Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Category: 1 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is in its early stages.
Contact: Mr Rob Hubbleday
I began researching my surname in the 1980s and have pursued this study intermittently ever since. By the end of the 1990s, I had tracked down all of the existing branches of the name and had discovered that we were all related. This was news to everyone in the extended Hubbleday clan as nobody's knowledge of our history extended further than that of their own grandparents. What we can now say with absolute certainty is that every single 'Hubbleday' since the beginning of the twentieth century is a descendant of William Robert Hubbleday born in 1843 in Dudley, West Midlands.
More recently, I have been able to go further back in time and can trace the lineage to William Hubbleday who died aged 34 in 1788. He was a shoemaker living with his wife Sarah in Petticoat Lane, London. It is highly likely that he was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk and was the son of John and Mary Hubbleday who married in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire in 1744.
The first recorded evidence of the surname is from a church court case in Yorkshire in 1493. William Hubbilday, aged 40, was a witness in a case brought by the Vicar of Hornsea, East Riding against the Abbot of St Mary's Convent, York concerning repairs to his his church.
It was always a great disappointment to me that the name, Hubbleday, never featured in any encyclopaedia of surnames and their meanings. My own research has led me to believe that the name is a surname of occupation.
In a book called 'English Surnames, their Sources and Significations' by Charles Wareing Bardsley, published by Chatto and Windus in 1875, the author explains that the words Daye, Day or Dagh meant a dairyman or maid in medieval English. He cites several examples, such as Cecilia le Day, Christiana la Daye and Stephen le Dagh. Another book, 'A Dictionary of British Surnames' by P H Reaney, published in 1976 by Routledge and Kegan Paul, supports this view. Reaney says that originally the word daye meant a baker and then became the word for a dairy maid or female servant. In the early thirteenth century, the word was also used to describe the work of a man. He cites examples such as Walter le Daye in 1269 and Thomas le Deye in 1277.
Another book, 'Middle English Surnames of Occupation' by Fransor Lund, published in 1935, explains how le was used interchangeably with the but had dropped out of use by the end of the fourteenth century. Lund confirms that deye meant a baker, a maker of cheese or butter or a dairyman. He cites the example of Rob le Deye in 1333.
My belief, therefore, is that the surname has its origins in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with a dairyman called, say, Hubert, (a common name since the eighth century) who would have been known as Hubert le Daye. Hub was a common nickname for people called Hubert so our hypothetical dairyman would have been known as Hub le Daye. By the end of the fourteenth century the name had become Hubledaye. In fact, some of the earliest recordings of the name in sixteenth century London have this exact spelling. Instead of Hubert, the first name might have been Hubba, after the name of the notorious Viking leader who came to prominence in England in the ninth century. There is an oral history in my family passed down from father to son that our name was originally hyphenated. I have not found any evidence of this but it might simply be a distant memory of a time when the name was in three parts: Hub le Daye.
Sad to say, as far as I know, no Hubbledays have ever played a significant part in shaping the history of our country. In the main, the earliest known Hubbledays were agricultural labourers, some of whom rose to the status of husbandmen (a smallholder who was a freeman) owning a few oxen and horses according to the inventories which accompanied their wills. In the later eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, there were a few who were prosperous farmers in Lincolnshire.
In London in 1593, the parish register in St Saviour's Church, Southwark records the baptism of John Hubleday, the son of John Hubleday, a waterman. A waterman would have been someone who rowed people across the Thames and it is an intriguing thought that Shakespeare was working in Southwark at this time and would have frequently needed to cross the river . . .
William Robert Hubbleday, born in 1843, my great great grandfather, was an insignificant private soldier in the 4th Battalion of the Military Train who, probably much to his surprise, found himself sailing to the other side of the world in 1863 to fight the Maoris in the Third New Zealand War. By a fortunate coincidence, I happened to find his campaign medal inscribed with his name in an auction of militaria in 2007. Until that time, I had not even known he was in the army. His brother, Robert, born in 1851, had a less impressive life story. He deserted from the Royal Artillery in 1872, lived as a tramp and was arrested for stealing money from a pub. In 1902 he was placed on the police register of habitual criminals and spent eight months in Wormwood Scrubs.
The number of instances of the name, including its deviant spellings, barely reached double figures in any of the censuses carried out between 1841 and 1901. Although several Hubbledays appear to have avoided the enumerators' attention, it is clear that the name was fairly unusual and would have died out completely by the end of the nineteenth century if it wasn't for William Robert and his wife Mary Ann Dudley whom he married in 1868. In the 1901 census there were 15 names. Two are of widows, both born in Lincolnshire, but then in their 80s and representing the last of the line of Lincolnshire Hubbledays whom I have not yet fully identified. All of the other 13 names are direct relatives of William Robert. He had nine children but only two, Charles Edward, born 1869, and James Ernest, born 1880, were sons who went on to have their own sons. In particular, Charles Edward, my own great grandfather, went on to have four sons who each produced sons, thus securing the name.
The record of the 1911 census contains 21 occurrences of the name Hubbleday. Twenty of these are my direct ancestors: the families of my great great grandfather, my great grandfather and my grandfather! The 21st name was a mystery. I could not locate John Hubbleday born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1838 in any part of my family tree. Eventually, I noticed that the original document might have been transcribed incorrectly. It occurred to me that the capital 'H" could be an 'S' and a 'T'. And so it proved! All became clearer when John Hubbleday was transposed into John Stubbleday. I had never come across this name before but discovered several hundred Stubbledays living in Lincolnshire up to the middle of the nineteenth century. John Stubbleday, aged 73, living in Kent was, it appeared, one of the very few still bearing the name into the twentieth century and had no connection with the Hubbleday family tree.
The 1939 register has 30 Hubbledays, all of whom are direct descendants of William Robert. By 2002, according to data from the Office of National Statistics, there were 59.
Until modern times, the name was found only on England's east coast. The earliest records of settlement are in the East Riding of Yorkshire around Hornsea and Hull and in London during the reign of Elizabeth I. References to the name virtually die out in both of these areas towards the end of the seventeenth century. By that time the name was well established in a small number of fenland areas around The Wash, especially East Kirkby and Swineshead in Lincolnshire, Wisbech and Elm in Cambridgeshire and King's Lynn in Norfolk.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the name returned to London with a succession of cordwainers, bootmakers and shoemakers. Times were hard and virtually all of the families we know about spent some time in the workhouse. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, Robert Hubbleday, born 1809, moved to Dudley near Wolverhampton and Birmingham for a few years before returning to London. His son, William Robert was born there and made his way back in the 1870s when he left the army. From that point onwards, the name has been entirely associated with Birmingham and its immediate surroundings as each generation of Hubbledays found manual work in the area, usually in brass and iron foundries. There were nine family groups in the 1939 Register and they were all in Birmingham. Of the eleven men of working age, six were in metal industries as spinners, polishers, filers and wire drawers. The jobs of the other five were: electrical labourer, lorry driver's mate, omnibus driver, fruiterer and GPO stores boy.
It is only since the 1950s that any Hubbledays have ventured away from the Midlands and, even in the twenty first century, the overwhelming majority of Hubbledays still live within an hour's car drive from the centre of Birmingham. Nevertheless, those born after World War II and who have benefited from educational opportunities not available to earlier generations have begun to disperse more widely, especially if they have attended university.
The Hubbleday name has not spread beyond England. As far as I know, only one Hubbleday currently lives abroad (in Germany). An earlier Hubbleday, Charles Henry, a grandson of William Robert and a highly thought of metal polisher, emigrated to Canada in 1951 but did not have any sons.
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