The Mystery of Wickenden

Was the house in this picture the original Wickenden homestead, now lost?  Where was Wickenden, where did the Wickendens come from, and what is the origin and meaning of the name "Wickenden?"  These questions are addressed in the following articles and their links.

Alfred Wickenden's The Wicken Tree (1939)

In 1939 Alfred A. Wickenden, a son of Robert J. Wickenden, wrote a paper on the origin of Anglo-Saxon family names ending in "den," and particularly the name of "Wickenden."  He believes the name derives from the name of a common tree, the Wych Elm or Wicken tree.  It has been scanned and attached here:  The Wicken Tree (converted).pdf

Homer Wickenden's Family History (1962)  

An article about Wickenden family history was written by Homer E. Wickenden, a son of Thomas Rogers Wickenden, and included as the first part of the Family History chapter of the Memoirs of the Thomas Rogers Wickenden Family. This document includes information on legends and early historical records of individuals and branches of the Wickenden family.  It also describes the Quaife family experience in a brief emigration to Canada, the tragic loss of Thomas Wickenden at sea, and the emigration of Charlotte and her three sons to Toledo, Ohio. Memoirs, Family History.pdf 

Ken Watson's Wickenden Geneology Page (2004)

Ken Watson, a great-grandson of Robert J. Wickenden, has developed a Wickenden Geneology page that contains various links to information about the origin of the Wickenden surname as well as to other genealogical research and websites:

Thomas H. Wickenden II's Historical Articles (2019)

Several Articles on Wickenden Family History will be found in this section of the website:  

(1) Wickenden Homesteads in Cowden - Pictures, maps and information about the homesteads the Wickendens established or occupied in the Manor or Parish of Cowden.  Clues to the location of the lost homestead of Wickenden are also provided.

(2) All the Way From Wickendorf to Wickenden - Maps and information about a dozen placenames on the Contenent derived from the Wicken, including Wickendorf and Wickenberg or Wickenburg.  Other Wicken names are tracked across Kent and down into the Weald.

(3) Possible Pathways to (and from) Cowden - A project is proposed for tracing all living Wickendens back to the original Wicken family who established a den and then took their name from the Wicken den.  A methodology is also proposed for documenting possible pathways back to ancestors living in Cowden, since exact ancestral lines are often uncertain.  Several examples are given. 

(4) Publications about Wickenden history. One article and a presentation have been published so far about the history of the Wicingas, who migrated across the Continent, crossed the Strait of Dover to Kent, expanded into the Weald where they settled the Wicken den  in Cowden (presumably for their cows), and went on to establish the Kingdom of Hwicce in the Western Midlands. An article about place-name tracing the Iclingas and the Wicingas can be accessed here. Also articles about the validity of the Wicingas migration routes and the reliability of place-name tracing can be accessed here:

Other Historical Information - There is an 

(4) Historical Timeline at the end of the website and another article in this section,

(5) Why Wickenden?, describes various approaches to and aspects of Wickenden family history and how they might be useful.  In addition,

(6) a Wickendens and Historical Documents paper is proposed to describe the implications of historical documents and related events for the history of the Wicken and Wickendens.  Finally, the following information is provided here specifically on the name "Wickenden."

Den Names in Kent - K. P. Witney in The Jutish Weald:  A Study of the Weald of Kent, estimates that at one time there were more than 700 dens located throughout Kent, England.  Many were not named or had names that have been lost.  Currently, there are 22 "den" names (or "...enden" names) on the Wikipedia entry for the List of Names in Kent, England. There are three others in the list of ancient parishes contained in David Wright's Tracing Your Kent Ancestors.  A list of these 25 names can be found here: Énden Names in Kent.pdf

