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A (Very) Rough Guide to the Lewcocks (First Edition)

Henry James’s Vicar in the short story “The Third Person” speaks of his smuggling ancestors “…we owe them, in our shabby little shrunken present, the sense of a bustling background, a sort of undertone of romance.”[1]

So far no pots of gold (smuggled or otherwise) or vast unclaimed estates. However, a rich and varied cast of characters including one and a half murderers and a possible bigamist. And this is only a taster of some of their (our) stories.

This effort relies on a faulty memory, not entirely accurate digital and some paper records – and a fair amount of crude guesswork. Most of the “research” has been done the easy way – on the web stealing other people’s efforts. The account is very definitely distorted by what resources are as yet on line. There is thus a heavy bias to the 19th century, men and the military!

A key and growing reference point is the [2] site hosted by Caroline O’Neill. Honorable mentions to Brian Marlow, Sandie Robson, Eric Lewcock , Rob Park, Neville Lewcock, Noreen and the late Len Barnes. Where no reference is given for information it is from relevant National or State Censuses or the births, marriages and deaths (BMD) records of the Family History Society and/or The many errors and false assumptions are this author’s!

The Guide looks first at some more or less likely origins of the name Lewcock. A sketch is given of where our ancestors might have been before the Lewcock form of the surname was settled. Possible Lewcock “trees” seeded in six different parts of England and South India are identified. They are in date order of first appearance in our records – no seniority is implied! Further regional groupings are then described where branches from the earlier saplings have extended and crossed. These include the USA, Canada, Australia and Southern Africa.

To prepare for what has become an unexpectedly long first ramble through the Lewcock landscape you may wish to keep Google maps or similar ready for use. You could perhaps get in the mood by tuning in and listening along to sample tracks from Christian Lewcock’s Emo For GrownUps! “54 UK States fans can’t be wrong”!

Thankfully “The [rest of the]Prologue is by misfortune lost”[3]. As the King of Hearts advised Alice, let us“…begin at the beginning and go on until the end: then stop”[4].

“…the son of love…”

Other people seem to find colourful and amusing “meanings” for the name Lewcock. Perhaps as a result the London Gazette shows at least two people formally changing their name from Lewcock by deed poll. However, Anna Lewcock is one who has stuck with it and comments in a 2009 blog about embarrassing names: “My surname is Lewcock, which sounds like it should be prime comedy material but I’ve had very little stick for it thus far (touch wood)”[5].

The “real” origin of the name is not obvious. Add in common variants such as Lucock – and numerous mis-transcriptions in official documents, e.g. Lussoor and Ioneh have been found! – the possibilities are …!

Sources seem agreed that, as with most other English surnames, it dates back to 11th or 12th Century England when a family name was needed for controlling people’s religion, recruiting them to warfare or dunning them for taxes – not mutually exclusive purposes then or now.

There are various websites purporting to advise on surname origins. The following seem to draw (very) heavily and selectively on Percy Reaney who makes some sensible comments about not relying too much on surname continuity over the centuries[6]. With that caution in mind…

The website “Family Crests”[7] suggests that:

“The surname of Lewcock was a baptismal name ‘the son of Love’, an early and popular first name…The name was derived from the Old English Lufu ‘love’, a widely distributed woman’s name.”

The “Internet Surname Database”[8] says Lewcock is

“…recorded in the spellings of Lewcock and Lowcock, this is a surname of Old Welsh and English origins. It is said to derive from the pre-7th century personal name Lowis, later generally spelt as Lewis, plus the patronymic “cocca”, meaning “son of”. It is said that Lowis or Lewis are short forms of the Germanic name “Lodowicus, from “hlod” meaning fame, and “wig” – war.” Loewe (lion) is another German origin suggested elsewhere. If there are any contemporary Welsh or German Lewcocks they are keeping a very low profile on the web! Lew is a Polish cognate of Lev and means lion in Russia and heart in Hebrew. There’s also a fairly common view that Lewcock is a version of Lecoq from Belgium or France – no evidence for a link so far.

Inconsistently, approaching from the other direction, the same website suggests of Lucock:

“This unusual and interesting name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and represents a rare survival of an Olde English pre-7th Century personal name into Middle English; it is rare because a great many native Anglo-Saxon personal names disappeared after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the subsequent introduction of Continental given names. The surname Lucock, also found as Lo(w)cock, Luck(c)ock, Luckcuck and Lewcock, derives from the Olde English male personal name “Lufa”, from “lufu”, love, with the later addition of the affectionate or diminutive suffix “-cock”, sometimes used in the same way as the suffix “-kin”, to distinguish the son from the father.” Hence, perhaps, “the Son of Love”.

