The Origins of the Name and its Probable Arrival from Northumberland

Emergence of the Wannops

As the Normans encroached into Northern England in the 12th century, they struggled with the native Anglo-Saxons. The creation of a Norman landholding class was primarily the work of Henry I after 1106, but the Normans did not try to take land in Northumberland, Cumberland and even Scotland until 1110. The native lord Gile who held Gilsland in Cumberland resisted the Norman incursion. Indeed, the period 1110-1135 saw a resurgence of the natives, when the king showed a personal preference for the northern Anglo-Saxons. Prior Athelwold – the first Bishop of Carlisle – came from the East Riding, while others from Yorkshire were given lands in Cumberland, including Greystoke.

The name Wannop does not appear in any guise in the Pipe Rolls for Cumberland of 1222-1260. How and when did it arrive? Might Cumbrian families deriving from Wainhope in Northumberland have started their migration in conjunction with William Rufus’s actions to absorb Cumbria into Norman England ? Or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells that after returning to London, William Rufus sent many country folk to Carlisle, with their wives and cattle, to settle and cultivate. At the same time, a number of Flemish settlers were established on the waste lands of Cumberland.

The Emma of Waynhoppe (or Wenhope) who was beheaded for thieving at Wark in 1279 marks the earliest appearance found of any variant of the name. This was prior to the period when the use of identifiable surnames became prevalent. Thoma. Waynhop is the first person on record to have a clear version of the family surname attached to him; the Durham Account Rolls for 1420 give no evidence as to where his animals were gathered, but show them as being sold on to the monks at Durham: ‘Empcio equorum. Et in 5 jumentis empt. De Thoma Waynhop, prec. 76s.8d.’. Although there is no evidence to confirm that Thoma. was from Upper Tynedale, although it lay on a significant droving route. Later in the same century, Robert Wanhope was elected to membership of the Corpus Christi Guild before becoming the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary’s at York in 1502. The strong Benedictine connection between St. Mary’s and Wetheral Priory produced several York abbots from Wetheral, although Robert Wanhope did not necessarily follow the same path and may have come from the Benedictine institutions of Lindisfarne or Tynemouth in Northumberland.

Following Alexander Waynhop, the rector of Aglionby in 1487, the next record found of Wannops in Cumberland is at the muster of 1581, which noted that ‘Thomas Wanopp of Wetheral had a spear and cap; Peter Wanope of Mickle Corby had a lance; Christopher Wanope of Mickle Corby had a jack, spear and steel cap; Thomas Wanopp of Irthington Parish had a spear.’ From 1600, Wannops – with spelling variations – appear increasingly in Cumberland parish registers for Crosby, Irthington, Wetheral and Hayton, and in papers associated with the Howard estate in Gilsland. By this time, the Wannops in England were overwhelmingly grouped in the area of Cumberland between Wetheral, Scaleby and Brampton, where they were numerous amongst farmers in the Barony of Gilsland. Particularly significant was John Wannop, for a long period bailiff for Irthington to the Howards, who were  restoring the Gilsland estate and Naworth Castle after their full entry to them after 1603.

Before October 2006, it was only possible to speculate as to either the origins of the name or the location of the Wannops prior to the late 1500’s. Breakthrough came with publication on the internet of a report on investigations in North Tynedale by the archaeologist to Northumberland National Park, mentioning the localities of Waynhop and Wainhope close to the Plashetts Burn in Falstone Forest, a mile north of Kielder Water. Documents of 1326 refer to both Waynhop and Wainhope as a valley and parkland fallen to waste for lack of tenants.

Prior to this revelation, search of maps had found no sufficiently credible Cumbrian place name from which Wannop might derive. Nor could it be certain that the name had a geographical root. For example, ‘Wanhope’ means ‘despair’ in ‘Anglo-Saxon’, which would be a derivation as likely as that for ‘Unthank’ and some other English surnames of Anglo-Saxon origin and place name origin.

Revelation of the locations of Wainhope and Waynhop made it immediately both credible and probable that Northumberland was the medieval origin of the family. It can be readily supposed that the Wannops later migrated from Upper Tynedale some 30 miles to the lower and more favourable  ground of the barony of Gilsland in Cumberland. There was apparent depopulation and abandonment of farming in North Tyndale in the late medieval period. In 1542 Sir Robert Bowes said that although Tynedale contained much arable and pasture, it was overpopulated and not cultivated ‘whereby the young and active people, for lack of living, be constrained to steal or spoil continually, either in England or Scotland, for maintaining of their lives.’  Later, in 1550, Bowes noted that the ‘country of North Tynedale is much given to theft… more plenished with wild and misdemeaned people, may make of men upon horseback and foot about six hundred, whereof there be about two hundred able horseman to ride with their keeper unto any service in Scotland’.

The move of the Wannops over to Cumberland was to less isolated countryside, although still in Border country troubled by raiding and depradation by reiver families. But whatever the incentives to leave North Tynedale, it remains to be understood how the Wannops gained entry to new lands in Cumberland. When did the migration occur, and did a large family group move over a relatively short period of time ? Who may have been displaced in Gilsland by the new tenants or landholders moving from Northumberland ?

No direct evidence has been found to answer those questions. The return of the Howards to their barony in Gilsland and the estate’s reorganisation and improvement after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603 certainly saw large changes. Their start was shortly followed by John Wannop’sappointment as bailiff for Irthington, presumably followed by a flowering of opportunity for his family and relations as the Borders and farming settled to peace. Some at least of the Wannops had certainly been settled in the area  earlier in the years of disturbance, raiding and disloyalty by many on both sides of the border.  Did the Wannops participate in the reiving and fighting, or did they gain credit by standing apart to later support the Howards as they regained their estates?