The name "Wickenden" - According to Ewing, "The Wickendens were an ancient and, for a long period, an important family in Cowden, but it is probable that the Wickings were of even earlier origin.  Wickens Farm no doubt derives its name from the Wicken, plural of Wick or Syke, meaning Steward, which became a family name."  Because the Hwicce (Latin for Wicken) were a major clan of the Angles, because, unlike most other clans of Angles or Saxons, their clan name was apparently known and inspired place names ever since the tribe settled in central Germany, because their identify survived the migration to the North Sea, across the Channel to Britain, and across the island to form their own Kingdom in south-western England, this author believes that their name may indicate that for many centuries they served an important administrative role for the Angle tribe, including planning, managing, and generally providing stewardship of tribal resources.  This would be much like the Levite or Kohen Tribes among the Jews, which were originally separate family groups that were assigned specialized roles, and whose names have since been handed down as personal surnames.  Unfortunately, the author has found no evidence for this meaning of Wick or Syke.

However, assuming that the name was assumed or given early in the history of the Wicken clan, it is likely that it derived from an old Proto-Indo-European  (PTI) root such as "Weik-".  According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, this rook has three possible meanings: (1) clan or social unit above the household, (2) to bend or to wind (hence the Wicken tree or elm, also weig-), or (3) to fight or conquer (as in Old English "wigan" meaning "fight"). Any one of these might be a plausible origin for the Wick or Wicken, although they suggest differences such as (1) the family group was identified early in its history as a clan or a group of houses and was simply called "the clan", (2) the clan was given the name Wicken or Elm clan, or was know as being a flexible or weak group, and (3) the clan were know as warriers who were good at fighting. 

Ewing continues, that the name "is pure Saxon and can be traced in the name of Week Street at Maidstone.  Chicken, which is the plural of Chick, supplies an analogy.  In due course the Wicken, having outgrown their farm, would colonize a convenient den in the forest, which would be known as the Wicken-den, and the family as John or William O' the Wickenden contracted into John Wickenden" (Ewing, p. 27).  The author of this article believes that regardless of when Wickens and Wickenden were established, Wicken (or Hwicce in Latin) was the original form of the name which, after establishment of a den, became Wickenden for those living there.

The migrations of the Wicken from the Continent to Thanet and down into the Weald where they established the Wicken den are describes in a series of papers and a book.  These are attached to this website in this section to the page titled "Place-Name Tracing the Wicken."  

Alternative Spellings - It should be noted that other sources such as commercial family crest companies sometimes offer other explanations for the name "Wickenden."  Here is one such offering:  tbd.  Another explanation is provided by Wikipedia's entry for the village whose Arms are listed in Burke's General Armory as belonging to Lower Wickenden:   [Since Wickenden is not included in the listing of alternative spellings below, I believe that Wikipedia's search algorithm has retrieved this entry as the closest to the name searched for.  Still it gives a good picture of the lack of standardization of spelling in that era]  This is also a good example of why all place-names that look like Wickenden were not derived from the tribal group of Wicingas.

Nether Winchendon or Lower Winchendon is a village and civil parish in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire, England. It is near the county boundary with Oxfordshire, about 5.5 miles (9 km) west of Aylesbury and 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Haddenham.

The toponym "Winchendon" is derived from the Old English for "hill at a bend". The Domesday Book of 1086 records Winchendon as Wincandone.  Numerous alternative spellings of the name are cited in The History of Buckingham County:


Wichendone, Witchende (xi cent.); Winchendona, Wichintona (xii cent.); Winchedon, Winchende, Wsynchedon, Wynchedone Desous, Nether Wynchedon (xiii cent.); Wychydone Inferior (xiv cent.); Lower Wynchindon, Wynchenden le Neyther (xvi cent.); Nether Winchingdon (xvii cent.); Little Winchenden (xix cent.).

It is of course possible that there were other Wickendens in locations other than the one in Cowden, Kent.  If so, it is also possible that they were derived in the same way, as a den established by Wicken, since we know that the Wicken moved through and then past Kent into several other counties.  The example cited above, however, seems to have a different derivation and to result in a spelling consistently different from "Wickenden."

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