Dig around a bit further for the possible origins of Lufa and you may come across the Norwegian Harald Harlufa – of the matted hair. When he became King, having killed or driven off most of his rivals he changed this to Harald Harfager – the fair haired. [9]

Another naming ”method” may have been to pick out a profession or local geographical feature e.g. Mr Smith, Miss Hedge, Mrs Church. From memory one surname dictionary suggests that Lewcock refers to water (lew) below a hill (cock). There are Rivers Lew in both Devon and Cornwall. Lew is a village in Oxfordshire (Lew or Lewa in the Domesday Book) – and little more than a field with a Church and barrow. Wikipedia advises that Hlaew means burial mound or barrow in Old English[10]. So Lewcock might mean Hillhill? – see also River Avon.

There are undoubtedly even earthier interpretations of both Lew and Cock – you may recall suffering from these at school? Nevertheless it must be doubtful that anybody sober would select a family name on the basis of its “memorable” associations!? Maybe, maybe not. Just as feudal lords imposed family names on their serfs in the English Middle Ages so the occupying French authorities imposed surnames on Jews in Poland between 1795-1807. The privilege of inventing family names was given to the composer E T A Hoffmann (later to be famous for his “Tales”). “Today being Friday we learned that Mrs Hoffmann … had served him pike in parsley sauce for dinner; so he has been handing out nothing but the names of fishes …”[11] Perhaps our medieval ancestors suffered from a similarly whimsical master? Or simple carelessness? At least two sets of proud late 19th century parents blessed their sons with W C Lewcock! And one of those passed it on to his son!

Much of the above information comes from (commercial) web-sites which are probably not focused on tracing the origins of Lewcock as such. Some sites may be suggesting family name origins to flatter their readers? Love’s Son or Lion’s Son or War Fame certainly sounds more impressive than Matted Hair’s Son.

And all or none of the above could be right? Even though Lewcock is an unusual surname, it could well have evolved independently in different parts of the World.

“40 shillings..wherewith to make a breakfast after my funeral..”


White Hart Public House, Godmanchester 2009


The earliest (honorary) Lewcock has to be the man found in an archaeological excavation dating from the 400 year long Roman occupation. So perhaps 300 or 400 AD?

“Burial, probably elderly male, C3 or C4, on the site of Lewcock’s Garage, Cambridge Road, Godmanchester[12] . Found with small jar of colour-coated ware, red slip on white paste, with pedestal foot, girth groove at the base of neck and everted rim, height 102mm and also two fragments of coarse ware and one of Samian ware.”[13]

A mere half a millenium later some references to Lufu(s) and Lufa(s) can be found in the Prosopography [Sorry!! “…an investigation of the common background characteristics of a historical group.” Wikipedia]of Anglo-Saxon England which attempts to catalogue people referred to in the remaining original documents of that era.[14] Lufu may have been a slave. Lufa is described in 982 as having been “King Eadred’s man” (ruled 946-955). A charter shows his lands on the Isle of Wight and in Hampshire (Portsea, Titchfield and the Meon Valley) being forfeit and sold by King Aethelred (Ethelred the Unready) to Aethelmaer who bequeathed them to the Monks of Winchester.

As noted above Lewa the place features in the Domesday Book in 1085[15]/86. There is also a person Lufa with land in several villages in North Devon[16]. One of these was Lovecote – now Lovacott. Another Lufa (perhaps the same as the chap above?) is described as “Reeve of King William” and had land in another cluster of villages in Surrey.[17] This cluster overlaps with the geographical focus of one of the modern Lewcock clans.

Fancifully (and grossly over-simplifying a very complex period) if Lufa had been stripped of his Hampshire lands by King Eadred’s grandson King Aethelred, he might perhaps have decided to thrown in his lot with Aethelred’s Norman nephew and eventual successor King William (“The Conqueror”). Lufa’s family might then have gained lands in Surrey at the Conquest – which could give an explanation for the survival of an Anglo-Saxon name? Lots of ifs there!

The Website “Family Crests” – lifting again from Percy Reaney – takes us to (slightly) firmer ground in mentioning Luuecok who was documented in the year 1176 in the County of Norfolk. Lovekoc de Wivedale also of the County of Norfolk was recorded in the year 1208.

The site Internet Surname Database states that: “The personal name is well recorded in the 13th Century: The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Peter Luuecok, which was dated 1221 [a] witness in the “Assize Court Rolls of Warwickshire” during the reign of King Henry III … 1216 – 1272. Leucok Schayfe is listed in the Lancashire Assize Rolls of 1246. Lovekoc de Wivedale in Yorkshire in 1275 [If this is the same Lovekoc as above he lived rather a long time and moved about a bit!] and Lokoc de Heppeworth, also in Yorkshire in 1286. The surname development includes: Geoffrey Luvecoc or Lucoc (1259, Yorkshire); Henry Lovecok (1274, Essex); and Robert Lukok (1338, Yorkshire), Simone Louecok in the Sussex subsidy of 1327 in the Rape of Hastings[18] and [note the 200-odd year gap and jump in geography!!] among the examples from Surrey Church Registers are the marriage of Rychard Lucocke and Elizabeth Steavens in Shere, on February 20th 1554 and the christening of Thomas, son of Edward Lucock, on May 22nd 1636, at Walton on the Hill.”

