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About the study

This One Name Study grew out of my general researches into my own Family Tree. Waycott was my maiden name, and a name familiar to me generally in Devonshire where I grew up. It wasn't until I started tracing the lines back that I realised how special the name was in terms of geography.

Name origin

The suffix -cott is very common in the West Country, especially in Devon. It locates the bearer as living in a cottage relative to the nearest settlement, eg. Southcott, Northcott, Upcott, Endacott. I had always imagined Waycott to be one of this group, a dweller in the cottage along the way. I was surprised therefore to find that early Parish Registers did not show the name where I expected to find it. They did however show families called Wicket. This name occurs all over Britain and is thought to derive from the Latin VICUS, a small civilian settlement outside a Roman fort. Only in Devon did it mutate (via Wicot, Wycot and Wickyett) into the form Waycott, probably by association with other -cott names. Literacy in these rural communities was rare, standardised spelling even rarer, and bearers of the name may dip in and out of the variants each time they appear in the records. Local pronunciation encouraged confusion; a correspondent tells me that her grandfather, who died in 1993, always pronounced his name as Waycutt. Many families in the Parish Registers eventually settled on Wicket or Wickett; only a few continued as Waycott.

Historical occurrences of the name

The earliest record of the name I have found is the marriage of Edward Waycott & Beaten Couche 30 Nov 1625 in Plymouth St Andrew. This is followed by the baptism of Honor Waycott d. of Isacke 01 Jul 1627 in Lapford, and the marriage of Richard Clarcke & Margaret Waycott 30 Nov 1627, also in Plymouth St Andrew.

Clock-makers: One branch of the family specialised in clock-making and organ-building. Peter Waycott was active in the West Country in the late 1700s; clocks still in existence were made in Totnes and Glastonbury. There are also records of Waycott clockmakers in Newfoundland.

Transportation to Australia: William Waycott of Paignton in Devon, a son of the clock-making and organ-building family, was apparently led astray by a young woman and was convicted of larceny in London in 1836. Sentenced to 7 years transportation to New South Wales, he sailed on the Prince George from Torbay (within sight of his home) two days before his 21st birthday in January 1837. He died in Australia before the end of his sentence.

Baltic medal: Two unrelated Waycotts served in the Royal Navy and were awarded the Baltic Medal for service in the Baltic during the Crimean War: Samuel Waycott, a stoker on HMS Cuckoo, and Richard Waycott, an Ordinary Seaman on HMS Indefatigable.

Waycott Opera House: Ernest Waycott, born in Surrey in 1862, emigrated to America and became a successful builder. He managed the Waycott Opera House in Colorado City, Colorado, a centre for music, dancing and performances from the 1880s onwards. His home in Fort Collins, built in 1908, is now a historic building.

War Service: There are eight Waycotts named on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, three from WW1, one civilian casualty in WW2, and four serviceman from WW2. William Hugh Waycott was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in 1944, and John Ainslie Waycott was awarded the Military Cross, also in 1944.

Sport: In the 1930s, Stuart Waycott had some success in international Velocette motorcycle racing.

Painter: Hedley William Waycott, 1865-1938, was from the Buckfastleigh family but born in Wiltshire. As a young man he trained as a jeweller. After he emigrated to America with his father and sisters, he settled in Peoria, Illinois and became a renowned watercolour artist.

UFOs: Clifford Waycott, a serving Police Constable at the time, hit the headlines in 1967 when he and a colleague observed an Unidentified Flying Object over Dartmoor.

Name frequency

The Office of National Statistics estimates that there are currently only about 100 bearers of the name Waycott in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. There are of course many more than that across the world.

Distribution of the name

There are two small but distinct populations of Waycotts in Devon from c1750 onwards. One, from which I am descended, is southeast of Dartmoor, in the Buckfastleigh/Ashburton/Totnes triangle, and up into the moor at Holne and Widecombe. The other is southwest of Dartmoor, around Shaugh Prior, Sheepstor and Walkhampton, and in the Tavy and Tamar valleys. All the Waycotts in the world appear to have spread out from these points.The name is only very rarely found outside Devon before the middle of the 19th century. Even after that there is very limited movement. In the UK there are small outcrops in Wales, Kent, Surrey and Durham. They followed their trades where they led: paper-making from the Dart Valley to South Wales; the Royal Navy and Royal Marines from the naval dockyards in Plymouth to those in Kent; carpentry and joinery from Plymouth to the new suburbs springing up in Surrey; and mining from the tin and copper mines of the Tamar Valley to the Durham coalfields.The east coast of Canada was the main focus of emigration, especially for seafarers, and families spread from there across the United States. There are also Waycotts in Australia but none that I know of in New Zealand. If you know better, surprise me!