Pettypool Families before 1300: Cambridge, Thaxted & Wimbish

extracts from: English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia

©Carolyn Hartsough

As observed earlier, it was during the latter part of the medieval period that our Essex ancestors first came to the attention of the English civil authorities and chroniclers of government business. The same records (from the early 1200s) that document the first mention of Pooty Pools Farm also make mention of one of the first of the Essex men likely to be known permanently by the same surname as the place-name.1

Although we cannot be certain that the Richard de Putepoll summoned in the land transaction, or an even earlier man, was the medieval progenitor of the Essex families who eventually came to be known by the name Pettypool, David Hey elaborates the view that many locative-based family surnames and thus family progenitors are attributable to a single medieval individual. Hey writes:

[Richard] McKinley and [George] Redmonds have used the techniques of historical and genealogical research to determine ‘the chronology of the use of stable hereditary surnames, in the different regions of the country, and in the different social classes’. They have shown that each county has its own distinctive surnames which originated there in the middle ages and which have often remained largely confined to the region around the point of origin. They conclude that very many surnames, particularly the locative ones derived from hamlets or individual farmsteads, have a single-family origin, though the limitations of medieval evidence make this assertion very difficult to prove in any individual case.2

A Richard de Putepoll appears in other written transactions from the 1200s, not only in the earlier cited reference to Pooty Pools Farm, but also in records from the early to middle 1200s. A fair presumption is that these several mentions from the early 1200s likely refer to the same Richard. How do we know that Richard or any other Pettypools used “de Pudipol” (or its many variants) as a true surname in the 1200s and not just as a byname (for example, “John from London”)? Written records that allow us to trace the movements of Richard and others bearing the name in this early period of name formation strongly suggest that these men had used the surname in an even earlier period, likely in the late 1100s, presumably upon moving away from their original home farm in central Essex. A review of these medieval records for the portion of the family that lived in the north and northwestern regions of Essex lays out the evidence for this assertion:

Curia Regis Roll No. 79 [Hilary and Easter] 5 Henry III [1220-1221] Essoins de malo veniendi 221. Simon of Iffeld attorned John son of Robert v. Richard la Vieille, in a plea of charter warrant, by Richard of Puttepol, in the quindene of Easter. Pledge of the essoin, Richard of Stapelford. 4

The next available published record referencing the medieval Pettypool family comes from ca. 1225. Again, we hear about a Richard de Pudipol, very possibly the same one who appeared in the 1206 and 1220 records. Again in translation from Latin:

Wimbish (Uttlesford Hundred) The charter of Abraham, son of Thomas Know [all men], etc., that I, Abraham, son of Thomas, have given, granted and by this present [charter confirmed] to god and the blessed Mary and the brothers of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem for the salvation of my soul and those of my ancestors and successors in free and perpetual alms the whole of the land, which Richard de Pudipol held from me in the town of Wymbysch, with the whole service and homage, which he was accustomed to do to me thereupon, and with the whole right and claim, which I ever had in the said tenement or [could] have in any way. ... I have affixed my seal to the present deed. With these witnesses, etc.5

Richard and at least some de Pudipol family members appear to have moved their activities in the mid-1200’s from Roxwell parish up into more northerly portions of Essex. About 23 miles almost due north from Pooty Pools Farm, Wimbish is a small parish in the north of Essex that lies about equidistant between Pooty Pools and the city of Cambridge. Wimbish and the neighboring town of Thaxted will be the site of much Pettypool family activity during the 1200s and 1300s.

Yet another thirteenth century bequest of northwestern Essex land to the ca. 1255-1275 Hospittalers also speaks of land formerly occupied by a de Pudipol family member.

Thaxted (Dunmow Hundred) The charter of John Abraham of Thaxted Know those present and future that I, John Abraham of Thaxstede, have given and granted and by this my present charter, confirmed to God and the blessed Mary and St. John the Baptist, the lord prior and brothers of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England, three pennies of yearly rent, which I used to receive annually from Simon de Podipol for the tenement, which he held from me in the town of Thaxstede, with all my right and that of my heirs as in homages, wards, reliefs, escheats, and all things which could come to me and my heirs from the aforesaid tenant and his tenement without any reservation... 6

What are called “The Hundred Rolls” consist of surveys of landholders made for several English counties between 1255 and 1280. Although complete coverage of the whole of England was not attained, information for those counties that were covered is quite complete and includes lists of landowners, how much land they held and the amount they were paying for it in fees to the King. Happily, Cambridgeshire was one of the counties completely surveyed, and members of the Pettypool (although now again spelled Podipol) family show up on the list for 1279.