No systematic research has been found on the links between Lewcocks and Lucocks. Brian Marlow has drawn attention to references in a late 18th century will of one Lucock to a cousin Lewcock – in Farnham and Pyrford (email note to Caroline – The Missing Link). We come back to that again below. Caroline has prepared the ground for a wider exploration by trawling all the on-line 16th Century onwards Parish Registers for Lewcock variants (based on Soundex which searches on the basis of whether something sounds like Lewcock)[19]. This has already thrown up some useful pointers for further digging (see e.g. South India, below). One thing that stands out is that the variation in spelling narrowed dramatically over just a couple of hundred years. Caroline has come across 27 variant spellings in the Parish Registers compared with only six or so still in use today: Luckcock, Lucock Lewcock, Leacock, Laycock and Lowcock.

Another thing which shines out is that the spelling Lewcock as such is found quite late on – the first record found so far is 1577. This may be because it comes towards the end of what is called The Great Vowel Shift (!!) as English developed from the English of Chaucer’s day to that of Shakespeare[20]. One might speculate as follows (this author is not any kind of etymologist). One of the changes (in the south of England) from rather before 1400 AD to some time after 1500 AD was from the pronunciation of book (look, cook etc) as spelled (i.e. booook) to the modern southern England (BBC!) pronunciation of buk. In the north of England and some regional accents of course it still is booook.

At the start of the period there may have originally been two (at least) distinct pronunciations of Lucock i.e. Looooocock and Luckcock.

If in some areas Lucocks etc. wanted to try and retain the pronunciation Looocock in the spelling then they might have shifted to Lewcock? Despite the ambiguity in pronunciation others will have preferred to stick to Lucock. This linguistic dithering could have gone on for quite some time until 19th Century Government agencies, formalisation of registration, property rights etc would have forced them to stick to one or another.

However, elsewhere, because the pronunciation continued to be consistent in their region or because they thought of themselves anyway as Luckcocks they would have been happy to hang on to a Lucock variant spelling.

A very rapid reconnaissance of Lucock and Lewcock on the internet suggests that there are several geographically quite small areas where Lucocks and Lewcocks both originate. These include: Orford and Dunwich in Suffolk; Paignton in Devon; Sheppey and the Medway Towns in Kent; East Surrey. In the graveyard of St Bartholomew Church, Orford graves for John Lewcock and James Lucock stand side by side[21]. According to an early version of the Catlow Family Tree of felixtehmoggy[22] Joseph Lewcock from Curthwaite in Cumbria married Elizabeth Bates. Admirably evenhandedly three of their children were surnamed Lucock and two Lewcock. [Was it the tree owner’s spelling of the name as found in the records?]

However, another early outcome from Caroline’s research is that there are important clusters of variants with no Lewcocks outside these areas, e.g. in Somerset.

There’s obviously a vast field for further research – which will probably be necessary if the origin of Lewcocks is to be pushed back with any certainty before the 16th Century. However, from this point, for (relative) simplicity, this narrative will stick (with occasional exceptions) to Lewcock. Perhaps in a future edition of our Very Rough Guide this very big gap can be filled.

The earliest found Lewcock spelled as suchis William, one of the innkeepers (there were nine others) at Pentrig and Rypley in Derbyshire in 1577. He just beats Joan Lewcock who was buried on 3 August 1584 at Wonersh in Surrey[24].

Bures St Mary 2009

Just a few years later than William and Joan up comes Harry Lewcock, mentioned in the will of John Whale in 1608 “…to my fellow servants unto Sir William Waldgrave 40 shillings, wherewith to make breakfast after my funeral; to Rachel Wall, Barbara Mytch and Harry Lewcock, servants to my sister Joan Biscoe”.[25] Sir William was living at the time at Smallbridge House, just outside Bures (now Bures St Mary), on the borders of Suffolk and Essex. This is, as a consequence, the first known house where a Lewcock (possibly!) stayed!! [26]. It can still be seen on the banks of the Stour. Possibly Harry is the Henry Lewcok buried in Woodbridge in 1609[27]. 1608 seems to have been a good year since in August Frauncis Lewcocke (spelled thus) married Joan Barnden in Arundel, Sussex[28].

George Albert Lewcock – of whom more below – advised caution in 1891 in lumping together London “captures” (of beetles and bugs in his case rather than Lewcocks but the principle applies). In a rather ponderous joke he observed of the term the London District “… the said district includes rather a wide area, so wide indeed, that I would recommend the term to persons who desire to altogether suppress the name of any locality in the south of England, when recording their captures.”[29]

In recent times most Lewcock families do seem to be found in a few fairly well defined geographical Districts. However, beware! Don’t assume that Lewcocks found in the same place are necessarily related.