The evidence is only circumstantial, but between 1569 and 1606, war, disease and politics were succeeded by changed conditions in the Borders, offering new opportunities. In 1569, Lord Dacre had raised 2,000 men from his estates in Gilsland and Greystoke and garrisoned Naworth castle. However, his rebellion was lost the following year when with 1,500 of his men he was defeated at High Gelt Bridge, subsequently fleeing to Scotland with his horsemen. Naworth, Rockcliffe and Greystoke Castles were taken into custody for the Queen. Some Wannops had certainly arrived in Cumberland by record of the muster of 1581, but records for Tynedale have not been found to see who of the family may have remained there. A Wannop was listed at the muster in Ponteland in Northumberland at the muster there in 1595. Incentive to leave Tynedale would certainly have followed upon raids there by Kinmont Willie in 1583, 1584 and most severely in 1593, when 2,000 animals were taken. By the end of the century it is said that the Upper North Tyne Valley was relatively overpopulated, with many being driven to crime to survive.

Difficult conditions existed also in Cumberland, where in 1587-88 there was harvest failure and a peak of famine and mortality. Plague struck in 1597/98, when Penrith was devastated and around 1,196 or a third of Carlisle’s population died; Gilsland also suffered. In 1600, the notorious Grahams from the Esk valley raided across Newby, Holm Ends, Wetheral and Corby, attempting to displace the Gilsland tenants. Political change was already underway, however, as Musgrave succeeded as land serjeant at Gilsland in 1598, his predecessor being from the Carleton family which sided with the Grahams.

The Howards’ return to Naworth and the Gilsland estate after the death of Queen Elizabeth consolidated the significant changes of the very early 1600’s. In 1605, the Border Commission appointed by  King James to settle the historic turmoil of the Borders disarmed the riding families. The Grahams were expelled to Ireland and Europe to be replaced with dependable farmers. Lord William Howard countered  the previous loyalty to the Dacres amongst Gilsland tenants by building a following of his own, outside the main gentry families.

Difficult as these conditions may have been, those surviving raiding, pillage, fire, disease and political tides, would have found fresh opportunities to develop as farmers. Land and tenancies would have become available for favoured families. The first positive evidence of Wannops in Cumberland at the muster of 158l came ten years after the rising of the Northern Earls, suppressed and with their Gilsland supporters defeated at the battle at High Gelt Bridge in 1570. The Crown subsequently seized the Gilsland estate and held control of it for the next 30 years. Enclosures in Cumberland were beginning about this time. May the four mustered Wannops have been amongst the new farmers ? Had they recently crossed over from Northumberland, or had their family lines been  longer established in Cumberland?

Although a John Wanhopp is listed at Prestwicke (near Ponteland) at the muster of 1595 for the Castle and Morpeth Wards of Northumberland, no Wannop is apparent in the IGI records of Northumbrian births and deaths prior to 1599. Of course, just as considerable data extra to the IGI record for Cumberland was found from original records at the Carlisle Record Office, the same might emerge by search at the Northumberland Record Office.

John Robson of Johnby - 1836-ca. 1921
John Robson of Johnby – 1836-ca. 1921

Not until about 1400 did the use of surnames became prevalent in Britain. Only then was the earlier custom of attaching the place of origin to a baptismal name replaced by a formalised practice of family surnames. The Emma of Waynhoppe beheaded for theft at Wark in Northumberland in 1279 might be the first of the family line of which there is any record, anywhere in England. Next on record – after surnames had became customary practice – was the Thoma Waynhop found in the Durham Account Rolls for 1420.

Later, in the 15th. Century, Robert Wanhope was elected to membership of the Corpus Christi Guild, before becoming the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary’s at York in 1502. The strong Benedictine connection between St. Mary’s and Wetheral Priory produced several York abbots from Wetheral, although Robert Wanhope did not necessarily follow the same route. None of the three  Benedictine priories in Northumberland was apparently as well connected to York as  was Wetheral.

The spelling of ‘Waynopp’ still appeared in Cumberland in the mid 1600’s, but the ‘yn’ was being progressively replaced by ‘nn’ from the mid 1500’s. The conclusions of ‘hope’, ‘ope’ or ‘hopp’ are prevalent in records up to around 1600, after which Wannop becomes the overwhelming spelling. It must be acknowledged that spelling of names on medieval records was certainly inconsistent; literacy was erratic and it is questionable as to how many Wannops could spell and write rather than merely speak their names. Surviving wills suggest that as late as the early 18th. century some Wannops were able only  to make a mark, not a signature.

In the Border country, where burning and destruction was frequent and widespread up to the early 1600’s, it is understandable that parish and other records before then are relatively scanty or damaged. However, from 1600 persons named Wannop – with variations  of spelling – appear increasingly in  surviving parish registers for Crosby, Irthington, Wetheral and Hayton, and  in papers associated with the Howard estate in Gilsland where the family was  concentrated in the relatively small area between Wetheral, Scaleby and Brampton.

North Tynedale may have been abandoned by family groups other than the Wannops. Arthur Wannop of Hillfield married Ann Thornburn in 1801, whose surname probably derives from the hamlet of Thornburne or Thorneyburn, some ten miles lower in Tynedale than Wainhope. Births and marriages of Thornburns in the IGI lists show that since 1539, 273 such events occurred in Northumberland, compared to 240 in Cumberland, 130 in Durham and 827 in other counties in England. By the 1881 Census, however, Thornburns had become most frequent in Cumberland, followed by Durham. The Thornburns subsequently dispersed more widely in Britain than did the Wannops. The Rob-sons, by contrast, have been continuously concentrated in Northumberland, as they were in medieval times in the Falstone area and amongst the reivers. After establishing at Little Blencow, the Wannops married into the Robsons of Johnby to start the Arthur Robson Wannop line.