Francis C. Wykes, who has been researching Northamptonshire Wykeses and the name in general for more than twenty years, suggests that Wykes (Wycha in a Latin form) was one of the original 5 or 6 pre-Norman surnames in England. The earliest written record of the name he has found is in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle of AD 1002 which mentions one Sygmund Wycha, "freeholder and huntsman" who lived in South Northamptonshire in a longhouse probably on the site of the manor house near Wicken where Sir Richard de Wykes lived 3 centuries later.
The name can be traced back to Norman times in England with certainty. Gualterus Diaconus, the ancestor of the De Hastings family, lords of the barony of Hastings, held a knight's fee in Wikes, according to the Domesday Book.
Of interest among the many
surviving records which are of use to the genealogist, Merchant Marks
are a fascinating insight into the days when the ability to read was not
widespread. These precursors of the trade mark, or perhaps the
corporate logo, uniquely identified the merchant, at a glance. Note the way the W is worked into each design.
David Wicks, who has researched the origins of his family name,
suggests that there are at least four main Wykes/Wickes family lines all from
Wycke/Wick place names.
Since this site was launched, other places with links to the name have come to light.
Richard Capon, another Wykes/Weekes researcher, agrees with David's analysis, but also suggests a Viking root and in addition, has researched a family tree which shows that the Wykes name came from Robert, Earl of Mellent, Comes de Wigornia who died in 1207.
Richard suggests that during the 13th century the name Wigornia was often written in its abbreviated form of Wig' or de Wig'. With several indiscriminate variations it became Wik or Wyk and then Wyke(s) or Weekes.
Francis Wykes conducted a distribution survey of the name Wykes in the 1980's, based on the UK telephone directories. He found just over 500 entries, the largest majority of which were in the counties of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. His further research suggests that the East Midland Wykeses originated in Leicestershire and that their original distribution was along the river valleys, suggesting a pattern of settlement inland from the North Sea. The villages of Wicken on the Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and Wyck-Dive and Wyke-Hamon in Northamptonshire all lie near the Great Ouse river which flows out into The Wash. This would again tend to give credence to the suggestion of a Viking connection.
It is generally accepted that (British) surnames have five main sources: place name, location of abode, occupation, nickname and patronymic. Wykes and its variants most probably belong to the first two categories.
Although the present-day name, and its variants,
in all probability have several different origins, it is likely that one source of the name originates in Saxon times - a wyke was the Saxon term for a dairying hamlet, or small village.
It seems likely that the current pronunciation of the name Wykes, with a soft vowel sound, originated, or became more prevalent, in the 18th century. Prior to this, there is evidence to suggest that it was pronounced with a strong vowel sound, as one would pronounce Wicks or Wix or perhaps Weeks. Chaucer uses the spelling wykes for the plural of week (as in 7 days) in the Canterbury Tales.
Eilert Ekwall, in his short work Old English Wic in Place-Names (1964, A-B Lundequistska Bokhandeln of Uppsala) gives the main meanings of Wic as
In north-east Yorkshire a wyke has a special meaning. Along the coast the high moorland often runs right up to the sea, resulting in the spectacular cliffs to be found there. A wyke is a place on the shoreline where a boat can be landed and there is a way up from the beach. Hence Sandsend Wyke north of Whitby.
Kathleen Wykes, of South Carolina, USA, drew my attention to the following extract from Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (1976) about the Ibn Fadlan manuscript,which represents the earliest known eyewitness account of Viking life and society.
* (Crichton's footnote) "There is some dispute among modern scholars about the origin of the term 'Viking,' but most agree with Ibn Fadlan, that it derives from 'vik,' meaning a creek or narrow river."
I was told by my father that the name Wykes is a corruption of Viking and means "Wolves from the Sea". Any other suggestions are welcome.
I have traced my ancestors to the villages of Great Creaton, Spratton, Cold Ashby and Hazelbeech in
north-west Northamptonshire, where my great-
My nephew, Mike Cummins, found a list of Australian cattle brands on the Web
and discovered the following:
He did some more research and obtained a copy of the the brand which was originally registered by John Wykes. John cancelled the registration and the same brand was then registered by Ellen. In July 1999 I was contacted by Graeme Wykes in Australia who has some information about the family concerned. John was the son of James and Susan Wykes who travelled to Australia on the Hydaspes as assisted immigrants in 1852. Graeme and his father kindly assisted copyright clearance of the information which appears in the Gallery section.
Now here's some serendipity! I was born and raised Wolverhampton, in the industrial West Midlands of England and attended primary school near the town football ground, which we walked past twice a week on the way to the park for games or the beautiful Victorian Public Baths for swimming. I'm not a soccer fan myself, but the majority of my school friends supported the Wolves, the local team.
Soon after I set up this site I was contacted by Paul Wykes, who was looking for information about his Grandfather's uncle, David Wykes who played football for Wolverhampton Wanderers (the Wolves) in the 1890's. Paul, who is not related to me as far as I know, sent me a copy of the cigarette card (an information medium that was widely used in the UK in the early part of this century) which is reproduced on the left.
David Wykes scored a respectable 69 goals in the 179 games he played for Wolves between 1888 and 1896.
In February 2001 I received an email from another H. Wykes. There's nothing too unusual about this nowadays with the web site attracting emails from Wykeses all over the world. This one was a little different however, as this H. Wykes is an Indian, born and bred in Bombay, but resident in London, where he currently works. His first name is Homiyar and with a surname like Wykes, he got "a lot of stick in school (actually both for my first and last name!)", so is a fully fledged Wykes, as any who bear this name will testify!
Homiyar's ancestors worked very closely with the British in building the Western India railway line and there was a Colonel (?) John Wykes involved in the construction (circa 1880s). This John Wykes was so grateful for Homiyar's great-great-grandfather's help that he presented the family with his sword (which is still there as a family heirloom in India) and the family adopted the Wykes surname.
I met up with Homiyar in London, presenting myself at reception where he works, much to the confusion and amusement of the receptionist, when I told her that I was "Mr. H. Wykes, to see Mr H. Wykes." Over a couple of coffees at Starbucks, Homiyar told me a little about himself and his family. He assured me that they are the only Wykes family in India. He estimates he has 8 - 12 relatives who bear the surname in India, plus an uncle in Australia.