There are regions where family blood ties seem likely to be continuous as far back as our present records show. These are considered below as five “Trees”:

1. Suffolk and East Anglia

2. South India

3. North Hampshire, Berkshire, West Surrey Heathlands

4. Cumbria and Durham

5. Lancashire and Cheshire.

Others reflect coincidental groupings of Lewcocks from different branches of the family where direct blood links have not (yet?) been proved – for example, at least four different sets of Lewcocks have passed through South Hampshire. These are considered in ten regional “Groupings” including USA, Canada and Australia.

[1] James H 2001 “Ghost Stories of Henry James” Wordsworth Classics

[2] Caroline’s Family History Pages

[3] Quoted in Lewcock D 2008 Aphra Behn Stages the Social Scene in the Restoration Theatre Cambria Press, Amherst New York The Works of Aphra Behn, Volume I by Aphra Behn from The Dutch Lover, 1673.

[4] Francis James Lewcock, in an affectionate nod to his wife Alice Bradley headed the chapters of his banking texts with quotations from Alice’s Adventures.

[5] Richard Wiseman: The Name Game

[6] Reaney P H and Wilson R M 1976 A Dictionary of English Surnames (2nd Edition) Routledge and Kegan Paul, London and Boston

[7] Coat of Arms & Family Crests Store

[8] The Internet Surname Database

[9] In The Helmskringa of Snorri Sturluson

[10] Mills, A.D 2003 A Dictionary of British Place-NamesOxford UniversityPress

[11] Lukowski J and Zawadzki H A 2006 Concise History of Poland 2nd Edition CUP

[12] Now the car park of the White Hart Public House

[13] Garrood, J.R.. 1937. The Cambridge and Huntingdon Archaeological Society (TCHAS) 7. p. 392 – 393

[14] The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE)

[15] National Archives: Domesday Book

[16] Aveton Gifford, Buck’s Cross, Crockenwell, East and West Kimber, East and West Peeke, Exeter, Great Rutleigh, Harkford, Hemerdon, Hollam, Huxhill,,Lovacott, Milford, Monkswell, North Lobb, Peters Marland, Poughill, Pulham, Praunsley, Sigford, South Hole, Speccott, Train, Twigbeare, Wear Giffard, West Dockworthy, West Putford, Winscott, Winswell, Yarnscombe.

[17] Ashstead, Banstead, Battersea, Bramley, Chaldon, Cuddington, Farncombe, Fetcham, Gatton, Hatcham, Mitcham, Pachesham, Peckham, Southwark, Streatham, Tadworth, Tatsfield, Whitford

[18] British History Online Sussex subsidy of 1327: The rape of Hastings

[19] Caroline’s Family History Pages

[20] Wikipedia: Great Vowel Shift

[21] Churchyard visit by C P Lewcock in 2009.

[22] Catlow Family Tree

[23] Public Houses and Victuallers in Belper.

[24] Caroline’s Family History Pages

[25] The New York genealogical and biographical record

[26] Smallbridge Hall

[27] Caroline’s Family History Pages

[28] Sussex Marriage Registers up to 1837 CD Rom.

[29] Transactions of the City of London Entomological and Natural History Society 1891 PP 1-7 British Library Shelfmark Ac 3652

Week 9: Disaster

Week 9: Disaster

  William George Lewcock died on the 3rd May 1887 leaving a wife and 8 children, three of whom were under twelve years old. If we have connected the twigs and branches correctly, he is a very distant relation, my paternal 3rd cousin 3 times removed. His youngest son,...

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Week 11: Serendipity

Week 11: Serendipity

Researching our family history depends on careful research over time, but is often progressed by a large slice of luck! I have had two major ones - both when I was looking for something else, one for my paternal line and one on the maternal. Maternal lucky find My...

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Surname Research ~ Lewcock

  The intention has always been to see how and if the pockets of Lewcocks in Suffolk, Cornwall, Kent, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Surrey, Middlesex and Hampshire are connected to each other and where those in Australia, India and the USA fit in. There are many...

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Lewcock surname variants

and the occasional SEWCOCK

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Earliest references to Lewcock

These early references have been collected from extracted entries on the International Genealogical Index and other online sources. It is not definitive since not all registers have been transcribed.

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Lewcocks (and Lucocks) who served in WW1

  Lives of the First World War - WW1 Digital MemorialFrancis James Lewcock and his mother, Amy Elizabeth, are two of the Lewcocks who are remembered on this website.Amy Elizabeth LewcockLieutenant Francis James LewcockThere are other Lewcocks and Lucocks who...

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