, New York Infantry during the Civil War.

Samuel Hockliffe was transported to Van Diemans Land on 16th June 1850, and died there in 1892.

Currently a Hockliffe and his wife live in France, but otherwise they all seem to have holidayed abroad and then returned to England or Wales.