Easter 2 April 1279 (7 Edward I) Item. Thomas Podipol holds one empty place of land in the parish of St. Mary, which descended to him in inheritance by the death of Seman [Simon] Podipol, his father, and the same Seman had that in inheritance by the death of Thomas Podipol, his father, and the said Thomas had that in inheritance by the death of John Podipol, his father which same John had that from an ancient acquisition, and he pays thereupon per annum 2d to the bailiffs of Cambridge who have the said town at fee farm, towards their farm for house-rent.8

Although it has not proved possible, at present, to extend this one short family pedigree either backward or forward in time, the detailed relationship among these four generations of Podipol men is the most complete set of verified genealogical associations for the Pettypool family in medieval England. Several other aspects of this entry have ramifications for the history of our Pettypools in medieval Essex. If we assume an average generation length of 30 years9, the line that begins with John Podipol and extends forward to Thomas in 1279 spans at least 120 years. Accordingly, we can thereby trace the Podipol line in the Cambridge parish of St. Mary the Great back into the mid to latter part of the 1100s. We also assume that Simon Podipol in the 1279 list is no doubt the same Simon who held the “tenement” in the town of Thaxted in the mid thirteenth century.

Also notable in this entry is that the “de” (meaning “of” or “from” in Latin) prefix for the surname “de Podipol” has been dropped by the time of the 1279 survey. It seems that (at least for some branches of the family and ⁄ or for some scribes) the surname had evolved across the thirteenth century into a form that no longer explicitly acknowledged its bearer’s locative origins. Accordingly, we may surmise that when anyone with the contracted version of the name moved beyond the immediate area of Pooty Pools Farm, there would no longer have been any obvious geographical referent for spelling or pronunciation. As a consequence, the name would have likely assimilated into the dialect of whatever community the migrating family members joined, another illustration of the many linguistic processes that could lead to the development of the variant spellings and alternative pronunciations of the name we see in later centuries.

For more information...

This page contains excerpts from English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia by Carolyn Hartsough. To read the complete document:

[1] R. E. G. Kirk. Editor. Feet of Fines for Essex, Volume 1 A.D. 1182 – A.D. 1272 Colchester: Society at the Museum in the Castle, 1899-1910, 40, accessed 14 December 2012.

[2] David Hey. “Names and History.” Family Names and Family History. (London: Hambledon & London, 2000), 17.

[3] Email Dr. Matthew Tompkins to author, 15 Feb 2013.

[4] A. Hamilton Thompson (Editor), translated by John Crawford Hodgson. Northumberland Pleas from the Curia Regis and Assize Rolls, 1198-1272. (Newcastle Upon Tyne: Northumberland Press, 1922), 64.

[5] Michael Gervers. The Hospitaller Cartulary in the British Library (Cotton MS Nero E VI). (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1981), 326.

[6] Michael Gervers, The Hospitaller Cartulary in the British Library, 287.

[7] Isabel Wiseman. Wimbish Through the Centuries. Self published, 1954, 91, accessed 18 January 2014.

[8] Great Britain. Record Commission. Illingworth, William (Editor). Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III & Edw. I. in Turr'lond' et in curia receptae scaccarij Westm. asservati. Printed by command of His Majesty King George III. in pursuance of an address of the House of commons of Great Britain, Vol. II. (London: Commissioners on the Public Records, 1818), 386.

[9] Although a handy and round number, this proposed value may, in fact, underestimate generation length by a few years. Recent work has yielded results slightly higher than 30 years. See “How Long is a Generation”,, by certified genealogist Donn Devine, accessed 15 Nov 2013. Calculations for my own American branch of the Pettypools produced a generation length of approximately 34 years.

[10] See “A Vision of Britain Through Time, Wimbish through time.”Article, accessed 18 January 2014.